Who's looking for a job, and why?

4-minute read

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In a recent blog, Workhuman® Managing Editor Sarah Payne announced the publication of “The Future of Work is Human: Findings from the Workhuman® Analytics & Research Institute.” Each year, this eagerly anticipated survey report gives people leaders and executives an insightful look at the future of work, seen through the lens of full-time workers from the United States, Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom.

This year, the survey asked more than 3,500 workers what motivates them to do their best work and reveals the emotional connections that bind them to their teams, managers, and employers. This is the first blog in a series that gives you a closer look into each of the report’s findings.

Who’s looking – and why?

The first finding addresses an issue that keeps HR and business leaders awake at night. Who in an organization is a flight risk – and why? And what can organizations do to help retain their valuable employees?

While recent economic indicators and the U.S.-China trade war have generated rumblings about a possible economic slowdown, the U.S. unemployment rate, at 3.7%, is close to a 50-year low, creating a “buyer’s market” for job seekers. And that means humans –  including humans in your organization – are looking for new jobs.

According to the report, approximately one in five (21%) of those surveyed said they’re currently searching for a new opportunity. And as the report adds, “that doesn’t include people who might passively entertain a call from a recruiter or click on a job ad online.”

Surprisingly, workers in Ireland, Canada, and the U.K. are even more likely to be job searching; in those countries, approximately one in four (25%) is looking for a new opportunity. This is despite the fact that the economies of those nations aren’t as robust as the U.S.

Who’s most likely to leave?

Industry also plays a factor in determining who’s looking to make a move. The report found that respondents who work in the information technology sector are the most likely to be looking for new jobs (34%), followed by biotech, consumer goods & services, technology, and telecommunications (all at 28%).

Other active job seekers, by industry, include:

  • Retail (22%)
  • Healthcare (20%)
  • Government (14%)
  • Hospitality (4%)

Why do humans look for new jobs?

So, what is it that compels workers to look for new opportunities? “For the third year in a row, workers across all age groups rank meaningful work as most important,” the survey reports. It notes that meaningful work beat out “all other options, including positive company culture, compensation and perks, a supportive manger, and a fun team.”

What do we mean by meaningful work? According to report, it’s “about shared purpose – connecting the day-to-day tasks to a greater company mission that’s fully aligned with one’s personal values.”

In looking at which factors compel a worker to look for a new job, age also comes into play. The survey found that, after meaningful work, employees between the ages of 18 and 24 valued a supportive manager as the second most important factor to their career. Compare that to workers 35 years and older, who ranked compensation and perks second on their list.

How does one’s position in an organization factor in? According to the report, “the higher up a person goes in the organization, the more important meaningful work becomes on average.”  

The power of perks

Then there’s the influence of workplace perks. Across all ages, industries, and regions, the top perk – by a fairly large margin – is remote/flexible work (41%), followed in second place by healthcare coverage (27%). Interestingly, these top two beat out the rest of the list by a significant margin. Perks such as free food, office gym, and even on-the-job training came in at just 6% or lower.

Stay tuned

We’ll be examining additional findings from “The Future of Work is Human” in upcoming blogs. We believe the insights they reveal can help your organization improve engagement, recruitment, retention, and performance management across your entire workforce. Because in the end, it’s all about creating work cultures that benefit your business – and the humans driving it.


New Workhuman survey report: "The Future of Work is Human"

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About the Author

Aaron Kinne

Aaron Kinne is a senior writer at Workhuman.

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