Global job site Indeed recently launched a study exploring what work means to people in the UK today.
The Meaning of Work analysed jobseeker trends from the last five years, generated by data from more than 40 million monthly visitors to Indeed, alongside new insights from a YouGov survey of over 2,000 full-time working UK employees.
BLM spoke to Pawel Adrjan, UK economist at Indeed, for an in-depth analysis of the state of UK work culture.
What are the key findings from Indeed’s survey?
We found that that pay matters, and matters a lot. In fact, 57% of the workforce viewed salary as one of the most important aspects of work. More than half of full-time workers consider pay to be more important than purpose at work or even getting a promotion.
Moreover, despite average weekly earnings currently growing at close to their highest rate since the financial crisis of 2008, nearly a third of UK employees are dissatisfied with their current level of pay.
That being said, work/life balance is viewed almost equally important (55%).
The study also showed that workers are ready for a four-day working week. In fact, 74% claim they could do their job to the same standard in four days as they do in five. This rose to 79% amongst millennials.
Finally, we found that workers want to know how much their colleagues are paid and are prepared to give up their own privacy to get it – 56% back full pay transparency.
What kinds of employers and sectors do you think the findings most apply to/are most relevant for?
Because the Meaning of Work study is representative of the UK workforce, it is relevant to all employers looking to attract and retain talent in a tight labour market, in which unemployment is at the lowest level since the mid-1970s.
Support for the feasibility of a four-day working week was highest among people in sectors such as finance, law and professional services. To me, this suggests that people view office jobs as most amenable to time-saving work schedules. Full-time employees in the UK work the longest hours in the EU and they appear to view some of that time as not being very productive.
Support was lowest among those in construction and transportation sectors, where squeezing the same hours into fewer days is less feasible, due to health and safety regulations, for instance.
What are the arguments for and against a four-day working week?
The strong backing for a four-day working week from UK workers is stark. In my opinion, the four-day working week gives workers a greater degree of flexibility. Interestingly, the overall view of the UK workforce seems to be that it would not impact the standard and output of their work. Of course, support for a four-day week rests on the assumption that generating the same amount of output also means receiving the same total pay, while working shorter hours.
On the flip side, it is not feasible for every job and every sector. Recent trials of a four-day working week by organisations like the Wellcome Trust have concluded it is not a feasible option for every business.
More trials are required to access the impact of the four-day working week. A key question is whether employees would be paid the same salary for a shorter week, as they should if they can produce the same output.
What are the arguments for and against pay transparency?
Pay transparency would see personal information such as monthly income and tax returns made publicly available, as it is in Sweden, for example.
For job seekers, pay transparency could be an important tool to help ensure that pay levels are fair and gender gaps are being addressed.
On the other hand, many people may feel that financial information is private. In the UK, there has been a deep-seated reticence to discuss financial matters with even close friends, colleagues or family.
How has the process of job hunting changed in recent years?
The way people search for jobs has changed drastically over the last decade. Research by Indeed shows that 80% of people would use some form of online job search tool if they were seeking employment opportunities, be it an online job site, a mobile app or a company career website.
One favourable trend, that responds to our findings on the importance of salary to today’s workers, is that a rising proportion of online job advertisements mention salary information: 42% today compared with 37% three years ago. However, while this is an improvement, it is still less than half. This begs the question – why aren’t employers giving job seekers easy access to the most important piece of information they want?
What advice would you give to employers hoping to attract top talent?
Finding workers in today’s competitive labour market is tough. My advice for employers looking to attract top talent is to search broadly and tap into the full diversity of the workforce to address the ebbing flow of new entrants into the labour market – including parents, people from ethnic minority backgrounds, and young people.
Secondly, employers should make sure they use online tools to find talent. More job seekers are using online search tools than ever, and it’s important that employers are also using these tools.
It should also be said that equally as important as attracting top talent is retaining this talent. To do this, employers should invest in retention by raising pay or improving other aspects of the job, like career progression, to hold existing staff and minimise the need for replacements. With average weekly earnings still below their pre-crisis peak in real terms and a salary premium that switching jobs entails, employers should be monitoring pay trends and ensuring they keep up to date with these trends to retain staff.
What kinds of considerations do you think might be prioritised by the jobseekers of the future?
From our study, it’s clear that job seekers value work/life balance significantly. I think that this aspect of work will only continue to grow in the future. This could potentially overtake pay as the main consideration for jobseekers looking to optimise their lifestyles.
What issues or areas do you think most urgently need further research?
More research needs to be done on the role of flexible work for different demographic groups. For example, what type of flexible working would encourage single parents to participate more actively in the workforce?
I also think more research needs to be done on pay transparency and its true potential to impact gender pay gaps, as well as pay gaps for other groups in the workforce.