With widespread vaccinations, the reopening of more businesses, and a massive infusion of federal aid, the U.S. economy shows signs of recovering remarkably well. For 2021, experts predict that the economy will expand around 7%—the fastest calendar-year growth since 1984. Therefore, it’s not surprising that many employees plan to switch jobs in the near future. According to Prudential Financial’s Pulse of the American Worker survey, 1 in 4 workers is preparing to look for opportunities with a new employer once the pandemic threat has subsided. And more than 40% of people who responded to Microsoft’s Work Trend Index, a global survey of over 30,000 people in 31 countries, said they are considering leaving their employer this year.
But why do so many workers plan to jump ship? The pandemic has succeeded in highlighting the things workers value most—and they don’t want to compromise.
Do you feel your career has stalled during the pandemic? Per the Prudential report, of the 26% of workers planning to switch jobs post-COVID, 80% are doing so because they’re concerned about career advancement. And a recent Robert Half survey confirmed that 38% of workers say they feel stuck in their careers since the pandemic began. The pandemic has led to a “very real experience that employees have had around a lack of career progression, and a concern around skills development,” says Rob Falzon, vice chair at Prudential. People feel that they have been working hard but have not been given opportunities to advance professionally in their current company.
With the pandemic exacerbating issues like high debt and reduced or exhausted emergency savings, American workers are increasingly looking to employers for solutions to alleviate financial stress. Nearly 8 in 10 workers want their company to focus on providing benefits central to their economic well-being, according to the Prudential survey. The study found that workers consider benefits—such as retirement plans, health, disability and life insurance, paid family medical leave and emergency savings programs—as critical to their financial resilience. And 40% of workers said they were more likely now than they were a year ago to consider accepting a job with a new company that offered better benefits.
Companies that cultivate cultures reflecting what is most important to employees will win the upcoming talent war. “Leaders must be focused on cultivating thriving cultures of internal mobility, prioritizing continuous learning, and delivering robust benefits to support their workers,” suggests Falzon. Issues of communication and company culture were also top of mind among workers surveyed. In fact, 42% of workers with plans to leave their current employer graded them a “C” or below for their ability to maintain employee connectedness and culture during the pandemic. “The workplace of the future is here,” says Falzon. “Leaders must approach each component of this new normal as an opportunity to maximize company culture and differentiate themselves as an employer of choice.”
Now that millions of workers have been introduced to flexible work arrangements, they want to make it permanent. The Prudential survey confirmed that 87% of American workers who have been working remotely during the pandemic would prefer to continue working from home at least one day a week, post-COVID. Among all workers, 68% suggest that a hybrid workplace model is ideal. And 42% of current remote workers insist that if their current company doesn’t continue offering remote work options long term, they will look for a new job at an organization that does.
Another outcome of the pandemic is the intense need for workers to find a work-life balance. And employees are willing to make sacrifices to achieve it. A survey by career site Joblist revealed that just over 30% of workers said they'd give up part of their pay for a better work-life balance, with parents willing to take a 5% pay cut. Today, many employees are expected to sacrifice a healthy work-life balance to meet their company's needs, causing them to feel less fulfilled and less effective in their roles. So it's not surprising that they are willing to switch jobs to join companies whose values are more closely aligned with their own.
Talent migration is almost certainly on the horizon as workers look for increased flexibility and opportunities to grow their careers post-COVID. It’s time for employers to respond by focusing on company culture, prioritizing employee career development, and ensuring the corporate mission aligns with the values of today’s socially responsible employees.