New research shows employer values more important to workers

Values, especially well-being, honesty, and respect, are more important to workers even than higher pay, according to new research from Qualtrics.

More than half of US employees (54%) would be willing to take a pay cut to work at a company with better values, and even more – 56% – wouldn’t even consider a job at a company that has values they disagree with.

While shared values are a top priority, workers are split on whether they want companies and company leaders to speak out more on social, environmental and political issues. And the most contentious of American issues, including reproductive and constitutional rights, are at the bottom of the list of topics workers want to see their leaders addressing.

The findings offer a guideline for company leaders wondering about the right level of internal and external commentary when faced with divisive public policy debates. As societal divisions widen in the US, employees rely more than ever on their companies for guidance and community. The Qualtrics research showed that people feel their employer is more responsible than their family, community, or government for their health and safety. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer reported that people trust their CEO and co-workers more than politicians, journalists, or even their neighbors1.

Employees want their company executives to speak out about societal and environmental issues – only 15% think their company should do so less. But there is some nuance when it comes to what they want to hear from their employers about. When asked to select their top three choices from a list of topics, 44% of workers said employers should prioritize weighing in on employee well-being, 35% wanted to hear more about wages, and 33% would like their employers to speak out about worker rights and safety.

A far smaller share wanted their employers to speak out about reproductive issues (3.3%), constitutional rights (4.8%) or politics (2.8%).

“When it comes to divisive policy issues and debates, a shared set of meaningful values can be a good place to find some common ground,” said Qualtrics Chief People Officer Julia Anas. “Every leader, employee and workplace is different, but if we can all rally around the basics – integrity, respect, safety and wellness – it’s going to enhance the employee experience and strengthen the organizational culture, even when we don’t agree about every issue.”

The risks of speaking out may be lower than employers believe, according to the research. The most likely consequence of a disagreement is an internal discussion. In a case where they deeply disagreed with a company’s position on a social, environmental or political issue, 33% of employees said they would consider writing a private message to the executive or their manager, while 25% said they would discuss it with co-workers. Only 11% would consider posting about it publicly on social media, and 6% would consider taking it to the press.

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