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April 11, 2022

What do workers value more than their salaries?

Daily Briefing

    Roughly 50% of workers would willingly take a pay cut of 2% or 5% in a job change if they could meet at least one "non-financial goal" that improved their work experience, according to the latest edition of LinkedIn's Workforce Confidence survey, George Anders reports for LinkedIn.

    Employee expectations are rapidly evolving. Here’s how your organization can respond.

    Survey details and key findings

    To create the Workforce Confidence Index, LinkedIn distributes a quantitative online survey to its U.S.-based members through email every two weeks. On average, around 5,000 members reply to each wave. To get an accurate representation of active members of the U.S. workforce, LinkedIn excludes students, stay-at-home partners, and retirees. Then, they randomly sample members who opt in to participate.

    For the survey, LinkedIn asked workers to gauge the importance of eight non-financial goals and asked if they would change jobs and take a pay cut to achieve any of the goals.

    In total, about 46% of employed Americans responded "No" for every single goal, suggesting many workers would be unwilling to take a pay cut for any reason. However, about half said they would willingly trade some money—2% or 5% of their current income—if a job change would upgrade their work lives in at least one area. 

    Overall, younger workers were most willing to sacrifice money in pursuit of a better work situation. Workers ages 57 and older were most likely to stay with their current salaries in lieu of non-financial goals.

    On average, U.S. workers at all ages said they would take a 2% or 5% pay cut for four of the eight non-financial goals, including:

    • More enjoyable work (33%)
    • Better work/life balance (33%)
    • More flexibility to work onsite/remote (27%)
    • Stronger chance to grow in the role (26%)

    According to the index, millennials were the age group most committed to achieving a "better work/life balance"—likely because many of them must balance work obligations with parenting responsibilities.

    In addition, the "flexibility to work onsite or remote" was especially appealing to millennials—with 36% of them claiming they would be willing to take a pay cut for increased flexibility.

    Among Gen Z respondents, the most appealing trade-off was "a stronger chance to grow in the role," with 40% of them claiming they would sacrifice some pay for this opportunity—far above millennials (32%), Gen X (30%), and baby boomers (20%).

    Ultimately, LinkedIn's Workforce Confidence survey highlights "the importance of non-cash factors, such as enjoyable work, fulfillment and better work-life balance, in terms of how we all feel about our jobs," Anders writes. (Anders, LinkedIn, 4/6)


    Advisory Board's take

    3 ways to meet evolving employee expectations

    We know employee expectations are rapidly evolving, so it's always interesting to see new data about what workers are looking for as they evaluate potential jobs. This particular survey asks whether staff would be willing to take a 2% to 5% pay cut for a new job with more of something they value, such as work/life balance or flexibility. Given the market right now, I think it's more likely a health care employee will be considering a job offer with a higher salary (particularly if we take into account other compensation elements such as sign-on bonuses). So instead of deciding whether to leave for a small pay cut, the more common scenario may be employees deciding whether to stay for a lower salary.

    This survey suggests some may be willing to do so—however, we're talking about a relatively small salary gap, which pales in comparison to the far higher bonuses and salaries offered for roles such as travel nursing. And note that nearly half of survey respondents said they would not take a pay cut for any of the proposed factors, suggesting this group may be particularly vulnerable to external offers with a higher salary.

    So what to do with this data?

    1. Double-down on efforts to offer flexibility and a manageable workload. As we've known for a while, these are no longer "nice-to-have" perks but a business imperative to remain competitive. The good news is promoting flexibility and work/life balance will support both your retention and recruitment efforts. See these resources: Building a flexible nursing workforce and Your Organization's Approach to Remote Work Considerations.

    2. Continue to closely monitor pay relative to your market and close major gaps. We know employees choose jobs (and choose to stay at jobs) based on a wide constellation of financial and non-financial factors. However, organizations should be very wary of assuming the non-financial benefits of their workplace will outweigh significant gaps in pay. An organization that offers meaningful flexibility, a manageable workload, and career growth doesn't need to lead their market in pay—but they must be competitive. This is especially true for entry-level jobs such as nursing assistants where organizations outside of health care can offer not only higher pay but also often easier work.

    3. Meet new hires' expectations when they join your organization looking for more flexibility and work/life balance. A mismatch between new hire expectations (based on what they understood during the recruiting process) and their lived experience in their first few months can contribute to costly early turnover. Talk with candidates about the full range of financial and non-financial reasons to work at your organization—and then follow up with them to make sure their first few months on the job are what they expected. See our Manager's Guide to New Hire Onboarding for questions to ask.

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