Employers Used to Call the Shots. Now It’s the Talent.

Cody Fisher
Cody Fisher

Braintrust Talent, Writer

As humans, it’s normal to have personal reckonings about how work fits into our lives.

If we miss our child’s big performance because of work or if a loved one gets sick, rethinking how we spend our time, who we spend it with, and what we spend it doing isn’t just natural–it’s often justified.

What’s not normal though is when the entire planet goes through a reckoning at the same time, but that’s what happened with COVID-19.

And it’s causing millions of workers to rethink their careers.

During the pandemic, 1 in 5 workers changed their careers and according to a study by Prudential-Morning, the biggest reason was because they were reassessing work-life balance.

Today, as individuals and families are gaining a greater sense of security, millions more are preparing to follow suit. “The Great Resignation is coming,” says Anthony Klotz, an Associate Professor of Management at Texas A&M University who is following exit trends. “When there’s uncertainty, people tend to stay put, so there are pent-up resignations that didn't happen over the past year.”

So will people just stop working? Not exactly.

It turns out that this isn’t a move away from work as much as a move towards more purpose-driven and flexible jobs and companies. These trends were already underway before the pandemic, with millennials leading the way, but COVID-19 is the accelerant many have been waiting for.

Now 1.5 years in, we’re beginning to get a glimpse into what Talent actually want–and what the future might actually look like now that they’re calling the shots.

Here’s what 800 knowledge workers had to say.

There are plenty of articles out there speculating about numbers, trends, and what Talent might do next. That’s why Braintrust decided to do something different: actually take the time to listen to what Talent have to say.

In Braintrust’s first-of-its-kind Knowledge Work Demand Index, we asked more than 800 knowledge workers what they want out of their next job. Here’s what some of them had to say.

“We want to work on our own terms.”

Braintrust surveyed hundreds of knowledge workers and nearly 9 out of 10 of them said they were considering becoming a freelancer.

Their top 3 motivators?

  1. They want to work from home
  2. They want to be their own boss
  3. They want to work on jobs of interest

According to a recent study by IBM, 51% of employees think their employers need to offer a better work-life balance if they want to better engaged with their employees. 43% wanted more career advancement opportunities and 41% valued more compensation.

It turns out, the desire to take back control of their life is what’s motivating the majority of today’s workers–even more than compensation. And for most, taking back control means being able to work from home.

“We want more than traditional benefits.”

Historically, traditional benefits like health insurance and 401k programs were a driving motivator for workers who wanted full-time employment.

But in the Knowledge Work Demand Index, just 1 out of 25 knowledge workers said that was a motivating factor for them. To reach tomorrow’s workers, employers will need to move beyond yesterday’s benefits and begin to offer more relevant benefits like reimbursement for work-from-home expenses, greater flexibility for workers with child care responsibilities, more generous paid and unpaid leave, and support for mental health.

What else do Talent want employers to know? That they’re calling the shots now.

Being able to work from home or get more than the traditional benefits aren’t just “nice-to-have” for today’s Talent.

They’re a must-have.

That’s why employees are already walking away from their jobs at historically high rates.

And for the workers that are remaining, 85% of them are considering freelancing full-time. And 83% of them have already learned new skills that could help with that transition. Need more proof? Enrollment at Coursera–an online platform that offers Massive Open Online Classes (or MOOCs), has skyrocketed and was 640% higher from mid-March to mid-April than during the same period last year. Enrollment at Udemy, another MOOC provider, jumped up 400% between February and March.

We could keep going all day.

What’s important to know, before it’s too late, is that in order to compete for Talent and to ultimately build successful teams, enterprises will need to evolve and begin to think beyond the walls of their corporate offices and the benefits that used to keep Talent within them.

Want to know more about how Talent are changing and what Braintrust thinks the future of work will look like?

Check out the Knowledge Work Demand Index to find out.

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