More than two-thirds (69%) of UK employees were anxious about the future of the planet, and 66% wanted to work for a business that had a positive impact, according to research released by ex-Unilever CEO Paul Polman, who has warned of a potential rise in ‘conscious quitting’.
Polman’s inaugural Net Positive Employee Barometer surveyed 4,000 employees across the US and UK. It found that while slightly fewer (66%) US employees were anxious about the future of the planet and society, even more (76%) wanted to work for a business that had a positive impact on the world.
The report identified an ‘ambition gap’, whereby employees noticed businesses taking some steps to address societal and environmental problems, but 68% in the UK and 62% in the US felt these efforts did not go far enough. Almost half (45%) of UK respondents said senior leaders did not care about these issues, dropping to 39% in the US.
Around half (45% in the UK, 51% in the US) of employees said they would consider ‘conscious quitting’ – resigning from their job if the business’ values did not align with their own. A third (35%) in both countries said they had already resigned for this reason, rising among younger employees to 48% in the UK and 44% in the US.
Polmer said: “All of these numbers are higher for Millennials and Gen Z – the workforce of the future. Forget ‘quiet quitting’, we are entering an era of ‘conscious quitting’. And the problem with most of the advice being offered to C-Suites on attracting and retaining talent is that it misses the full picture of what employees want and need.
“Don’t get me wrong: the numerous studies telling us that people want better pay, more flexibility and greater wellbeing are absolutely right. But, to be candid, shouldn’t this be rather obvious to senior leaders? And what about the fact that, on top of money and flexibility, many people also crave jobs that offer fulfilment, in companies which are trying to fix the world’s problems, rather than create them.”
Respondents did say that they wanted to help their organisations make positive change, with 53% in the UK and 60% in the US looking for a greater role in this, rising to 64% and 66%, respectively, for younger employees.
While businesses have largely communicated with staff around their efforts to improve employee wellbeing (60% in the UK, 66% in the US), far fewer have communicated around their actions on the environment (35%, 34%), economic inequality (29%, 28%), and social inequality (36%, 41%).
While the cost-of-living crisis has dominated headlines, the proportion of UK respondents who were concerned about paying their bills (41%) was found to be much lower than those concerned about the state of the global economy (81%), climate change (78%), biodiversity (76%), economic inequality (73%) and social inequality (56%).
When considering taking a new position, younger UK employees said important factors included commitment to the environment (77%), addressing economic inequality (79%), and addressing social inequality (79%).
A third (35%) of employees in both the UK and US would consider taking a pay cut to work for a business with their values.
Polman said: “We are living through an unprecedented moment in human history; a time of ‘perma-crisis’, where pandemics, war, global warming, economic turmoil and social division are, in varying degrees, threatening our stability and future.
“Younger employees especially fear for the world they will inherit. It should not come as such a surprise that many want to give their time and talents to companies who are striving to be part of the solution. Or that, when their companies let them down, strikingly high numbers say they will walk.
“The risks to C-Suites who ignore this should be obvious: if you continue to fall out of step with the expectations and needs of current and future employees, your company will become less attractive, less productive and, ultimately, less successful.
“On the flip side, companies which step up can unlock motivation, innovation and loyalty. And they can accelerate their efforts to build a more sustainable, more responsible and more profitable business. What we call a ‘net positive’ company, which thrives and delivers long-term value by giving more than it takes.”
Polman identified three key methods businesses could use in order to become a ‘net positive’ employer: show greater ambition around values and impact, communicate these values effectively, and empower staff to help.
Polman said: “Employees want to be part of the mission to improve their company’s impact on the wider world. Their offer of collaboration is a tremendous opportunity for the CEOs ready who are ready to act.
“Trust me, if someone is ready to quit their job because of their values and because they believe business can profit while serving people and planet, that’s someone you probably don’t want to lose. The fact so many employees care is a gift to smart, responsible businesses. Now’s the time for business leaders to prove that we care too.”
Miranda Kyte, careers advice expert at Glassdoor, told Benefits Expert: “A 2022 Glassdoor survey found that one in five job seekers want their own values to align with the mission and culture of their employer: employer branding is more crucial than ever.
“Recruitment – whether it’s quiet hiring or traditional talent acquisition – needs to reflect the company culture. If not, companies risk onboarding the wrong person for the job and their role at the company could be short-lived.”