PWC’s Global Hopes and Fears Survey shows employee restlessness (a quarter hope to switch jobs in the coming year) low awareness of how jobs might be changing in the next five years and for many, continued financial pressure. Companies seeking to remain competitive and up-to-date in the future must take steps to help employees acquire new capabilities, improve their financial literacy as needed, and anticipate the potential disruption but also opportunities of AI.
In June 2023, PWC released the results of its fourth annual Global Hopes and Fears Survey, in which 54,000 workers in 46 countries shared their views on future threats and opportunities.
About a quarter of respondents to the survey said they were looking to change their jobs over the next 12 months, indicating that the Great Resignation was far from over. For younger employees, the rate was even higher: 35% of Gen Z workers and 31% of millennials intended to look for new jobs in the next year.
The survey indicated several issues that could contribute to the restlessness of these employees. Half of the respondents said they did not find their work fulfilling or didn’t believe they could be themselves at work. One out of five workers said their workload was often unmanageable, with 50% of those employees saying that lack of resources was the major problem.
In addition, respondents pointed to corporate culture issues that stifled creativity and innovation by punishing dissent and mistakes, a perspective not necessarily shared by their bosses. Asked whether they agreed with the statement, “My manager encourages dissent and debate,” just 33% of employees agreed, compared to 56% of CEOs. The same divergence is only slightly better for the statement, “My manager tolerates small-scale failures,” to which 46% of CEOs agreed, and only 35% of employees.
Overall, respondents did not display a sense of urgency about the need to upgrade their skills. Just 36% of respondents agreed with the statement, “The skills my job requires will change significantly in the next five years.” And only 43% agreed that they had a clear sense of how the skills would change in the next five years.
The figures, however, become more focused when the data is split between employees with specialist training and employees whose jobs did not require specialist training. More than 50% of employees with specialist training thought that the skills required for their jobs would change significantly in the next five years, compared to only 15% of non-specialist-trained employees. And 60% of specialist employees said they had an idea of how that job might change, as compared to only 20% of jobs of non-specialist employees.
Likewise, between 70% and 83% of specialist workers viewed adaptability, as well as critical thinking, collaboration, leadership, and analytical or data skills, as important skills to learn for the future. In contrast, non-specialist workers were less convinced of the importance of adaptability (55% believed this to be an important skill), critical thinking (48%), collaboration (51%), leadership (46%), and analytical or data skills (37%), respectively. These figures indicate that employees with specialist training were more aware of future changes in their work.
The survey also highlighted persistent financial pressures on employees, with 42% having little left over after paying their monthly bills and 14% struggling to cover the bills themselves. Not surprisingly, 21% of respondents held a second job, with 69% of respondents with a second job citing money as their principal motivation for seeking the extra work. Again, at an advantage, employees with specialist training were less affected by financial pressures. Employee attitudes toward AI were generally positive, with 52% believing AI would help them increase their productivity, create opportunities to learn new skills or create new job opportunities. Thirty-five percent of respondents had a less optimistic view, fearing their skills would become obsolete and/or their jobs redundant. Twenty-two percent of employees believed that AI would have no impact on their
PWC offers four action steps to help leaders address the issues in the 2023 survey.
Identify the capabilities the company will need to grow and innovate in the future. Inspire employees to reskill and upskill to provide those company capabilities. And create and communicate a clear vision of the future. Employees who buy into a future vision of the company will be motivated to embrace change, including the acquisition of new skills and capabilities for their evolving jobs.
Build up the psychological safety of employees, so they can experiment and even fail (on a small scale) without fear of reprisals. Given the divergent views on culture between employees and their employers, as a leader, you should take an inventory of their culture using surveys and focus groups and listen to employee social media to unearth corporate culture issues employees hesitate to bring to your attention.
Consider baseline or cost of living salary increases. Ensure that you are offering competitive compensation packages to keep your best employees. Offer a range of benefits packages so that employees can find the best package that fits their needs. Address the financial wellness of employees with debt and financial coaching, for example. While many economic factors are obviously beyond your control, improving employee financial literacy and financial stress management will make a difference.
Reduce the uncertainty of how AI will impact work by being transparent about the company’s future plans for AI. With a better understanding of upcoming AI-driven changes, employees can take steps to adapt their skills to the future for example, by strengthening human skills, such as adaptability, collaboration, and leadership, that AI can’t replace. Also, give employees the chance to bring their own ideas about where AI might be most effective and, with guardrails in place, let them experiment with AI in their own work.
PWC Global Hopes and Fears Survey 2023. (June 2023).
Ideas for Leaders is a free-to-access site. If you enjoy our content and find it valuable, please consider subscribing to our Developing Leaders Quarterly publication, this presents academic, business and consultant perspectives on leadership issues in a beautifully produced, small volume delivered to your desk four times a year.
For the less than the price of a coffee a week you can read over 650 summaries of research that cost universities over $1 billion to produce.
Use our Ideas to:
Speak to us on how else you can leverage this content to benefit your organization. email@example.com