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CNBC

CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Index: April 2021

CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Index: April 2021

Six in 10 workers in the U.S. approve of business leaders speaking up about social and political issues, according to the latest CNBC|SurveyMonkey Workforce Survey. The poll was conducted among 8,233 employed adults across the U.S. from April 8-18, amidst a wave of news events—including heightened anti-Asian discrimination, voting disenfranchisement in Georgia, and the trial of Derek Chauvin—that prompted business leaders to wade into politics in a very visible way. 

Women are more likely than men, younger workers are more likely than older workers, and—most dramatically—Blacks, Asians, and Hispanics are more likely than whites to say they would approve of business leaders who speak up. 

Among Black workers, for example, 77% say they approve of business leaders speaking up in general, and 45% would support leaders at their own organization who choose to speak publicly on political and social issues, regardless of whether they agree with them.

People at the highest levels of an organizational chart—the business owners, company presidents, and C-Suite leaders—are the least likely to say they generally approve of business leaders choosing to speak out on social and political issues. Just 52% in this group, compared with 62% of individual contributors, approve of business leaders speaking out on social and political issues.

Thinking more personally, 61% of workers say they are comfortable sharing their own political views with colleagues, though just 24% say they are “very comfortable” doing so. C-level executives are more likely than lower-level employees to say they are very comfortable sharing their political views with colleagues (35% among C-level vs. 24% among individual contributors). 

Men are more likely than women to say they are very comfortable sharing their political views at work (28% vs. 20%), and Blacks (30%) are more likely than Hispanics (24%), Asians (23%), and whites (23%) to say they are very comfortable sharing their political views. 

Workforce happiness holds steady

Workforce happiness remains unchanged from November, with the Workplace Happiness Index holding dead even at a score of 72 out of 100. 

There were no shifts in any of the index components that would indicate a substantial change in workers’ overall happiness. 

  • The percent of workers who say they are well-paid ticked up from 74% to 75%
  • The number of workers who rate their opportunities for career advancement as good or excellent held steady at 60%
  • The number of workers who say their contributions are valued by their colleagues held steady at 83%
  • The percent of workers saying they have autonomy at work ticked up from 84% to 85%
  • And the percent of workers who say their work is very or somewhat meaningful ticked down from 91% to 90%

Workers are happier if they are pleased with their company’s DEI effort

One-third of workers (33%) say their organization is doing “a lot” of work on diversity and inclusion today, and another 37% say they are doing “some” work on DEI issues, while 14% say they’re doing “just a little” and 12% say they are doing “none at all.” Workers in the finance (43%), advertising & marketing (42%), technology (42%), and insurance (41%) industries are particularly likely to say their company is doing a lot of work on DEI these days.

Nearly half of all workers (47%) say their organization’s focus on diversity and inclusion has “stayed about the same” over the last year, but a substantial 39% say the topic has become more of a priority in that time (just 10% say it has become less of a priority). The insurance (57%), nonprofit (50%), and technology (49%) industries are those that have had the most change in the importance of diversity and inclusion in the last year, as reported by their workers. 

A huge majority of the workforce (78%) says it is important to them to work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion, and in fact more than half (53%) consider it to be “very important” to them. 

Women are more likely than men to want to work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion (86% vs. 72%). Asians (88%), Blacks (87%), and Hispanics (85%) are more likely than whites (75%) to consider it important that they work at an organization that prioritizes diversity and inclusion. And, most strikingly, workers at the individual contributor level are more likely than those at the highest levels of the career ladder to say it’s important that they work at a place that prioritizes DEI: 82% of individual contributors but just 61% of C-level executives or business owners say it’s important that they work someone that prioritizes diversity and inclusion.

Despite these lofty goals, about one quarter of workers (24%) say their company is “not doing enough” to address issues of diversity and inclusion; a majority (55%) say their company is doing “about the right amount” and 17% say their company is “going too far” to address this issue. 

