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Compensation is driving two-thirds of employees to job hunt in 2024

“HR leaders are underwater, and it doesn’t surprise me”

Two-thirds of employees have one foot out the door due to changing job hunting motivators, according to the sixth annual 2024 Engagement and Retention report*

This survey is conducted annually and comprises the results of 3,800 employees and 1,450 HR professionals from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA to identify data-driven insights, including job hunting motivators, that HR leaders can leverage to improve the employee experience. Surprisingly, for the first time in six years, compensation has trumped career growth as the number-one reason employees job hunt. This fundamental shift in employee priorities is likely reflective of the current economic landscape, as AWI data finds that nearly three-quarters of employees (71%) say they struggle to pay their bills or must budget carefully to meet their needs.

“In 2021, AWI predicted the Great Resignation, when more than half of employees said they intended to job hunt that year. Now, we’re witnessing a new wave of job hunting due to compensation,” said Achievers Workforce Institute Lead Analyst Caitlin Nobes. “As cost of living increases and salaries don’t, twice as many people identify compensation as the top reason to job hunt compared to 2023. Businesses must find a way to stay competitive with wages — or high resignation rates will return.”

To hold onto valuable talent in a time when just 35% of employees are certain they’ll stay in their current job in 2024, AWI data suggests that organizations should enact four meaningful changes:

Pay to keep top talent engaged
People who live comfortably on their current salary are almost twice as likely to have a strong sense of belonging at work than those who are struggling. While it’s impossible to outpay every one of their competitors, employers must consider both market rate and local living wage as a critical pillar of workplace wellbeing and pay their employees adequately to avoid a second Great Resignation.

Once a reasonable compensation level is met, compensate with praise
Once a company pays employees fairly, enabling employees to meet the increased cost of living, “emotional salary” can also reduce employee turnover.

AWI defines “emotional salary” as the non-monetary aspects of a job, such as culture, career, and work-life balance. Recognition is one key protective factor within an “emotional salary.” In fact, people who are paid below the local market rate that are recognized at least monthly are 33% more likely to say they are not job hunting in 2024.

Promote equitable promotion structures
Just one in eight respondents say their company consistently promotes people who look and identify like them.

Not only does this gap impact employees’ feelings of belonging and psychological safety at work, but it also increases employee turnover. People who see promotion equity in their workplace are more than twice as likely to say they can see themselves having a long career at their company. They’re also almost twice as likely to say they are productive at work. Therefore, employers must determine if they’re promoting equitably, and, if not, rectify any gaps.

“There are two sides to this question of equity: perception and reality. We need to assess and respond to both,” said Achievers Chief People and Culture Officer Hannah Yardley. “Organizations need to look at their promotion and career progression data to determine if there is a leaky pipeline, so they can strategically plug those gaps. But fixing the reality doesn’t help if the perception is still there. Ensure that promotions are communicated clearly, and that the communicators represent the full scale of diversity at your organization, rather than the same faces in all instances.”

Support your workforce’s biggest supporters
HR leaders are indispensable when it comes to fulfilling employee needs and bolstering retention and engagement strategies. Therefore, as part of this annual series, AWI identifies key trends amid HR leaders. Unfortunately, one top finding from this year’s report is that employees’ biggest supporters feel unsupported. In fact, only one-third of HR leaders feel very supported by the C-suite when it comes to implementing impactful people initiatives. This may contribute to doubt among HR leaders, as half of these respondents say their roles are becoming more complex and that they’re overwhelmed by the scope of their roles.

This added pressure without the necessary resources may also explain why about half (46%) of HR professionals say their team is looking for ways to automate tasks with AI. Thirty-eight percent are already using AI-driven “nudges” to encourage specific timely behaviors from employees, and one-third (36%) expect AI developments will change their day-to-day role in the next year.

“HR leaders are underwater, and it doesn’t surprise me,” Yardley added. “We’re tasked with creating workplace cultures where employees feel safe and empowered, and, in parallel, must convince the C-suite to fund programs to make this possible. As data demonstrates that employers can hold onto valuable workers, reduce attrition, and remain competitive by elevating the non-monetary aspects of the jobs they offer, one key truth is clear: business leaders should get behind HR and their impactful people engagement initiatives to ensure success.”

* Based on a survey in November 2023 of 3,800 employees and 1,450 HR professionals from Australia, Canada, the UK, and the USA from from Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI). AWI click here.

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