This article is the third in a series. Here are links to the first two:

You can also view the infographic here.

Today’s workforce looks different than two years ago. Not only do employees feel different about work, they feel different about the world around them, too. The result is a heightened focus on good values. Social justice movements, climate change and diversity and inclusion in the workplace are top of mind. According to our Workmonitor survey, these sentiments may impact what a person does for a living. See related graphic.

The enlightened workforce that emerged from the pandemic includes a growing number of employees who prefer purpose over paycheck. Overall, 34 percent of survey respondents wouldn’t mind earning less money if their job was contributing something to society. They want to spend their time doing something that matters, and they’re willing to sacrifice for it.

Both age and education played a role in the results:

The percentage of employees who would take a pay reduction if they felt their job contributed toward society:

  • 42%: 18-24 year olds
  • 25%: 55-67 year olds
  • 38%: most educated
  • 27%: least educated

This reveals that the future of the global workforce — and top talent — care more about what they do. However, the survey also reveals that employees today care more about where they work. They don’t just want to personally invest in top-of-mind issues. They want the companies they work for to do so as well.

A key finding revealed that good company values matter to the workforce, and employees want those values to align with their own.

Specifically, two areas stand out:

  • environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues
  • equity, diversity, inclusion and access (EDI&A) policies and practices

The good news for employers is that according to the survey, 73 percent of respondents say their employers’ values align with their own. Exploring more about these two areas will help organizations maintain this alignment.

environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues

Employees want the company they work for to care about the things they do, and ESG issues are often at the top of the list. This includes taking action to combat climate change, promoting social policy and investing in heightened corporate responsibilities around such issues. Our survey reflects this.

43 percent would not join an employer if company social and environmental values don’t align with their own.

The war in Ukraine is a perfect example of a strong employee response to companies that give back. Organizations participating in relief efforts receive overwhelming approval and support from their workforce.

However, not everyone feels strongly when it comes to other top issues. Mirroring sentiments about career choice, age plays a factor. For example, following the death of George Floyd in 2020, younger generations were most active in the resulting protests, and their survey response reflects this investment. Nearly half of 18-24-year-olds (48%) said they would refuse an offer from a company if it was inactive in the social justice movement, which was higher than older age groups.

The generational gap is most prominent when it comes to environmental and other sustainability issues. Energy resources are a critical factor in people’s lives and the movement to reduce dependence on fossil fuels has their attention. This makes environmentally friendly companies increasingly attractive to potential employees. According to the BBC, this is particularly true of Gen Z who actively seek careers in the green economy.

Our survey shows that nearly half of Gen Z respondents would not accept a job with an employer that is not actively working to become more sustainable, such as B Corporations. This number was only 30 percent for the oldest generation.

equity, diversity, inclusion and access (EDI&A) policies and practices

The protests in 2020 led companies around the world to promote social justice issues and to enhance EDI&A policies and practices both in the workplace as well as in society as a whole. This commitment aligns with our survey respondents.

42 percent would not join a company that is inactive in promoting EDI&A policies and practices.

What’s more, a similar number (41%) wouldn’t join a company that doesn’t make efforts to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

As with the ESG issues, these numbers decreased with age. Just one-third of 55-67-year-old respondents would refuse to work for a company not actively promoting EDI&A in the workplace while 48 percent of younger generations said the same.

These results reaffirm that employees, in particular the future of the global workforce, want to see more diversity and inclusion both in the office and out in the world. What’s more, they want their employers to lead the way.

For both areas, age isn’t the only contributing factor to employee sentiment. Where people live matters, too. Employees in Asia Pacific and Latin American regions are more apt to take a pay reduction to do something they feel contributes to society than European and North American respondents. Latin American countries also care the most about sustainability and EDI&A issues.

aligning values at work

Social issues are a mainstay and the media, business, and government will continue to amplify them. Organizations that work to align corporate values with those of their employees and keep any divergence minimal and addressed will stay ahead of the competition.

start with the basics

Companies that revisit their mission statement to focus on good values and align their culture in light of emerging societal issues will be better equipped to reflect today’s workforce. In turn, as new environmental, social and governance issues emerge, organizations can remain aligned to employee sentiment and to society as a whole.

stay tuned in

The most ethical companies stay tapped into the needs and views of the workforce. Employee resource groups are a valuable way to do so. These groups can reveal gaps in corporate commitment to issues such as EDI&A policies, gender equity, governance and sustainability.

be open

Social issues can be complex, and if employees aren’t clear on a company’s position, they can develop a negative perception. Organizations that establish good ethics and values and remain clear and open about both their position and intended outcomes can avoid employee dissatisfaction. Today’s value-conscious workforce is invested in making a difference in the world. Organizations that work to do the same will attract and retain the best talent.

more employee value proposition articles.