UKG Survey Findings: How to Fix Work and Engage Employees

How to Fix Work and Engage Employees

As we start a new year, many people reflect on the past year and contemplate what they’d like to achieve in the year ahead. This can include how they feel about their job, if they like their employer, and whether they see themselves staying with their company or moving on for a better opportunity. While everyone’s personal goals will vary, when it comes to career plans, we know from the ongoing Great Resignation statistics that a significant number of employees may decide to quit or switch jobs in 2023. And this could happen sooner rather than later, since quit rates tend to rise at the beginning of the year after bonuses have been paid out.

A new study with UKG perfectly summarizes employee’s frustrations right now. We surveyed 2,200 employees in 10 countries, as well as 1,200 U.S.-based C-Suite executives and HR leaders. The goal of our research was to explore how people are feeling about their jobs right now, whether their expectations around work have evolved, and how these perceptions might affect tomorrow’s workforce. And most importantly, we offer strategies for how employers can fix work and better engage their employees.

Unfortunately—but perhaps unsurprisingly—the findings paint a grim picture of the current state of the workplace:

  • Nearly half (46%) of employees say they wouldn’t recommend their company nor their profession to their children or any young person they care about.
  • An alarming 38% of global workers (46% in the U.S.) say they wouldn’t wish their job on their worst enemy.
  • Nearly 2 out of 3 workers would switch jobs right now if they could.
  • People are so disillusioned and disengaged that 45% don’t want to work anymore, period.

But there is hope if employers take action.

One of the more interesting findings of our study was that most employees (84%) say they would still work even if they won the lottery. This suggests that while people do inherently want to work, their current roles aren’t meeting their expectations and needs.

While people do inherently want to work, their current roles aren’t meeting their expectations and needs.

For employers, it’s important to understand the underlying reasons behind this widespread dissatisfaction with work and then take steps to address these issues and improve engagement. Those that don’t may find themselves facing a talent shortage both now and in the years to come, especially if today’s employees convey their disdain for their job and their company to future generations of workers.

Here, I’ll explore some of the findings from my company’s study with UKG, pinpointing a few of the reasons why work isn’t working anymore as well as what employers can do to “fix” work. Let’s take a look.

What’s wrong with work? 

1. People aren’t finding meaning and purpose in their jobs. 

As I mentioned earlier, one of the more alarming findings from our research was that nearly half of employees simply don’t want to work anymore. In fact, most people admit they have a transactional relationship with work — 61% say they go to work to collect a paycheck, ‘clock out,’ and go home. We also discovered that just 50% of employees report that they genuinely enjoy their work and are passionate about their career.

But workers are rethinking their priorities, in part because of the pandemic. Many now believe that it’s important to find purpose in their professional lives as well as in their personal lives, and they’re passing on this wisdom to those nearest to them. For example, while most people today describe themselves as “money-driven,” 74% hope future generations do things differently and pursue a profession that’s meaningful to them.

Great Place To Work research finds that at the best workplaces, 85% of employees believe their work has special meaning and isn’t “just a job.” And as Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place To Work, shared, “It’s on every leader to make sure every worker, regardless of role and location, understands how what they do affects their organization’s greater purpose. People need to know their work has meaning and matters — that they matter.”

2. People don’t feel like they can grow with their company. 

When we asked people whether they’re in a job, a career, or a calling, the results point to the fact that most workers feel stuck in their current roles and unable to progress. In fact, just 28% of employees said they have a career with specific goals and ambitions that they wish to grow in time. Most workers (61%) are in a job where they just collect their paycheck and go home each day.

While not every job can become someone’s calling, employers could be doing much more to help their team members advance their careers internally. This includes offering better on-the-job training programs, more networking and mentoring opportunities, and clear career pathing for their workforce. Companies could also consider covering college tuition fees or offering a stipend for their education.

Employers who don’t support internal mobility will undoubtedly struggle to attract and retain talent in the years to come. In November, I attended UKG’s Aspire event in Las Vegas, and Brian Reaves, UKG’s Chief Belonging, Diversity and Equity Officer, emphasized this point during his presentation. “Talent is looking for an opportunity path before they join,” he said. “They aren’t just looking for a job, they’re looking for a career.”

3. People don’t have enough time for the things that really matter to them. 

It’s no secret that people’s priorities have shifted immensely because of the pandemic. Nearly 9 out of 10 workers we surveyed say the pandemic made them realize there are more important things in life than work, and 77% want to spend less time working and more time doing things that matter to them.

Employers could be doing a much better job of prioritizing work-life balance for their staff, for example by keeping work schedules reasonable and offering more flexibility. It’s also critical that leaders foster a culture where people feel they can use their vacation time without falling behind at work or being seen as less dedicated. This is especially necessary because right now, a whopping 85% of global employees say they don’t use all their allotted time off each year.

For companies that are successful in their efforts to promote work-life balance, the payoff could be significant, especially from a long-term talent pipeline standpoint. In fact, we found that employees who work excessive overtime or report poor work-life balance were far less likely to recommend their company and their line of work to the next generation.

Actionable steps to fix work and re-engage your employees 

  1. Share with your employee how their work contributes to the organization’s greater purpose.
  2. Support internal mobility and help team members advance in the organization.
  3. Develop a career path for each employee.
  4. Offer on-the-job training programs.
  5. Create networking and mentoring opportunities.
  6. Cover college tuition fees or offer a stipend of continuing education.
  7. Maintain reasonable work schedules and offer flexibility.
  8. Encourage employees to take time off.

For a better tomorrow, we need to fix work today 

With the new year here, there’s no better time than the present for businesses to prioritize creating a better work experience for their staff. Every three out of four employees say they expect their company to do more to support them, and if they continue to feel unsupported it’s all but guaranteed that they’ll seek out a better opportunity elsewhere. It’s also likely that they’ll pass on their negative feedback to those around them, including the young people who will soon become tomorrow’s workforce.

If you’re ready to take action at your organization, download the full research findings so we can fix work.