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PwC US Pulse Survey: 65% of US companies employees are looking for a new job

  • 65% of employees are looking for a new job; 88% of whom told us they are seeing higher turnover than normal.
  • 36% of executives say the loss of corporate culture is the biggest challenge to hybrid work.
  • 48% of companies will change processes to become less dependent on employee institutional knowledge.
  • In January 2021, 29% of employees wanted to work completely remotely; today the number has grown to 41%.
  • Only 30% fully agree that their companies should introduce mandatory requirements for vaccination of employees.

August 27, 2021 – PwC presents the results of PwC US Pulse Survey. Employees have had more than a year to reflect on their needs and aspirations, and many want a new model of work. Our latest US Pulse Survey found that 65% of employees are looking for a new job. We also talked to executives, 88% of whom told us they are seeing higher turnover than normal.

For the most part, executives have a good grasp on why their employees are looking elsewhere. But when it comes to offering incentives that employees want most, they’re falling short in two key areas: benefits and comp. This employer-employee tension compounds the challenge facing companies eager to redesign work. Rising inflation, the surging delta variant and tension over vaccines, masks and shifting return-to-work plans are creating extra uncertainty.

How can executives balance their strategic and operational goals with shifting employee expectations? Companies have a tremendous opportunity to transform work. By redesigning work, you can help drive growth, better anticipate uncertainty and create a workplace that top talent is eager to join. To successfully execute your plans, you’ll need to figure out your hybrid work model, make changes to processes and operating models, revamp strategic planning and, most importantly, attract and retain top talent.

Top survey findings:

1. Concerns vary across the C-suite as executives evaluate the impact of employee turnover. Nearly nine in ten (88%) executives we surveyed say their company is experiencing higher turnover than normal. That’s not surprising, given that the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Statistics (JOLTS) data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics currently shows quit rates above pre-pandemic levels and continuing to rise. As of June 2021, the highest quit rates (which indicate voluntary turnover) are occurring in accommodation and food services (5.7%), leisure and hospitality (5.3%), and retail trade (4.1%). Other sectors are much lower, including education services (1.4%, not shown in the graph).

Inside organizations, executives are experiencing the ongoing labor market churn in different ways. CMOs, for example, are acutely feeling the negative impact of staff shortages on customer experience, with 40% citing it as a major issue. CHROs say retaining employees will be their number-one priority over the next three to six months. CFOs are split. Thirty-six percent say they’re very concerned about the turnover remaining high indefinitely and weighing on revenue growth. Another 45%, however, are somewhat concerned about turnover and its impact on growth, but they also expect it to return to pre-pandemic levels more quickly. Whether or not quit rates stabilize soon, employee expectations will likely continue to evolve in the foreseeable future, forcing executives to reconsider everything from where and how work gets done to new ways to make employees feel valued, included and motivated.

2. For employees looking for new opportunities, schedule flexibility, expanded benefits and compensation are top incentives. Companies on hiring sprees are refining employee value propositions, focusing above all on corporate purpose and leadership. While those are important, they should expect candidates to negotiate hard for what they now see as table stakes: competitive packages and perks coupled with flexibility and expanded benefits such as career growth and upskilling opportunities. Some may also see job changes as an opportunity to close pay gaps. Women are more likely than men to be seeking higher salaries (46% versus 34%). And more Hispanic and Black employees are looking (82% and 67%, respectively) compared to white/non-Hispanics (57%).

3. Good news for leaders: Efforts during the pandemic to build trust and step up on social issues are showing results with employees. Almost equal proportions of executives and employees agree that there is a high level of trust between leaders and employees — 77% and 72% agree (34% and 35% strongly). Meanwhile 79% of executives and 77% employees say their leaders are inclusive (37% and 35% strongly agree). Leaders aren’t resting on their laurels, though, as inclusion continues to top the list of business priorities, especially as companies navigate hybrid work.

Quit rates at historic highs in some sectors (and rising)

4. The challenge ahead lies in addressing culture as companies define their work environments. Many executives are excited to return to an in-person environment, but an all in-person workplace is no longer the norm. The challenge for leaders: bringing out the best aspects of face-to-face teaming for all employees, whether in the office or not. A third of executives (33%) will have a mixed model, with some in person full time, some hybrid and some fully remote. They cite corporate culture as the biggest challenge to making hybrid work successful — 36% say it’s a major challenge, and 36% say it’s moderate challenge.

It’s a new era, one that’s focused on hybrid and new ways of working

While some companies may be revising their reopening plans due to the surge in the delta variant and as vaccination rates plateau in some areas, their plans should take into account the workforce’s growing embrace of remote work opportunities. Among employees looking for new jobs, almost one in ten say it’s because they moved away from the office while working remotely and don’t want to go back on-site.

Almost a fifth (19%) of all employees would like to be fully remote today even if COVID-19 were no longer a concern. An almost equal number (22%) would like to be mostly in the office (<=1 day remote per week), and 21% say the nature of their work does not allow them to work remotely at all. Others prefer a hybrid work setup, with some days in the office and others remote.

When we zoom in on the subset of employees that we analyzed previously in our Remote Work Survey (those who were forced to work remotely during the initial shutdown in March 2020 plus those who were already working remotely before the pandemic), we can compare remote work preferences over time. Forty-one percent of those workers want to be fully remote in our current survey, compared to 29% saying the same in January 2021.

As executives face this new reality of hybrid work, concern about eroding corporate culture is the biggest challenge for executives (36%). Other reasons that may be holding companies back from expanding remote work options include loss of mentoring (30%), loss of innovation opportunities (26%) and potential equity issues between on-site and fully remote workers (25%). It’s a testament to the success of remote work that concerns about technology tools and cybersecurity measures have largely receded in comparison, though risk leaders remain concerned about cybersecurity issues related to remote and hybrid work.

Employers weigh vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, the expanding role of business in protecting the health and safety of employees is here to stay. Forty-four percent of executives say they’ll take a leadership role in encouraging employees to get vaccinated over the next 12 months. Only 30% percent strongly agree that their companies should implement vaccine mandates — perhaps sensitive to the anti-vaccination sentiment across sections of the workforce. Still, 36% agree and 20% say neither/nor or are unsure about the issue. Opinions could change quickly as more and more companies announce vaccine mandates.

About the survey

Between August 2 and August 6, 2021, PwC surveyed 752 US executives including CFOs and finance leaders (17%), CHROs and human capital leaders (13%), tax leaders (14%), risk management leaders, including CROs, CAEs and CISOs (12%), COOs and operations leaders (12%), CIOs, CTOs and technology leaders (12%), CMOs and marketing leaders (11%) and corporate board directors (9%). Respondents were from public and private companies in six sectors: industrial products (28%), financial services (22%), consumer markets (21%), technology, media and telecom (12%), health industries (9%), and energy and power (6%). Seventy-two percent of respondents were from Fortune 1000 companies. The US Pulse Survey is conducted on a periodic basis to track the changing sentiment and priorities of business executives.

We also polled 1,007 full-time and part-time US-based employees between August 2 and August 3, 2021. We included the perspective of these employees in this report.

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