New study found most employees are seeking better pay and benefits, work location flexibility, and more work/life balance—but would respond positively to meaningful rewards and recognition from their employer
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics1, the number of job openings has been decreasing steadily over the last few months. While mass layoffs continue to make headlines (there were 1.8 million recorded in the month of March alone1), a secondary storyline has emerged where employees who remain with their organizations are feeling pressured to backfill their former colleagues’ work and responsibilities, amplifying burnout and causing people to seek new employment opportunities.
Amidst this tightening job market and an unsteady economy, the employment landscape will be riddled with challenges in the months ahead as people seek out more favorable work experiences—and while businesses attempt to protect their bottom lines.
Blackhawk Network (BHN®) wanted to help our partners and other businesses understand these hurdles and how to successfully navigate them. We know many are working to protect the long-term health of their businesses while facing budget cuts and trying to engage an exhausted workforce. So, we conducted new research2 of more than 1,200 working U.S. adults to learn more about how their employers are engaging and recognizing them, their work preferences, their top personal and professional challenges, and generally how they are faring personally and professionally.
The results identified several key takeaways and issues employers should be aware of and consider as they solve for today’s volatile business landscape. Top of the list is the fact that although last year’s jobseeker’s market is cooling off, nearly three quarters of employed respondents are seeking new employment and nearly 9 in 10 reported having concerns about their employment. About one in four reported being burned out and worried about being asked to do more without a pay increase, and also had concerns regarding their mental health and well-being. Fewer than a quarter of respondents report thriving and enjoying their current role and even among those who are thriving (22%), one in five reported they are still unhappy and seeking new employment.
Other noteworthy findings include:
• Respondents are largely in sync on why they are seeking new employment. The majority of respondents agreed on the top reasons they are looking for new jobs, including seeking better pay (32%); work location flexibility (23%); better opportunities for professional growth (21%); better reward, incentive and recognition programs (20%); and work/life balance from a company that won’t burn them out and cares about their mental health, well-being, and work/life balance (21%).
• People are experiencing tumultuous, ongoing changes to their professional lives regardless of their level of expertise and role. One third of respondents reported their workplace and/or location changed in the last 12 months, and more than a quarter of respondents reported at least one person in their household lost their job in the last six to 12 months. Respondents with senior-level positions as well as younger respondents tended to be impacted by layoffs more than those in middle management; nearly half of respondents who reported someone in their household had lost their job in the last six to 12 months were in senior management positions (e.g., directors, executives, C-suite) and approximately one third were in administrative or entry-level positions.
• Nearly everyone is regularly grappling with numerous concerns. A staggering 97% of respondents reported worrying about their employment and personal situations. The breakdown for top concerns is as follows:
- 68% are concerned about grocery/food prices
- 55% are concerned about inflation
- 46% are concerned about the cost of utilities
- 44% are concerned about gas/fuel prices
- 30% are concerned about a recession
• Employees are concerned about the state of their employment and their company. More than a third of respondents are worried about being asked to do more without a pay increase or title/position change that is reflective of their new responsibilities (e.g., Quiet Promotion), as well as their mental health and well-being. One in five are concerned about budget cuts, layoffs, a reduction in their hours, pay cuts, working in-person after working remotely and a tightening job market.
• Respondents were widely varied in their sentiments toward work and their employer. Most respondents reported being on opposite sides of the spectrum when it came to whether they felt they were thriving or suffering from burnout. But even among those who were thriving professionally, only about one in five respondents reported being happy with their work situation. In general, the majority who were most unhappy at their jobs and seeking new employment were Gen Z (89%) and Millennials (79%); only half of Baby Boomer respondents reported seeking new employment.
• Employee engagement and retention are critically important at this juncture. Although a significant number of respondents reported being unhappy and seeking out new employment, many reported they would be more loyal to an employer if they received a higher salary (59% — which is a 7% increase compared to research from last year3), better work/life balance (38%), a four day workweek (36%), better benefits to help manage inflation (32%), more time off (28%), the ability to work remotely all or part of the time (23% and 19%), and more frequent recognition for their contributions and achievements (22%).
• Well-publicized workplace trends exist across generations and are contributing to burnout and apathy. The number of respondents that reported having participated in or being affected by employer-related challenges is substantial. Among respondents, 17% reported being quietly promoted, which means their employer is increasing their workload and responsibilities without paying more or giving them a better title. On average, at least one in 10 respondents reports being disengaged and apathetic about their current job and/or employer and Quiet Quitting; job padding (making sure they have job security by lining up new job offers in case there is a recession, layoffs, etc.); moonlighting; Rage Applying (mass-applying for jobs out of frustration when they feel unhappy, underappreciated, or dissatisfied at their current job); seeking out a new company that offers more salary transparency before they work there; and not liking their manager.
“While the number of people reportedly seeking new employment is slightly down compared to last year, dissatisfaction in the workplace is still a significant problem. This is largely compounded by the fact that a staggering number of U.S. workers are burned out. Even though the job market is starting to swing in favor of employers, companies still face numerous struggles when it comes to hiring, onboarding, training, engaging and retaining top talent. Not to mention staving off competition from other companies, finding qualified talent, having the resources to manage the hiring process and having systems in place to keep staff productive and happy. Staffing and engagement efforts are expensive and time-intensive—and in this economy where budgets are tightening across most industries, those added expenses and wasted resources are delivering punishing blows to business’ bottom lines,” said Jeff Haughton, SVP, Incentives, Corporate Development & Strategy at Blackhawk Network (BHN). “People are worn out, worried about their jobs and concerned about their personal lives. So it’s no wonder Americans are actively seeking out new jobs with employers that pay better, show appreciation, don’t overwhelm or overburden them, offer better professional opportunities and protect their mental health and finances. Economic challenges are rampant and as the costs of living increase, there will be substantial pressure on employers to provide relief to their employees. While large raises may not be an option for the many businesses that are slashing budgets and staff, smaller incremental rewards and tokens of appreciation that help offset cost of living increases like gift cards toward groceries or gas, more flexibility in work arrangements and even time off to recharge will become increasingly vital competitive differentiators as businesses fight for their most important resources-their people.”
1 "Job Openings and Labor Turnover – March 2023" is part of a monthly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
2 "Employee Appreciation 2.0" is an internet-based survey conducted by Survey Monkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network (BHN) between March 1 and 2, 2023. The sample size included 1,257 U.S. respondents ages 18+.
3"Workplace Arrangements, Rewards, and Engagement Survey" is an internet-based survey conducted by Survey Monkey on behalf of Blackhawk Network between February 25, 2022 and March 1, 2022. The sample size included 3,278 U.S. respondents ages 18+.