Many believe the looming ‘Intent to Resign’ risk facing employers (explored in our last paper) originated in the pandemic.

In many countries, employees have now spent up to two years working at home, or in a home/workplace hybrid model.

More time alone due to restricted in-person interaction with family, friends and work colleagues has prompted people to reflect on their lives; broadly asking themselves whether they are in the right job, career, relationship, friendship circle, home, city, state or country.

In combination with increased opportunities for alternative employment and a perceived shift in the employee/employer power balance, many employees now seek work which better suits their new life vision.

A recent Randstat survey1 encompassing Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas found that “another surprising trend has emerged” from the ‘Great Resignation,’ calling this trend the “Great Enlightenment.”

Randstat says this ‘Great Enlightenment’ has arisen due to the “unprecedented disruption and uncertainty brought on by the pandemic.”

As a result, employees have “profoundly altered their perspectives and desires” and:

  • Are “more assured of what they want in their lives and careers”,
  • Have “more clarity about their personal and professional goals”, and
  • Are “empowered” to “make changes to their work-life balance.”

A contemporary PwC Australia survey2 concluded that “the pandemic saddled employees with additional domestic responsibilities, families living on top of each other, blurred work-life boundaries, stress created by the volatile nature and prolonged uncertainty of the pandemic, concerns about job security, and the relentless pressure on frontline and essential workers.”

Unsurprisingly, the PwC survey participants ranked employee wellbeing high on the list of their needs and expectations. The top employee “preferences based on what they want from an employer” were:


the great enlightenment


In early 2021, an IBM survey across nine countries3 concluded that “if executives want to retain top talent - particularly Gen Z and Millennials – they will need to understand employees’ evolving expectations, motivations, and aspirations.”

When IBM asked more than 14,000 respondents to rank “what employers should offer to engage employees” the results were:


the great enlightenment


Employees are clearly looking for “more than compensation from their employers.” However, IBM noted some generational differences in regard to compensation, with “only 29% of Gen Z” indicating “competitive salary and benefits were key to their engagement”, in contrast to 49% “of those over 55.”

Forbes Human Resources Council members were recently asked4 “what are jobseekers looking for in a potential employer right now?”

In response, leading HR Executives on the Forbes Council said5 that employees:

  • Want flexibility in terms of working from home, and employee benefits that work for each individual rather than a one-size-fits-all approach,
  • Need to feel like they are doing work that resonates with their own sense of self and contribution,
  • Want greater focus on the things they value most, like a healthy culture, positive and effective leadership, diversity, equity and inclusion, and flexibility in how or where they work,
  • Expect their employer to build products or services that create a positive impact for the community,
  • Want to find an organisation that will support and fulfill an affirmed or newly discovered personal purpose in life, and
  • Seek a company that genuinely cares about their employees’ mental and physical health, including offering flexible work, prioritising work-life balance, instituting healthy workplace practices and encouraging mental health conversations.

This paper has examined the ‘Great Enlightenment’; why and how employees have rethought their relationship with work. It is noteworthy that flexibility, health, wellbeing, and work-life balance are prominent employee needs.

Enlightened leaders will absorb this information, but they will also want to discover whether the needs and wants of their employees (and potential new hires) match the results outlined above. The pandemic has created the catalyst for leaders to re-examine prevailing paradigms and policies, re-imagine their company culture, and envision how best to align with existing legal requirements which govern people strategy6. This discovery process will be explored in our next paper.


Partner | Employment & Labour Team Leader
Senior Partner
Global Head of Employment and Labor
Head of Employment - Europe, Middle East and Asia
Partner, Canadian National Chair, Employment and Labour

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