WASHINGTON, D.C., May 26, 2022 – Despite soaring inflation, tumbling stock prices, rising interest rates and slowing growth, American workers want more than a paycheck from their employers. According to a new survey, employees’ career decisions are motivated more by feeling respected, having good health benefits, and enjoying balance between their work and home lives.
In the Argyle-Leger Confidence Report, the latest in a series of national surveys that examine Americans’ attitudes and behaviors related to their confidence in information on key issues, 58 percent of workers cite respect as their top work-related motivation in terms of being ‘very important’, in line with health benefits and work-life balance (also at 58%). By comparison, salary was a top motivator for just 42 percent of Americans surveyed.
Respect was also the number one motivator among non-whites. Among these workers, 66 percent said respect was a very important driving factor in their employment, significantly higher when compared with 55 percent of white workers.
The study showed striking differences in the motivators for women and men. While 53 percent of men surveyed cited respect as a top motivator, that number is significantly higher for women (63%). Salary concerns were reversed, with 48 percent of men citing money as a top motivator, compared with just 37 percent of women.
Unsurprisingly, respect significantly outweighed salary among respondents in high-income households (>$100,000). However, even in households making less than $35,000, respect was a top motivator for 57 percent of respondents, compared with just 38 percent who view salary as a leading motivator.
There is also a critical need for work/life balance among Americans in households with three or more people, including families with children or other dependents. For these workers, work/life balance was the top motivator at 65 percent, significantly higher than single individuals (51%) or two-person households (54%).
“The study shows the ‘Great Resignation’ is not about money. It’s about the pandemic changing the way people think about work – and about what matters to their lives,” said Daniel Tisch, President and CEO of Argyle. “The challenge for leaders is that values such as respect and balance are highly personal, and subject to many things employers can’t control. The employee experience cannot be one-size fits all. Every organization needs to be driven by a uniting purpose that informs operational and cultural decisions alike – with plenty of flexibility.”
Commitment to creating an engaged workforce is paramount
These results reinforce a previous Confidence Report’s findings that shed light on how employers should approach engaging, recruiting and retaining a workforce.
In addition to respect, health benefits and work/life balance, workers ranked learning (51%), purpose (49%), positive workplace relationships (45%) and flexibility (43%) as more important than salary. While the importance of salary surges among two groups (workers 30-39 and parents), these respondents still value respect and work/life balance more than money.
“This time last year, 39 percent of Americans working from home agreed that if their superiors ordered them to return to the office, they would start to look for another job. Just 19 percent of Americans wanted to go back to their workplace entirely,” said Simon Jaworski, EVP, Leger USA. “But even where workers are in agreement about not wanting a full return to the office, the reasons are likely more nuanced.”
“Employers have their work cut out for them. While some companies made post-pandemic headlines by allowing employees to work remotely indefinitely, these decisions create other challenges and that may leave some workers wanting more,” said Robert Gemmill, Argyle USA’s Senior Vice President and General Manager. “Developing the relationships that make a company thrive can’t only be done over a computer screen.”
Union membership motivated by wages and benefits more than respect
Among American workers surveyed, 55 percent of workers would not support a union coming into their current job, while 45 percent were in favor of unionization at their workplace.
Among those in favor of a union, wages (84%) are the leading reason that workers would support a union, followed by benefits (81%). In addition to seeking tangible changes, 74 percent of American workers who would support a union, would do so simply because they believe in the right to be represented. Remarkably, these factors did not differ across gender or socio-economic status.
Lesser – but still significant – concerns that would drive workers to support a union were a feeling of being unheard (57%), lack of respect (49%), and misalignment with the company’s values (45%).
“In anxious times, frustrated employees have become the face of the labor movement,” said Tisch. “While union membership is driven more by wages, benefits and work conditions than by values, employers need to consider the influence of both.”
“Whether or not the growing number of union drives is a temporary shift reflective of the American political environment, companies need to be aware of the risks and opportunities associated with organizing,” Gemmill added. “The best strategy is meaningful employee engagement that seeks to understand employee frustrations, needs, desires and values – and responding with well-communicated, concrete actions.”
About the study
The Argyle-Leger Confidence Report is the second in a series that examines Americans’ attitudes and behaviors on issues related to their confidence in information, institutions, leaders, and sources of authority. This survey involved approximately n=1,005 American adults, completed between January 1st – 2nd 2022, using Leger’s online panel. A probability sample of 1,000 respondents would have a margin of error of +/-2.6%, 9 times out of 10.
For more than 40 years, Argyle has been chosen by the world’s biggest brands, put big ideas onto the public agenda, and grown to become one of North America’s most acclaimed reputation, communications and public engagement firms. Argyle’s clients span many sectors, including finance, technology, healthcare, food and beverage, hospitality, professional services, infrastructure, government, non-profits and many more.
Argyle has more than 130 full-time employees in Washington, D.C., Chicago, Philadelphia, Toronto, Vancouver, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria and Ottawa, with affiliates in Montreal and Quebec City, and in more than 40 countries around the world.
Leger is one of North America’s largest independent full-service research firms, with over 600 employees in Montreal, Quebec City, Toronto, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver in Canada, and Philadelphia in the United States. The LEO (Leger Opinion) panel is the largest Canadian panel with over 400,000 representative panelists from all regions of Canada. Leo was created by Leger based on a representative Canadian sample of Canadian citizens with Internet access.
Poll aggregator 338Canada.com gave Leger the highest rating among all polling firms in Canada for the accuracy of its studies. See https://338canada.com/pollster-ratings.htm.
About the Authors
Daniel Tisch is the President and CEO of Argyle. He is one of North America’s best-known communicators, having worked at senior levels in government before embarking on a 25-year consulting career in which he has advised CEOs, boards, government leaders and marketers for some of the world’s biggest brands.
Robert Gemmill is a trained attorney and one of the foremost experts in corporate reputation, crisis and risk, and litigation communications. He is Argyle USA’s SVP and GM based in Washington, DC.
Simon Jaworski, EVP, Leger USA, is a 25-year veteran of the market research industry, and one of the world’s leading experts on lottery and gaming research.