We explore these and other issues in this year’s Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey, the third in a series dating to 2019. Power is a central theme of the findings in this year’s survey, which draws from more than 52,000 workers across 44 countries and territories and is one of the largest such surveys conducted.
For global leaders, some of our results will be a wake-up call. Workers who feel empowered by their current circumstances—i.e., those with specialised or scarce skills—are ready to test the market. More than one-third of respondents plan to ask for a raise in the coming year, and one in five said they are extremely or very likely to switch employers. Retaining these employees will require more than just pay; fulfilling work and the opportunity to be one’s authentic self at work also matter to employees who are considering a job change.
Our results also show that sensitive political and social discussions—topics that themselves hinge on issues of power and its distribution—are happening in the workplace, largely without company involvement, and are generating positive dividends for employees. Also, workers want more support in translating environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations to their work. And as leaders develop hybrid work models, they need to consider the 45% of the workforce that can’t work remotely—people who do essential work but report feeling less fulfilled and empowered than respondents who can work remotely.
The upshot for the C-suite? As companies take on ambitious business and societal goals, leaders must remember that employees can be a force multiplier or a detractor. In fact, PwC research has found that the workforce is the number one risk to growth—and also the principal means by which companies can execute growth-driven strategies. Understanding workplace power in all its aspects can help leaders energise their workforce, tap into the power of their people and accomplish bolder goals.
Like it or not, these conversations are happening
Companies operate in an increasingly polarised world, where political and social issues hold intense power over people. Some managers may fear that discussing these topics in the workplace could create a minefield. But 65% of employees in our survey said they have these kinds of conversations frequently or sometimes. The numbers are higher still among self-reported ethnic minorities (73%) and younger employees (69% among those ages 26 to 41, 13 percentage points higher than for those ages 58 to 76).
The benefits outweigh the drawbacks
Conversations about sensitive political and social issues aren’t the divisive, polarising distraction that managers might fear. Among respondents who have political and social conversations at work, the positives—a better understanding of colleagues, a more open and inclusive work environment, and increased empathy—outweigh the negatives.
Employees who identified as ethnic minorities were more likely than other respondents to say that these experiences have had a positive impact. At the same time, minorities were also more likely to cite at least one negative impact, suggesting that the overall effect of these conversations, both good and bad, is more intense for these employees.
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