The global pandemic has changed the world of work forever, and workers want more from their jobs than just a good salary. What can companies learn from the latest Adecco Group’s 2022 Workers Survey about what people really value? The VP of Human Resources at The Adecco Group shares her formula for getting the balance right.


This article was authored by Encarnacion Maroño Otero, VP of Human Resources at The Adecco Group.

I always say I have the best job in the world. My mission is to take care of working people’s wellbeing and professional development. The pandemic has reminded businesses of the importance of putting people first - and this is our department’s priority.

We can see from our 2022 survey “Exploring Workers’ Professional Aspirations” - that salary, company atmosphere and career opportunities rank as the top three workforce concerns. And the most striking finding is the disconnect between what companies think workers want, and what they actually want. 

Almost three quarters of the companies we surveyed say they think salary matters most to the people they employ. That’s compared to just over half of the workers who say what they earn is their biggest concern. 

Increasingly, people are looking for more than just money from the companies they work for. They also want an “emotional salary'' - the non-financial benefits that give a sense of purpose, meaning and belonging. Increasing salaries by 35% won’t make a difference if people don’t feel loved, respected & known. Or, if all newcomers are not well supported during their onboarding process. When we don’t make people feel they matter, they will soon leave.

So, what makes people want to stay? As an HR department, we like to work as an innovation lab - testing new ways of working. So, here’s our magic formula for companies that want to recruit and retain talent: 

Put people first

We also strive to put exceptional people at the core of our teams so they can bring extraordinary results. First, you need to create an environment that nurtures the talent of your teams, and where each person can participate and feel their voice is heard. Then, it is important to find out their strengths, who they are and what they really want from work. Our CEO, Alain Dehaze, writes: “When employees feel heard, understood and cared for, they work harder, take more risks, and help others succeed. This in turn improves talent retention.

Building a people-centric culture means starting from the top, and encouraging managers and leaders to take care of their teams - not only as professionals, but also as people. Encourage your managers to make time to check in with people and ask about their life, family, feelings and health - don’t race straight to talking about KPIs. 

People stay in companies they feel valued by, and the pandemic has shown us that corporate empathy has an essential role to play. The move to remote working has called for a new, more collaborative form of leadership. Being sensitive to the needs of our staff means really getting to know them. A manager who knows who you are and what motivates you, and genuinely asks how you are feeling and listens when you respond is extremely valuable. This creates a happy, healthy and psychologically safe workplace for everyone.

Create a culture of belonging

Workplace atmosphere ranked highly in our survey – 36% of participants say it is their most important  consideration. So how do you create a company atmosphere where all people can flourish? I often say: “Adecco is you, and you are part of Adecco’s success.” A successful company culture has to be felt as something real - a person’s impact is much greater when they feel part of something bigger.  

People thrive when they can ask questions, give feedback, challenge decisions, and suggest solutions. There’s nothing better than feeling your efforts and talents have contributed to the success of the company, and that you are part of a larger work family.

Motivate, empower and involve your people. Send out regular internal satisfaction surveys and give people the opportunity to share thoughts anonymously about what works and what doesn’t work. There are many ways to do this that cost nothing, but give a high return in terms of fostering a sense of inclusion and belonging.

For example, an email from the CEO asking for feedback from teams. Voluntary Ambassadors who suggest improvements and new ways of working. And working groups to sense check new tools or changes before they are rolled out. 

The more you offer, the more people will participate. And you can measure the benefit of these simple changes by seeing it reflected in continued improvement, increased collaboration and a more passionate workforce. 

At Adecco, we know we can achieve more when we work together - and that’s our message to other companies too. Group intelligence is always better than individual intelligence, and the most intelligent groups are those who are sensitive to each other’s needs.

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Lead by example

Our survey shows a real difference in what qualities companies and workers value in leadership. Companies say they prefer pacesetter leaders - who set high standards for their team and expect them to exceed goals with minimal management. A pacesetting manager sets the rhythm for the team and demands high intensity in their performance. 

But pacesetting leaders, who push teams to go better and faster, didn’t rank highly for workers. The people we surveyed say they want charismatic, inspirational leaders, but also “servant leaders” who collaborate to achieve goals, are sensitive to the needs of the people they work with. Whether as managers or fellow workers, the goal of the servant leader is to achieve authority rather than power. They promote innovation, empower employees, care about the wellbeing of colleagues, and want everyone to succeed.

At Adecco, our leaders model the values they want to encourage in others. They are part of the team and empower colleagues to do and be more. They speak in everyday language, make time to connect with people at all levels, and see the potential in everyone as a future leader. More and more companies realize that relationships, values and culture matter, and investing in them will bring results. 

Creating space for conversations can be very fruitful, and it doesn’t always have to be in formal meetings.

Pay attention to the inside

The health benefits that happiness brings can also help to reduce costs of absenteeism and presenteeism. Our survey shows that companies overestimate the importance of brand reputation - workers are far more attuned to what a company feels like on the inside, than what people think about the brand. 

The pandemic has made people re-evaluate what is important, and they want employers to take health and wellbeing seriously. People also want to have fun at work. And that’s not just about having a table football table in your communal area. If you make people feel comfortable, you’re more likely to find out if they’re a good fit for your company. 

And remember to smile too - humour and humility are important leadership values and make people feel welcome at work, both online and in person.

Find out more about our survey results  here.

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