Everyone is talking about the loss of meaning for employees. Behind this term, which is often overused, lies a real paradigm shift: employees no longer accept the traditional rewards of a job. Indeed, prestigious titles or perks are no longer at the heart of their desires. According to the Alan x Harris Interactive Barometer dedicated to mental well-being in the workplace, they want above all prospects of evolution.
Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, Great Attrition... HR and managerial literature is not short of expressions to describe the context that is currently affecting all companies: half of all employees (51%) feel they cannot grow in their jobs.
Also, contrary to popular belief, the loss of meaning does not only affect urban executives! 23% of professionals, 26% of employees and 28% of workers consider that their current job has no meaning.
Have employees become "too" demanding? Has the pandemic broken their motivation? The reality is more complex than that.
According to the T10 barometer carried out by Empreinte Humaine and Opinion Way, 8 out of 10 employees believe that having a job is good for their mental health and 81% of employees today give an important place to their work. Work is still important to them, but it is less structuring than before: only 20% of employees now consider their work to be "very" important, compared to 60% in 1990.
The simplistic idea that employees no longer want to put in the effort required for their work is therefore false. It is their expectations of their employer that have changed.
57% of those under 35 find it difficult to plan for the future.
While 44% of employees are considering quitting, this desire is particularly strong among those under 35: 55% of them express the wish to leave their current job. An alarming figure that can be linked to a general lack of prospects: 57% of under 35s find it difficult to project themselves into the future (8 points more than other employees).
For this generation, which has experienced the definition of "burn-out" very early on, work must rhyme with meaning. For 85% of those under 35, work is very important. More of them see work as a source of fulfillment (55%) than as a constraint (33%).
They are also the most likely to want to leave the workforce for another status, such as self-employment: 54%, compared to 41% for the average employee. This is a way for them to free themselves from the subordination link that exists in salaried employment.
They are therefore largely ready to make the necessary efforts if they feel supported in their evolutionary needs.
In a context where the horizon seems very uncertain (global warming, pandemic, war in Ukraine...), the question of fulfillment at work becomes even more important. Without a future, it is today and now that work must offer interesting perspectives of evolution. And it is up to companies to act.
Employees expect their company to be proactive and to provide concrete support. This wish is still far from being fulfilled: 44% of employees believe that their employer is not currently implementing any solutions to help them find meaning in their work.
"Evolving" does not have the same meaning for everyone. For some people, progressing means a salary increase, while others prefer to change jobs or to be more flexible in order to rebalance their professional and personal life. Influenced by the confinements that have reshuffled the cards of our priorities, the "evolution perspectives" can therefore take very different forms depending on the situation.
According to the Alan barometer, 40% of employees and workers consider that a salary increase would help them in their quest for meaning. This need became more pronounced during the COVID-19 crisis: according to a McKinsey study, of the 35% of employees who changed or considered changing jobs during the pandemic, an overwhelming majority cited earning more money as their primary motivation.
Fear of economic recession, pension debates and inflation are all adding to the already deteriorating situation caused by the health crisis. However, employees are not expecting much from their current employer to change the situation.
Indeed, changing companies seems to be the best option: according to a Glassdoor survey, 64% of employees think that they should change companies to get a salary increase - a number that rises to 69% among 18-34 year olds. A figure confirmed in a study conducted by Forbes : in the United States, employees who stay more than two years with the same company would earn half as much as those who change employer frequently during their lifetime. In France, Apec states that changing companies optimizes salary progression.
Not all employees consider leaving their company to move up or get better pay. According to a study conducted by Welcome to the Jungle, the younger employees are, the more they are attracted to vertical mobility, i.e. moving up the ladder. The older they are, the more they are attracted to horizontal mobility and the possibility of changing jobs within the same company.
Companies have a key role to play here in training their employees for new jobs.This desire for continuous improvement can be explained in particular by the economic context. It allows employees to maintain their "employability" and to better adapt to change.
This desire for training is particularly true among executives: according to the Alan x Harris Interactive Barometer, nearly 1 in 4 executives would like their employer to present them with clear prospects for development and to facilitate their internal progression through training.
One can progress by acquiring new skills, or by managing teams. However, it is clear that the role of manager is not a dream come true: 7 out of 10 employees do not want to become a manager and 1 out of 3 regrets becoming one, according to the T10 barometer conducted by Empreinte Humaine and Opinion Way.
