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The possibility of a better salary and benefits package may be more attractive to job seekers than flexibility, according to PwC’s latest US Pulse Survey

Sixty-five percent of employees said they’re on the hunt for a new job. Meanwhile, 88% of executives reported higher-than-average turnover rates. 

Here’s a breakdown of what’s prompting employees to leave and how companies are redesigning work in response. 

Why employees are looking elsewhere

Surveyed executives seemed generally aware of why their employees were leaving. Employees cited pay as their top reason for moving on, and 41% of executives also identified this as a leading cause. Higher salaries were even more of a priority for women, with 46% of women noting this as a reason for leaving compared to just 34% of men. 

For employees, a lack of benefits was the second-highest driver of departure. But only 23% of executives named benefits as a cause, putting it below other reasons like lack of career development opportunities (33%) and flexibility (34%).

When asked which workplace incentives most appealed to them, employees’ top choices were:

  • Schedule flexibility (38%)
  • Expanded benefits (38%)
  • Compensation changes (37%)
  • Location flexibility (28%)
  • Expanded career development (19%)

Many employers planned to offer schedule (43%) and location (44%) flexibility to help them compete for and keep talent, but they were more focused on company purpose/values (48%) and leadership/culture (48%). Benefits (31%) and compensation changes (34%) fell further down the list. 

Back to the office?

Many executives (33%) said they’re taking a mixed approach to their work environment, including in-person, hybrid, and fully remote settings. Nearly 20% planned to return to a fully in-person workplace, 18% choose a hybrid/in-person mix, and another 18% described their work environment as completely hybrid going forward. At 4%, very few employers said they’re opting for fully remote teams.

Given a choice, 22% of employees said they’d prefer to work almost exclusively in the office, 21% said their line of work must be done on-site, and many others would like to be fully remote (19%) or mostly remote (17%). 

Despite employee preference, many leaders are reluctant to embrace remote work, citing reasons such as:

  • Weakening corporate culture (36%) 
  • Loss of mentoring (30%) 
  • Decreased innovation opportunities (26%)
  • Equity challenges between on-site and fully remote workers (25%)

PwC suggests that strengthening inclusivity and creating a sense of belonging will help leaders avoid remote work inequity. Companies moving toward hybrid work environments will also need to embrace technology that promotes seamless collaboration between remote and in-office employees. 

A foundation of trust

More than half (57%) of companies reported that they’re making progress on diversity and inclusion initiatives, and 79% of executives and 77% of employees said they have inclusive leaders. Companies are also working on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) reporting, with 42% planning to improve in this area.

Tackling these social issues, as well as pandemic-related challenges, presented an opportunity for companies to build trust with their employees. And the majority succeeded — 77% of executives and 72% of employees agreed there’s a strong level of trust in their relationship.

Maintaining that trust will require leaders to be transparent with their employees and take a people-first approach to strategic and operational changes. 

Moving forward

Surveyed companies also shared their planned strategic business changes over the next 12 to 18 months, which included:

  • Changing processes to reduce dependence on institutional knowledge (48%)
  • Basing strategic planning on evolving business conditions (41%)
  • Restructuring operating models (30%)

Immediate plans varied by the type of executive. For example, 37% of CHROs and human capital leaders listed retaining employees as their top priority over the next three to six months. Many of their other leading priorities related to improving the employee experience, including “building inclusive leadership in a hybrid workplace” (36%) and “addressing employee mental health, well-being, and burnout” (30%). 

For more survey results on the future of work, see PwC’s full report.