Only half (51 per cent) of U.S. employees believe the benefits and rewards they receive from their employer are distinctive from what they’d receive from another employer, according to a new survey by tax and advisory firm Grant Thornton LLP.

The survey, which polled more than 5,000 full-time employees, also found 24 per cent of respondents disagreed when asked if they’re paid fairly for their contributions to their employer’s success. In light of this, 29 per cent said they’re actively looking for a new job at a different company, with 21 per cent saying they’ve switched jobs in the last 12 months.

In addition, 51 per cent of survey respondents said they’re not actively looking for a new job, but would consider a switch if the opportunity arose. Among respondents with an annual salary of US$1,000 or more, that figure jumped to 58 per cent.

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“Resignations have showed signs of slowing in the last month, but now is not the time for employers to let their foot off the gas,” said Tim Glowa, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s employee listening and human capital services offerings, in a press release. “American workers have found their voice during the pandemic and they are perhaps keener than ever to ask for what they want — or find it elsewhere.”

The top reasons survey respondents took a new job were base pay, work-life balance, opportunities for advancement, benefits and greater autonomy. For example, 34 per cent said their new job offered a better ability to balance work and personal commitments, while 40 per cent said they left their job for a company that offered them a raise of 10 per cent or greater. Within that group, 13 per cent said they received a salary increase of 20 per cent or more.

The survey also found the vast majority (80 per cent) of respondents said they want flexibility in when and where they work. Additionally, 25 per cent said they’d ideally never work onsite — a 10 per cent jump from Grant Thornton’s 2021 survey. Meanwhile, the percentage of people looking forward to physically returning to an office dipped from 56 per cent in 2021 to just 38 per cent in 2022.

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“Flexibility in where you work — and sometimes when you work — is no longer viewed as an extra benefit,” said Angela Nalwa, a managing director and human resources transformation practice leader at Grant Thornton, in the release. “In fact, flexibility is now a minimum requirement as job-seekers look for their next career opportunity. The companies that insist on a mandatory return to office for all employees must find a differentiator that separates their organization from the pack.”

The survey also asked respondents to rate the three attributes causing the most stress in their lives. Forty-three per cent cited personal debt as their greatest stressor, followed by medical issues, mental health, daily inconveniences such as a long to-do list and work-life balance. In addition to the concerning level of stress tied to mental health, 27 per cent of employees surveyed said their emotional well-being has worsened in the past 12 months.

“Most benefits plans only address two of the top five stressors: medical issues and ability to retire,” said Glowa. “The goal for companies should be to create a total rewards program that is meaningful to employees, that addresses their particular drivers of stress and that differentiates a company from its competitors.”

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The survey asked employees how likely they’d be to stay at their organization if their employer addressed their top-ranked stressor and took the related stress away. More than three-quarters (77 per cent) of respondents said they were either likely or extremely likely to stay.

“We may be entering a new phase of the war for talent, but employers must remain vigilant,” said Glowa. “If you don’t have full, unimpeachable knowledge of what your employees truly value, it’s past time to find out.”