Career Ladders

‘Workers want career advancement and opportunity. Without it, they’ll keep quitting.’

Guild American Workers Survey: Up or out. What workers really want in a job.

Nearly three years since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers continue to rethink what they want from their job, with some quitting and others pushing back on unrealistic job expectations.

“As we read the headlines of 2022, especially the first half, it really felt like the media and much of management of these large companies were misdiagnosing the Great Resignation and the Quiet Quitting,” says Guild CEO and co-founder Rachel Romer. “Workers were asking for three things: pay, purpose, and pathways. The first two aren’t novel insights. The pathway piece is the missing piece of the puzzle.”

That’s one of the key findings of a new worker survey from the company, which collaborates with employers to offer education and training opportunities for their employees.

The Guild American Workers Survey argues the underlying reality is that “employers have failed to meet the changing expectation of workers,” adding that workers are demanding more career advancement and, without it, they’ll keep quitting.

“Workers – particularly frontline workers – are leaving their jobs because they want career pathways and opportunities for advancement. They prefer to stay at their companies, but feel they have no other choice but to leave,” Romer adds.

“Some 60 million workers are currently looking for their next job. But what they’re actually searching for is not just higher pay or a change of scenery. They’re demanding career pathways. A desire for career mobility creates pressure to either move up or move out,” according to the survey which also finds:

  • 66% of workers say they hope to be in a new job in the next 2-5 years.
  • 90% of workers say a clear career pathway is important to them.
  • 74% of workers say they would be “very likely” or “somewhat likely” to leave their current employer if they were offered another job with additional education and career opportunities.
Employers Need to

“In the new economy, the new ‘up or out’ is you telling the company ‘give me the chance to grow here, or I will see myself to the door,'” says Romer. “If you are a business, the main takeaway here is that you need to be creating a culture of opportunity. You have to make clear what opportunity within your company looks like so that your ambitious workforce, can understand what they have to do to rise.”

Rachel Romer, CEO & co-founder, Guild

She adds, “You have to build career pathways for your employees to understand what are the entry roles in your company, what are the gateway roles, how you move from one role to the next.”

Romer says this is particularly important for frontline workers. In the survey, the majority indicate that they want the opportunity for a new job and half of them say they hope it is with the same company.

“Health care’s done a fabulous job of this. The hospitals that are doing it well are the ones that are winning in this really intense time. I think there are other industries that have time to catch up,” says Romer.

“You have to make clear to your workforce that you understand that for the vast majority of them economic mobility is their goal.”

The report concludes, that “by delivering on what employees want – pathways to career opportunity and mobility – companies can increase their workers’ skills and engagement to not only survive but thrive through the changes we know lie ahead.”

The American Worker Survey was conducted by Guild’s Research Team in August 2022, surveying workers aged 18-60 across industries in the United States, with oversamples of those in the healthcare, retail and financial services industries. More than half of survey respondents identified as frontline workers.