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Though pay is what motivates most hourly workers to stay or go, they’re also prioritizing career advancement opportunities and a respectful, flexible workplace, according to the latest edition of “The Voice of the American Workforce” from Employbridge.

For the 17th annual survey, Employbridge asked a record-breaking 29,000 hourly workers — primarily in manufacturing and logistics (77%), but also in clerical and transportation — to share what’s most important to them as economic hardships persist. 

“Wage earners are increasingly digitally savvy, eager to gain skills for an automated world, and desirous of schedules that allow them to flex their time to add more work or balance personal demands,” said Billy Milam, Employbridge’s CEO. “Employers, facing an ongoing worker shortage, have a prime opportunity to evolve to thrive in this new paradigm.” 

Workers prioritizing pay above all

Despite rising wages, many hourly workers are still looking for jobs with higher pay. The majority of workers in both logistics (67%) and manufacturing (61%) said pay rate was most important when looking for a new job. Finding a job with better pay was also the top reason workers in all surveyed industries left their former jobs, and they cited consistent pay increase as the top motivator for accepting past jobs.

To help make ends meet in challenging times, many workers are taking on longer hours or second jobs. Nearly half of manufacturing and logistics employees worked more than 40 hours a week, and while respondents who reported having just one full-time job dropped by 2.5%, the percentage of those employed full-time with more than one job increased 1.2%. In addition, the vast majority (90%) of respondents employed through BlueCrew, Employbridge’s digital app, said they’re looking for extra work to build up resistance to the expected recession.  

Job security was also a top priority for both manufacturing and logistics workers when searching for a new job — in manufacturing, it outranked the job’s shift/schedule and location.

Respect and growth opportunities build loyalty

However, sometimes it takes more than pay to get workers to stay. 

Nearly 40% of logistics and manufacturing respondents said the best way employers could earn their loyalty was to treat them with respect. They also cited forms of respect like performance recognition and understanding their personal obligations. These efforts can go a long way in retaining employees, as feeling underappreciated was the reason 25% of respondents left a past job.

Workers also want to invest time in growing and learning. Another common reason workers in all surveyed industries left previous jobs was lack of growth opportunities (16% in transportation, 17% in manufacturing, 24% in clerical, and 23% in logistics). And advancement and training opportunities were among the top motivators for staying in their current jobs. 

More than 40% of logistics and manufacturing workers said they’re willing to spend 5 or more hours a week learning new skills. Top motivators for learning new skills included the potential for higher pay (67% of both logistics and manufacturing workers) and to prepare for their next job or promotion (43% of logistics workers and 41% of manufacturing workers). Technical skills are particularly desirable — 60% of Millennial and Gen Z workers and more than half of workers ages 45 and older expressed interest in becoming an automation/robotics technician. 

Some workers want a break from the traditional workweek

For more than half of logistics and manufacturing workers, the workweek currently consists of five eight-hour shifts. Though 48% of manufacturing and 41% of logistics workers prefer this schedule, there’s also a notable preference for a four-day workweek — 27% of manufacturing workers and 35% of logistics workers said they’d like to work four 10-hour shifts. 

Gig work is also of interest, particularly among logistics workers (43%). Earning extra money was the top reason to take gig work, followed by a flexible schedule. And schedule flexibility may make gig work even more appealing — 56% of survey respondents said they’re interested in a scheduling system that allows them to choose what four- to six-hour shifts they work. 

Download the full report for more insights.