The pandemic has changed what workers are looking for from their employers, and companies have not yet fully understood the extent of the change. That is the take-home message from a survey conducted by Adecco in 10 countries


This article was authored by Christophe Catoir, President of Adecco.

The research spanned ten countries and the Latin America region. We gathered perceptions of more than a thousand workers and 155 companies, to compare what workers want and what employers think that workers want.

At first glance, employers and workers seem to be aligned on the main criteria that motivate people to apply for a job. They agree that salary is the top consideration, with the next two positions occupied by workplace atmosphere and opportunities for career development.

However, companies tend to overestimate the importance of salary – 72% of companies mention it as a main factor, compared to 53% of workers. Companies also put too much stock in their own reputation – collectively, they think that working for a well-known employer is the 7th-biggest attraction for workers, whereas workers themselves rate it down in 16th.


Post-Covid, workers want flexibility

Conversely, employers underestimate the extent to which Covid has made workers more attuned to questions of health, safety and wellbeing at work. Interesting job content and the flexibility to work from home – or even from another country – are among the factors more important to workers than companies have realised.

Indeed, Covid has made workers value all types of flexibility, especially in their working schedule and locations. This is especially the case in the UK, Germany and the US, where 22% of workers said they valued the option to work full-time at home, compared to a global average of 9%. Women are more likely than men to rank flexibility as a major factor.

This trend is backed up by anecdotal evidence, for example, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reports on how Amazon is driving up wages for warehouse workers: unable to compete on salary, some other employers are competing instead by offering greater flexibility.

Our survey found other differences between regions and generations. Workers in France and Belgium were especially likely to prioritise salary, whereas those in Italy and India place relatively greater weight on career development. GenZ and GenY workers are more likely to be swayed by salary, while older generations focus more on the content of the job and work atmosphere. Only workers in Latin America and Spain tend to prefer collaborative to individual work, though companies think this preference applies more widely.


Companies should rethink leadership styles

When we asked employers what is the main leadership style in their company, their top choice was “pacesetter” leaders, who push for results more quickly. However, when we asked workers what kind of leader they want to work for, pacesetters were not among the top three responses.

Instead, the most common choice – selected by one in four – was “charismatic leaders” who can inspire with a vision. This is closely followed by “servant leaders”, who prioritise the welfare of their workers. Both choices can be seen as reflecting the post-pandemic desire for work to bring a sense of meaning and wellbeing.

The third most common response among workers is that leadership style is not important to them, as long as they are happy at work. This was an especially common response in Belgium, France and Germany.

Another question concerned what kind of social responsibility workers are most interested in from their employer. Here we found a regional split, with workers in Anglo-Saxon countries focusing more on responsibility, transparency and ethical standards, while in continental Europe the higher priority is diversity, inclusion and social justice.

Workers are happy with digital recruitment

Our survey revealed a final important mismatch in expectation between employers and workers – around the recruitment process itself. Recruitment is becoming digital, and candidates are moving more quickly than companies.

We increasingly hear workers, especially in the younger generation, say that they are happy to be recruited via digital processes. Our survey shows that employers have yet to catch on to this: 35% of workers (49% of Gen Z) said they would be happy with an online recruitment process, whereas employers believed this would be true for only 9%.

Similarly, workers are more open than employers expect to have their skills assessed by an online quiz during the recruitment process, and on an ongoing basis.

At Adecco, we are proud to say we change the lives of millions of people every year by finding them employment that suits their needs. We see that the pandemic has changed what workers are looking for, and we urge employers to keep their fingers on the pulse.

Read the Executive summary of the survey here.

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