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Grant Thornton survey: Employees value flexibility over salary increases — one-third looking for new jobs

  • 40% will look for another job if forced to return to the office full time
  • 56% are looking forward to returning to the office
  • 51% would give up a salary increase for more flexibility in when and where they work
  • 40% do not feel like their voice is heard at work
  • 34% believe their manager is the most stressful part of the day

CHICAGO–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Grant Thornton LLP, a leading professional services firm, has released a survey that helps explain why millions of people have left their jobs in recent months. The firm’s State of Work in America survey engaged more than 1,500 full-time employees of U.S. companies. Through questions about hybrid work, healthcare, culture and benefits, Grant Thornton has shone a light on what employees value — and what companies can do to retain talent.

According to the survey, the trend that experts have dubbed “The Great Resignation” may not end anytime soon: 33% of survey respondents say they are actively looking for a new job.

“There is most definitely a war for talent occurring, with an intensity unseen in recent years,” says Tim Glowa, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s employee listening and human capital services offerings. “Our survey finds that workers want flexibility. But ‘flexibility’ does not mean working from home 100% of the time, and physically returning to work does not mean being in the office five days a week.”

Instead, Glowa explains employees want workplaces that are understanding of responsibilities like childcare and eldercare.

“Everyone has a unique set of responsibilities outside of the office,” Glowa adds. “As companies return to the office, it will be more crucial than ever to give people the time they need to take care of what’s important at home.”

Return to work

Among those polled for Grant Thornton’s State of Work in America survey, 56% are looking forward to physically returning to the office. However, it appears the requirement to be in the office full-time is a driving factor that is motivating record resignation. According to the survey, 79% of survey respondents say they want flexibility in when and where they work, while 40% say they will look for another job if forced to return to the office full time.

“The challenge that companies face is creating an engaging experience for all employees, whether they are working in an office or remotely,” says Jennifer Morelli, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s Business Change Enablement practice. “Organizations need to make sure they are providing meaningful opportunities and reasons to come into the office. For example, in-person working sessions, an important meeting or a team-building event.”

Ultimately, the State of Work in America survey revealed that flexibility is perhaps one of the most desired attributes in the modern workplace. More than half (51%) of the employees interviewed by Grant Thornton say they would give up a 10%-20% salary increase for more flexibility.

“People value employers that respect their time, their family responsibilities and their work-life balance,” says Glowa. “Employers that put that respect into action are well-positioned to win the ongoing war for talent.”

Retaining talent during “The Great Resignation”

While employers have been pondering their return-to-work strategies, the benefits landscape has changed. Grant Thornton’s State of Work in America survey shows that many employees are satisfied with their benefits, but a large contingent have significant concerns over healthcare. Approximately 30% of survey respondents feel like the amount they pay for healthcare is not transparent, and they are not confident that they have chosen the best medical plan.

Grant Thornton leaders say that addressing those concerns will require both detailed communication and ongoing benefits evaluation. Through a process called ‘employee preference optimization,’ companies can find ways to enhance the benefits people use and value — and save money at the same time. Frequent check-ins and active listening are also vital, as is a concise yet effective internal communications plan that relays key benefits information.

“To better attract and retain employees — especially in a tight labor market — requires thinking like a marketing professional,” Glowa adds. “You need to understand employee pain points, then brainstorm potential solutions and benefits to address them. If you can fix that pain point, you’ve made a big difference in the eyes of employees — ideally, in a way that is difficult for competitors to replicate.”

Those concerns about healthcare also seem to have a direct impact on workplace stress. As this survey reveals, medical issues are one of the most common sources of stress, surpassed only by personal debt. Ability to retire, work-life balance and mental health round out the list of top five sources of stress. However, some of the most common pain points are directly related to workplace culture.

Almost half (45%) of survey respondents say they do not believe their employer understands their needs as an employee, and 40% say they do not feel like their voices are heard at work. Further, 34% indicate interacting with their manager is the most stressful part of the day. This could be due to management style or the sheer fact some managers don’t have the proper training.

Grant Thornton leaders emphasize that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to these issues. Yet, as Glowa puts it, “thinking like a marketing professional” can lead to better value propositions for employees — and ultimately help retention. Companies may need to focus on training stronger managers, optimizing their benefits and total reward packages, or enhancing workplace culture.

But no matter what steps companies take, the State of Work in America survey indicates that the employee experience — and understanding what keeps your people up at night — must take precedence.

“There is a bright spotlight on leadership and how leaders are treating employees,” Glowa concludes. “Leaders need to walk the talk, because employees are watching closely.”

To see additional findings from Grant Thornton’s State of Work in America survey, visit www.grantthornton.com/library/articles/tax/2021/assessing-the-state-of-american-workers. To view a webcast that examines the State of Work in America survey in more detail, visit: www.grantthornton.com/events/tax/2021/10-07-the-state-of-work-in-america.

About Grant Thornton LLP

Founded in Chicago in 1924, Grant Thornton LLP (Grant Thornton) is the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms. Grant Thornton, which has revenues of $1.97 billion and operates more than 50 offices, works with a broad range of dynamic publicly and privately held companies, government agencies, financial institutions, and civic and religious organizations.

“Grant Thornton” refers to Grant Thornton LLP, the U.S. member firm of Grant Thornton International Ltd (GTIL). GTIL and the member firms are not a worldwide partnership. Services are delivered by the member firms. GTIL and its member firms are not agents of, and do not obligate, one another and are not liable for one another’s acts or omissions. Please see grantthornton.com for further details.

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