workers prioritize equity, flexibility and work-life balance as progression takes a back seat.

  • While majority of workers consider themselves ambitious, half (47%) say they’re not focused on progression at all
  • Talent continue to demand flexibility, as over a third (37%) would consider quitting if asked to spend more time in the office 
  • As workers continue to demand their employer acts to improve equity, fewer are now willing to leave their jobs if their expectations are not met, with trickier economic conditions making them more worried about losing their jobs 
  • Randstad CEO calls on employers to embrace the ABCs of talent - ambition, balance and connection - to gain competitive advantage 

[17 January, 2024] Randstad’s latest Workmonitor found that ambition is no longer viewed in its traditional sense of career progression. Work-life balance, flexibility, equity and skilling are now at the heart of career decisions. 

The research, which surveyed 27,000 workers in 34 markets across Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas, shows that while over half (56%) of workers consider themselves to be ambitious, rising to 69% for Gen Z, this doesn’t correlate to the traditional understanding of career aspirations. Half (47%) of workers are not focused on progression at all, and the same proportion are willing to stay in a role that they like, even if there’s no room to progress or develop. Meanwhile, a third (34%) of workers never want to take on any managerial roles. 

Talent are also more likely to consider work-life balance (93%), flexibility of working hours (81%) and mental health support (83%) as important - more so than career ambition (70%). 

However, the research indicates that not wanting career progression does not mean employees have no interest in self-improvement, with nearly three quarters (72%) ranking training and development opportunities as important. Meanwhile, nearly a third (29%) would quit a job if they weren’t offered learning and development opportunities to future-proof their skills, such as training on AI.

talent demand equitable workplaces 

At the same time, workers are continually demanding more equitable workplaces where they feel they belong, and expect employers to take action on that. Data shows that the majority (52%) of workers think that the onus for improving equity lies with their employer, as opposed to themselves (18%). Meanwhile, 45% said that employers are liable for enhancing workplace culture, with only 17% taking personal responsibility for it. 

Talent also want to work for businesses which mirror their own views and values, with a third (38%) saying they wouldn’t accept a job if they didn’t agree with the viewpoints of the leadership. 

Over a third (37%) of global talent also say that they would not accept a job if an organization wasn’t making a proactive effort to improve its diversity and equity. In instances where their employer didn’t take action on an issue which was important to them, a fifth (21%) have quit their job, with the number rising to 30% among Gen Z. 

the return to office debate is set to continue into 2024 

The research indicates that the push and pull between employers and workers on the return to the office is set to continue into 2024. 

Over a third (37%) of workers have made arrangements in their lives, such as moving house or getting a pet based on the assumption that working from home is here to stay. The same amount (37%) would consider quitting their job if their employer asked them to spend more time in the office, and 39% say that working from home is non-negotiable to them. 

Despite this, a third (35%) have been requested to come into the office more now than they were six months ago - showing that there is a mismatch between what talent want and what they are receiving. 

understanding the workforce 

Despite placing responsibility on employers for improving equity at work, talent do not believe that their bosses understand them. Nearly a third (29%) of all workers feel like their generation is not understood, and this rises to 40% for Gen Z. 

A majority (55%) of the workforce also feel that they have to hide aspects of themselves at work, and a quarter (26%) would feel uncomfortable sharing their personal viewpoints due to fear of judgment or discrimination. One fifth (21%) report that their personality is different at work than it is outside of it. 

The research also indicates that talent don’t feel their employer is speaking to them regularly enough about their career progression. A third (33%) of respondents say their employer never speaks to them about career progression, despite 40% of employees wanting to have these conversations at least once a quarter.

talent are less willing to take action 

However, while workers still have clear demands on employers, they are not feeling as confident as previous years to take action if their expectations are not met. In 2023, over half (54%) of talent said that they would quit a job if they felt they didn’t belong there, but this proportion dropped to just over a third (37%) for this year. This may be driven by the fact that talent are more worried about losing their job this year, than they were in 2023 (45% vs 37%). 

Sander van ‘t Noordende commented: “A new talent ABC is emerging and employers should adopt it if they want to attract and retain their best talent. Ambition, Balance and Connection are key to driving the agenda in a talent scarce world of work. 

“There’s no one-size-fits all approach, as workers’ ambitions, motivations and priorities are becoming more fragmented and personalized. It’s crucial that employers communicate regularly with talent about their wants and needs - whether that be flexible work, career aspirations or learning and development opportunities. 

“Embodying a talent first mindset and truly understanding their personal motivations and priorities, will help set businesses apart.”

about randstad

Randstad is the world’s largest talent company and a partner of choice to clients. We are committed to providing equitable opportunities to people from all backgrounds and help them remain relevant in the rapidly changing world of work. We have a deep understanding of the labor market and help our clients to create the high-quality, diverse and agile workforces they need to succeed. Our 46,000 employees around the world make a positive impact on society by helping people to realize their true potential throughout their working life. 

Randstad was founded in 1960 and is headquartered in Diemen, the Netherlands. In 2022, in our 39 markets, we helped more than 2 million people find a job that feels good and advised over 230,000 clients on their talent needs. We generated revenue of €27.6 billion. Randstad N.V. is listed on the Euronext Amsterdam. For more information, see

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