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“Me” vs. “We”: Employers are Unaware that More Than Half of Their Employees Are Open to Leaving

Ahu Yildirmaz, Ph.D. Vice President, ADP Research Institute

The labor market is tightening, wages are on the rise, and while employers may have had the upper-hand in the past, a distinct shift is underway. Employees are now calling the shots.

What does this mean for employers and how they attract, retain and engage talent? The ADP Research Institute® (ADPRI) commissioned a new survey to find out.

From the results, ADP® developed two papers, “Evolution of Work 2.0; The Me vs. We Mindset,” and “Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception vs. Employee Reality in the U.S. Midsized Market,” which found employees tend to concentrate on their work environment, look for meaning in their job, and want immediate advancement opportunities (the “me” mindset). Whereas, employers tend to focus on bigger picture areas like financial performance, reputation, and long-term career pathing (the “we” mindset).

A strengthening economy opens doors

According to the ADP® Workforce Vitality Report, job switching is at an all-time high with about 27 percent of U.S. workers changing jobs on an annual basis. The ADP National Employment Report® shows that more than 940,000 jobs were added since the start of 2017. And the unemployment rate was 4.4% in April. Although many employers can agree that it is difficult to retain top talent, ADP research finds that they also underestimate how many employees are open to switching jobs.

Passive job seeking is the new normal

According to ADP, 17% of employees are actively looking and 46% are passively looking for new jobs – showing that more than half (63%) of an employer’s total workforce may be open to leaving. Yet, while employers overestimate how many of their employees are actively (26%) searching, they underestimate how many are passively (23%) looking.[i]

The rise in new recruitment technologies has likely helped here. It is easier than ever for employees to see job listings online and connect informally with recruiters, since worker profiles and areas of expertise are just a click away.

A perfect storm of factors challenging retention

While employees see the opportunity for higher wages and upward mobility in switching, employers are struggling to compete to keep their skilled workers. Forty-seven percent of employees at midsize companies in the U.S. would consider an opportunity that matched their current salary or even paid less, proving that wage growth is not the only determinant for employees who are considering a job switch.

Employees note that they value work-life balance and meaningful career development, which are often promised during their recruitment phase but tend to change over the course of their employment. This intended, or unintended, “bait and switch” situation shows itself in ADP’s findings, where 47 percent of employees say they have walked away from a job that did not meet their expectations.[ii]

What’s next?

While there are barriers to overcome, employers have an opportunity to address the “me” vs. “we” disconnect.

Employee training is one way. Currently, just one-third of U.S. employees give their companies high marks on career performance, learning management, and succession planning. While 77 percent of midsized employers in the U.S. offer employee training programs, only 40 percent of employees participated in them.[iii] Improved training programs can provide an opportunity for internal advancement, engaging the workforce and cultivating long-term loyalty. Of course, this is just one step, but it can be a start as employers continue forward in the war for talent.


[i] Evolution of Work 2.0: The Me vs. We Mindset, ADP Research Institute, 2017

[ii] Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception vs. Employee Reality in the U.S. Midsized Market, ADP Research Institute, 2017

[iii] Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect: Employer Perception vs. Employee Reality in the U.S. Midsized Market, ADP Research Institute, 2017

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