Mar 28, 2023 - News

What Northeast Ohio workers want most

Illustration of a person wearing a red necktie with a smiley face pattern.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Though flexibility is increasingly important to regional workers, wages are still the preeminent factor when it comes to job quality in Northeast Ohio.

Driving the news: The most important benefit cited by workers in every generation was a good wage, according to a new report from The Fund for our Economic Future.

  • The Strengthening Workplaces report analyzed data from a 2021 survey of more than 5,000 workers in the region in an attempt to create a roadmap for local employers.

Why it matters: Companies are continuing to adjust to a post-pandemic economy where they have to compete for workers, instead of workers having to compete for jobs.

The big picture: One-third of workers in Northeast Ohio began their current job within the previous 12 months, per the report.

What they're saying: "We've watched in real time employers wrestle with what to change and how," said Bethia Burke, president of The Fund for our Economic Future.

  • "This report focuses primarily on non-wage benefits that are important to people. But we should underscore that people work for income. And incomes have been low for a lot of people for a long time."

Context: Although employers might believe they've been elevating wages sufficiently in response to inflation, real hourly wages haven't risen that much, Burke said, especially for people in the lowest income brackets.

  • "You have to pay people competitively if you expect to have a strong workforce," she said.

Yes, but: Additional benefits — things like remote work flexibility, health care, opportunities for advancement, retirement plans and child care — are important for creating a "sticky" work environment where employees want to stay and grow.

  • And though wages may attract workers initially, workplace culture is often what retains them.

By the numbers: In 2021, some 1.64 million people were in the regional workforce, 5% fewer than before the pandemic.

  • Roughly half of those who left have retired, but the other half quit, were laid off or simply stopped looking.
  • About 75% of the workers who left the workforce were women.

Between the lines: Data in the report are largely consistent with national trends, but Burke said it's important to localize it.

  • "I think it's just human nature to not see yourself in bigger picture data," she said. "This shows local employers that, hey, what's happening nationally is also probably showing up in your workplace."

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