It must be said that managers are particularly exposed to overwork because their role has become much more complex over the years. With hybrid work, they have become the guarantors of their well-being, while ensuring that the objectives imposed by top management are met. According to the Empreinte Humaine and Opinion Way barometer, 43% of managers are exposed to psychological health problems.
Having seen the working conditions and mental health of managers deteriorate, employees do not aspire to reach this status, which is generally subject to high pressure and long hours. For these employees, it is a question of working differently (or even less) to live better. For executives, the balance between professional and personal life is as important as the salary.
It is worth noting that 40% of women make their work-life balance a priority, compared to 27% of men. Still largely managing domestic work, women have much less access to management positions than men: in France, a woman is almost twice as likely as a man to become a manager, director or executive, according to a Céreq study. Their prospects and desires for advancement may therefore be hindered.
Autonomy is one of the highest expectations of employees. The latest Alan barometer revealed that 21% of them consider it important to be autonomous in their mission and in the performance of their work. This feeling of agentivity gives a better vision of the evolution perspectives since, in this case, the employee is fully in control of his trajectory.
In line with this idea of a link between autonomy and the ability to project, it is interesting to note that teleworkers consider that they have a good vision of their future prospects. This is the case for 61% of teleworkers in general and 65% of teleworkers who work 5 days a week from home.
The same trend can be found among the self-employed (farmers, craftsmen, shopkeepers and company managers): 86% of them believe they have a clear vision of their development prospects. Being by definition their own boss, they set their objectives and decide on the means to be used themselves.
For all their good intentions, employers don't know what employees want. For example, they tend to overestimate the importance of intangible benefits, such as hierarchical position, while employees are looking for something else altogether: 58% of operational employees are aiming for a higher hierarchical position, but 78% have as their main objective to earn more.
It is urgent for companies to take hold of the subject and give more perspectives to employees for immediate productivity reasons (giving meaning to work generates more motivation and productivity for nearly 9 out of 10 employees) but also for the longer term. Indeed, training employees in new skills and supporting them in their evolution would allow companies to fight against turnover and skills obsolescence. The latter is accelerating sharply: according to McKinsey, up to ⅓ of activities could be replaced by 2030, which would force 75 to 375 million workers to change jobs.
It is always more economical for a company to train and keep an employee for the long term than to recruit a new one. The adage is well known but often difficult to implement!
If employees are offered interesting career paths, they are more likely to stay with the company. According to a Welcome to the Jungle study, the possibility of changing jobs within the same company is an attractive option for 70% of employees and 78% of those over 45.
By orienting employees towards skills that will be strategic for the coming years, companies will meet strategic challenges while promoting employee engagement and retention. To do this, it is essential for companies to map the skills that their employees already master and those that are missing. This will make it easier for them to offer the most appropriate training and to present them with new opportunities.
Simply communicating corporate information on your career site is not enough. Employees need transparent information about their career development opportunities. A McKinsey study found thatone third of operational employees say they receive little or no information on this topic.
This alarming figure suggests that companies do not recognize career advancement as a major goal for these employees. Yet, training is not just for the company's executives. It's important to value the desire to advance: 30% of employers report offering off-the-job training to their employees, but only 12% of operational employees believe they are entitled to it.
Employers should also publish their salary grids and communicate their interpretation keys. Employees need to understand their employer's specific expectations for each position in order to project themselves into the next stage of their career.
Finally, this transparency helps to reduce the gender pay gap. Indeed, when salaries are not transparent, women find themselves at a disadvantage compared to men who tend to feel more comfortable discussing their evolution with their manager. According to this article published by Indeed, 41% of women say they are very or somewhat uncomfortable in this exercise, compared to 21% of men.
Even if their status is no longer the stuff of dreams, direct managers are still the preferred contact for employees when it comes to their desire to progress. 62% of employees feel the need to talk to their manager about their career prospects or about the organization of their work. However, only 33% of employees say they will dare to do so in the coming months and 32% of them think that their managers adapt training to their real needs.
The new aspirations of employees are pushing companies to review their ideal manager. No longer a directive and distant supervisor, but rather a "connector" manager. More empathetic, a good listener and focused on results (not how they are achieved), this type of manager could make his or her status more attractive.
Article written by Marion Bernes.