Black (36%) and Hispanic workers (31%) are more prone than others to say their company is not doing enough in its efforts at DEI. Women are more likely than men (28% vs. 21%) and younger workers are more likely than older workers to say their company is not doing enough. 

Employees’ perceptions of their company’s DEI efforts have an effect on their job satisfaction, too. Those workers who say their company is “not doing enough” to prioritize diversity and inclusion have a Workforce Happiness Index score of 63, well below the scores of 75 among both those who say their company is doing “about the right amount” and those who say their company is “going too far” on DEI issues.

Workers who say their company is not doing enough work on DEI report lower scores for every component of the index calculation, but it is especially true for their self-reported satisfaction with their pay and their opportunities for advancement. 

Just 60% of workers who think their organization isn’t doing enough in the realm of diversity and inclusion say they are paid well for the work they do, compared with 80% of workers who think their work is doing about the right amount of work on DEI and 82% of workers who think their company is doing too much to address DEI issues.

Even worse, just 42% of workers who indicate their company falling short of its efforts at diversity and inclusion say they have good or excellent opportunities to advance their career at their company, compared with 65% of workers who think their work is doing about the right amount of work on DEI and 68% of workers who think their company is doing too much to address DEI issues.

The future of work

More than a year since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, many workers are realizing the importance of having time with their colleagues in-person. A majority (58%) say they value being able to work with others in-person “a lot,” 27% value it “some,” while 9% value it “just a little,” and 5% say they don’t value it at all.

Younger workers are substantially less likely than older workers to say they value seeing their colleagues in-person: just 55% of 18-24 year-olds and 52% of 25-34 year-olds say they value in-person work “a lot,” compared with 59% of 35-44 year-olds, 61% of 45-54 year-olds, 60% of 55-64 year-olds, and 66% of workers 65 and older.

Workers in the technology industry and the insurance industry are tied for having the fewest percentage of their workforces that value seeing their colleagues in-person “a lot” (just 45% of those in each field say this is true). 

As companies prepare for a future that will involve more hybrid work options, many workers are wary about limiting their career potential by choosing to work remotely. More than half of workers (52%) say they expect people who work in-person to have better career opportunities at their organization in the future, while just 15% expect remote workers to have better career opportunities and 31% say remote and in-person workers will have equivalent career opportunities. 

Even some industries that have large proportions of their workforces still doing their jobs remotely have workers who say in-person employees will have a leg up in terms of career opportunities. For example, 46% of finance professionals are still working from home, but by a 4-to-1 margin they say that in-person workers will have better career opportunities than remote workers at their company a year from now.

There are still a few notable exceptions. Nearly half of workers in the technology industry (47%) say remote and in-person workers will have equal opportunities for career growth at their organization, and the margin between those who say in-person vs. remote workers will have an advantage is much slimmer (32% vs. 20%). 

And workers recognize that the decision is rarely theirs to make alone. Just 23% of workers expect to be able to decide whether or how much to work from home after the coronavirus pandemic is over. A majority say the decision will be made by someone other than them: either their manager (15%), their department/region/location (15%), or their company (42%). 

Plans for the return

Among those workers who are still working from home, 40% expect to return to working in their office before Labor Day, and another 24% expect to return before the end of the year. But nearly one in five (19%) say they never expect to return to working from their office. 

Looking ahead to six months from now, just 23% of workers who are still working from home now say they expect to be working fully from their office or workplace, 18% expect to be working fully from home, and 56% expect to be working from both home and the office. 

These numbers vary substantially by industry. Just 6% of workers in the education field say they expect to be working fully from home six months from now, compared with 28% of workers in technology, 33% of finance workers, and 46% of workers in insurance.

Few of these workers report that their company has a final reopening plan ready: 22% say their company has a final plan, 35% say they have a temporary plan, and 39% say their company has no plan yet.

Read more about our polling methodology here
Click through all the results in the interactive toplines below: