by Josh Graff*
The world of work has seen huge disruption in the past few years – from the upheaval caused by the COVID-19 pandemic to the continued economic uncertainty facing businesses today. With so much change, we’ve seen people re-evaluate their relationship with work, with many considering not just how they work, but also why they work.
This has been reflected in trends such as “quiet quitting” – the phenomenon of employees only doing what they are paid to do and no more, to the more recent “quick quitting” – where employees leave an organization within a year of joining due to a variety of reasons such as the role not matching their expectations or burnout.
Now we’re starting to see things shift again. New research from LinkedIn of nearly 10,000 professionals across the globe finds that more than two-thirds (68%) of workers in the UK, France, Germany and Ireland now consider it important to work for companies that are aligned with their values. This rises to 87% for workers in the US, and 85% in Brazil. Values such as work-life balance, career growth and learning, and diversity and inclusion, are what people care about the most.
What’s surprising is that despite the current economic climate where the higher cost of living and potential of layoffs are impacting so many people, more than half (59%) of professionals in Europe say they wouldn’t work for a company that doesn’t share their values, and not even a pay rise would change their minds (55%).
Younger generations are leading the charge
Gen Z (aged 18-25) and Millennials (aged 26-41) are driving this shift, with nearly 9 in 10 in Europe saying they would leave a job to work somewhere that better matches their values, compared to 7 in 10 Gen Xers (aged 42-57). Furthermore, 60% of Gen Zers and Millennials say values are a deal-breaker when considering job opportunities today.
With Gen Z set to become the largest demographic in the workplace by the end of the decade, leaders ignore this at their peril. While salary is always going to be important to job seekers, what’s clear is that company values are increasingly becoming a deal-breaker. People want to work for companies that care about the same things as they do, and are not prepared to compromise on what matters most to them.
Companies are taking note. Entry-level job ads on LinkedIn that reference company values and culture have increased by 154% over the past two years, reflecting the tight labour market and the growing importance of company values for younger generations. In particular, job ads referencing work-life balance increased by 65% during that time. Job postings that mention values like culture, flexibility and well-being receive nearly three times more views and twice as many applications today than two years ago.
Walking the talk
Business leader Paul Polman, who recently published research on the rise of “conscious quitting”, shared with me that: “The smartest C-suites and entrepreneurs are flipping this into an opportunity by striving to build courageous, honest and mission-driven companies which will attract, retain and motivate the best people, and thrive as a result. Today’s job seekers are human beings living in a moment of perma-crisis, and many are looking for workplaces which offer meaning, integrity and hope. This trend will only grow: creating value through values is the future of business and of work.”
Indeed, many companies are already taking steps to embed values into their workplace. Insurance company Zurich UK has a range of “life stage benefits” to support its employees, from 16 weeks paid leave for new dads, to adoption and miscarriage leave, and support through menopause and bereavement. The company also advertises every role as a potential part-time, job share or flexible working opportunity, which has increased female part time workers by 95%.
Likewise, Maersk – the integrated logistics company – places sustainability high on their agenda. Employees are united by their shared belief that a safer, fairer and greener future of integrated logistics is possible, as demonstrated through the work they do to decarbonise supply chains.
According to our research, professionals in Europe are becoming increasingly confident to ask prospective employers probing questions about their company values in the interview process, specifically around flexibility (65%), self expression including dress code (58%), and religious matters (47%). This is done in the effort to establish whether an organization really is the right fit for them. And they’re not afraid to go a step further and ask for evidence.
Reinforcing company values
Companies that reinforce culture and values in everything from employer branding and job adverts, to the interview and onboarding process, and overall employee experience, will be rewarded through talent attraction, retention, and motivation, which in today’s tight labour market are invaluable. Here are three pointers to help:
-Build a unified brand strategy: Today, the lines between a company’s stakeholders – such as customers, employees, partners and investors – have blurred, and they expect a consistent brand experience. Companies that tell a unified story across corporate, consumer, and talent pillars with values at the core will see a positive impact on reputation.
-Representation matters: Many companies say diversity and inclusion is important, but they must show it. Ensure that job descriptions are inclusive, interview panels are diverse, your workforce is represented in your employer branding, and there are clear paths for internal mobility and career progression.
-Bring your values to life on LinkedIn: Job seekers are increasingly evaluating potential employers based on their company values. Organizations can add and demonstrate proof of their commitments on their LinkedIn company page, which will surface in job postings, helping companies to attract bright talent. Also, consider leveraging employees as brand ambassadors to help tell your story.
It’s more important than ever to lead by example when it comes to values. That means being clear on what your values are, living them, and holding everyone accountable.
*Managing Director, EMEA & LATAM & VP Global Enterprise, LinkedIn
**first published in: Weforum.org