For employees today, job satisfaction is about much more than just pay and benefits. New hires are increasingly looking for companies that affirm their values.
Tyrese Thomas, who graduated from college in May with a bachelor’s degree in sociology, East Asian studies and business management, was careful in his job hunt to research the culture of the companies where he was applying.
“Innovation, impact, equity are things that are incredibly important to me,” Thomas, 21, said in an interview on the campus of his alma mater, Columbia University. “I really want to make sure that was something that I was seeing in my employer.”
Thomas was an intern at a leading tech firm in the summer of 2021 when workplace dynamics began to shift and companies became more outspoken about political issues. Throughout his job search, he networked and combed forums like Blind to learn more about companies’ reputations.
And he asked some important questions, he noted. “As an applicant, you can evaluate, is this organization or company really careful about my values?” Thomas said. “Do they really care about me?”
‘People want to feel seen and heard’
Workers are split on whether they want business leaders to speak out more on social, environmental and political issues, including constitutional and reproductive rights. Research finds that addressing these issues can influence a company’s ability to attract and retain talent.
In a CNBC/Momentive survey, 40% of workers say they would likely quit their job if their organization took a stand on a political issue they do not agree with. Human resources experts say it’s more important for employers to listen to their workers.
“The best companies are going to listen to many opinions,” said human resources advisor and author Paul Wolfe. “People want to feel seen and heard, even though the company may not completely agree with them all the time.”
Workers factor values in when evaluating employers
In a recent survey by Qualtrics, more than half of U.S. employees — 54% — said they would be willing to take a pay cut to work at a company that shares their values. And 56% said they wouldn’t even consider a job at a company that has values they disagree with.
Cindi Love, executive director of Out for Undergrads, says younger workers, in particular, want to know how traditionally marginalized groups are treated in the workforce.
It is really about the body of work and setting clear goals and clear milestones.Paul Wolfehuman resources advisor and author
“They just say if it’s not good here for this person, it’s not good here for me, either,” Love said. “Gen Z, as a whole, as a generation, is interested and compelled around people feeling supported and safe regardless of the identity that they lead with in the workplace.”
A survey of first-time hires by ZipRecruiter found that a diverse and inclusive workplace outranked paid sick time, vacation and health insurance.
Building an inclusive workforce
Employers competing for talent have worked to build inclusive practices. But advocates say companies can do that without making public pronouncements.
“You can have a very quiet approach to just being inclusive, and it’s how you look at bringing in talent and keeping talent,” said Todd Sears, founder of Out Leadership, an advocacy group. “If you think about the core principles and the purpose and the mission of an organization, No. 1 is just to deliver shareholder value.
“And inclusion literally does that; discrimination does not,” he added.
In June, Thomas started working full-time as an associate product manager with an e-commerce company that aligns with his values. He said he hopes his generation will change the way business gets done.
“If we can just find and kind of pressure organizations to kind of live up to these expectations, we can have significant results for ourselves, for our careers, for our peers and really the future to come,” said Thomas.
Experts say the organizations most likely to successfully manage the future workforce will set clear goals that align the values and mission of the company with the values of its employees.
“I think managers need to realize that it’s not about butts in seats and the number of calls somebody made during the day, or how many hours they were at their desk or, or live,” said HR advisor and author Wolfe. “It is really about the body of work and setting clear goals and clear milestones.”
Correction: Todd Sears is founder of advocacy group Out Leadership. An incorrect name for the organization appeared in an earlier version of this article.