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The human connection at work: half of US workers value culture

This is a modified section from Workable's comprehensive new survey report on the Great Discontent in 2023 in the United States. Visit here to see the report in full.

Keith MacKenzie
Keith MacKenzie

Passionate about human resources, employment, and business management, and an expert at sharing that expertise.

What’s happening in the evolving US job market right now? We have data for you on how workers value the human connection at work.

What do US workers want now?

Our Great Discontent 2.0 survey report contains a wealth of data revealing how employee priorities in the US have changed since 2021. Learn more here.

View the report highlights

Top 3 takeaways

  1. Company culture emerging as a top factor when choosing a new job – nearly half say so now vs. 34.7% two years ago
  2. Transparency and responsiveness are increasingly attractive now, growing to 25.4% and 34.6% from 18.7% and 31.3% respectively
  3. Worker relationships remain a key factor – and corporate leadership is diminishing in importance

The human connection is strong – including in the workplace. And it’s even more important to workers in the US now.

There are two kinds of connections in a job: first, the connection of the employee to the company where they’re working, and second, the connection between colleagues.

First, the company – nearly half of all workers in our survey (48.3%) ranked “overall company culture” as a major factor in what would lure them to a new job opportunity – that’s up nearly 14 points from 34.7% in 2021. Pretty big jump.

The importance of “company transparency” also saw a significant bump, from 18.7% in 2021 to 25.4% in 2023 as an attractive item in the list of very-nice-to-haves for a new job.

What about in their current jobs? Workers echoed the same sentiment – especially when they were asked what could be improved about their current working situation. “Overall company culture” (32.9%, up from 24.7%) and “company transparency” (28.7%, up from 20.8%) were top items in what could be made better at their current job in 2023.

Relationships a core of total rewards

Similar trends are seen in employee working relationships. While not much higher than 2021’s 37.1%, “relationships with colleagues” remained near the top at 38.7% in 2023 – the second-highest attractive item after company culture when evaluating new opportunities.

Interestingly, the relationships with those up the ladder aren’t nearly so high. “Management and executive leadership” saw a drop both as a new job attractor (from 33.1% to 28.7%) and as an opportunity to improve in a worker’s current job (from 38.7% to 31.3%).

This points to the growing importance of lateral working relationships in the total rewards package for the modern worker – perhaps that indicates a desire to build stronger connections after years of pandemic-related isolation.

What does all this tell us? Employees are increasingly interested in their organization’s decision-making process, in other words transparency. They want to know the role they’re playing in that larger company vision – and the role they’re expected to play – and they also want to feel included. They want to feel that they belong. In other words, DEIB continues to be valuable.

These shifts also highlight the value of the social aspects of work – i.e. the ‘watercooler’ – and suggest a power balance shift towards employees who want respectful and supportive environments. The rise in “coffee badging” shows this reality.

It’s understandable, considering the volatility of recent years – and when combined with the greater emphasis on job security above, we’re seeing that workers really do covet stronger professional and social foundations more now than before.

What can you do?

1. Strengthen company culture

The increased emphasis on company culture calls for organizations to put more effort into defining and communicating their values, ethos, and work environment clearly.

Building a supportive and inclusive company culture can serve as a strong attractor for potential employees.

Related: Your remote new hire onboarding plan: Build those connections

2. Promote transparency and responsiveness

Companies should strive to be more transparent in their decision-making processes and responsive to individual employee needs.

Regular open forums, Q&A sessions with leadership, and timely response to employee concerns can help foster a culture of transparency and responsiveness.

3. Encourage collaborative relationships

The data suggests that lateral working relationships are growing in importance. Therefore, encouraging teamwork, collaboration, and social interaction among employees could be key.

This might include team-building activities, collaborative projects, and providing communication tools that facilitate better peer interaction.

Frequently asked questions

What do US workers want now?

Our Great Discontent 2.0 survey report contains a wealth of data revealing how employee priorities in the US have changed since 2021. Learn more here.

View the highlights

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