What are your employees’ hopes and fears?

5 ways private businesses can action our Global Workforce Hopes & Fears Survey 2022

By Peter Bartels, Global Entrepreneurial & Private Business Leader

PwC recently published our third annual Global Workforce Hopes and Fears Survey 2022 which is based on the responses of over 52,000 people across five generations about their views on the workplace. The survey findings are always a fascinating snapshot of the issues and challenges that are affecting employees at a specific point in time.

The key theme in 2022 is worker empowerment and how the balance of power has swung in favour of the employee, particularly those with specialised skill sets. Other key findings from the survey are around: fair pay, hybrid working, meaningful work, being able to be oneself at work and wellbeing. Here are five ways in which I think private businesses can react to the survey findings and use them to their advantage.

1. Offer competitive pay

Pay was a significant driver for many survey respondents, both those that are intending to find a new job and those that plan on asking for a pay rise. The top factor motivating those who are job hunting was fairer pay with 71% of respondents stating this as their main objective. More than a third of all respondents to the survey intended to ask for a pay rise in 2022.

Pay is an area where I have always felt that private businesses have an advantage over listed companies. Private businesses are not as restricted by profit margins or remuneration reporting to shareholders. They are able to be much more flexible in the pay that they offer to employees. During the Global Financial Crisis, I remember a number of German family businesses guaranteeing employee income1 and committing to investing family equity to facilitate employee continuity.

If you haven’t done this already during the pandemic, now is a good time to review your pay scales and ensure that you are offering competitive salaries and relevant benefits packages. In the war for talent, competitors may already have increased what they are offering to both existing and future employees. Remaining attractive is key.

2. Capitalise on hybrid working

In the past, private businesses may have struggled to attract employees because of their location, for example, in out of town or industrial locations. Remote work has eased this problem by removing the need for employees to be in the office five days per week. In the survey, hybrid workers are those that are most satisfied with their work and roughly two-thirds of respondents say they prefer some mix of in-person and remote work.

Continuing with hybrid working will assist private businesses in attracting top talent from outside of their geographical area whilst also keeping existing employees satisfied with the flexibility offered. Communicating this clearly and routinely offering this hybrid proposition to existing and future employees can set private businesses apart from other companies who may have undefined policies around hybrid working. On the flipside, being attentive and sensitive to the needs of employees who can’t work remotely is also important.

3. Demonstrate the meaning and purpose at the heart of your business

As might be expected coming out of the pandemic, the survey showed that meaning is as important as pay for employees: job fulfilment and an ability to be one’s true self at work were ranked second and third among employees considering a job change.

Again this is an area where I feel private businesses have an advantage. Often there is a sense of collective purpose in working for a company with tradition, history and a defined role in the local community. Family businesses tend to have longer serving employees2, indeed sometimes with several generations of a family having worked in the business. There also can be a sense of loyalty and an unspoken contract that the family will look after the employee and their family.

Our recent Global Next Gen Survey reinforces this finding and shows how the pandemic has brought family business generations together. The 1,000+ next gens who took part in the survey told us that the pandemic had strengthened cohesion, accelerated succession planning and united everyone towards a common goal: to drive business growth. They believed that the pandemic had brought forward their involvement in the business with almost half of respondents feeling more committed to the business than pre-pandemic.

Communicating the company’s values, history, tradition and place in society is key and differentiates family and private businesses from other companies. Although our Global Family Business Survey 2021 showed that only 49% of families have the family values and mission for the company in written format. Doing so could be a worthwhile exercise, not least as our survey showed that those with written values are more communicative, transparent and performed better than their peers.

4. Commit to an open, transparent culture

A new and interesting finding from the survey has been the desire for people to want to work in an environment where they can be their authentic selves. Respondents ranked this top when considering their current work environment. Taking this further, 65% of employees are having conversations with colleagues about sensitive topics such as politics and social issues. With 41% saying it helped them to understand their colleagues more and 34% saying that it helped to create a more open and inclusive work environment.

As private or family business leaders, encouraging this open, transparent culture and providing time and space for discussions on sensitive topics is key. Lead by example in your communications and demonstrate consistently that you welcome these open discussions. Genuinely commit to offering a work environment where employees can be themselves. There are already many examples of family business owners who are outspoken on political and societal issues and stand up for their company, employees and legacy.

5. Seize ESG opportunities now

The views of Hopes and Fears respondents on ESG chimed with those of the next gens that PwC surveyed. Working for a company that takes its commitments to ESG seriously is important and employees want their employers to take a stand - particularly around transparency. The most important area (for 65% of employees) is the organisation’s record on protecting workers' health and safety. Acting on environmental concerns is also important and an area of concern with only 23% of employees saying their company helps them minimise the environmental impact of their job.

ESG can be a real area of differentiation for private and family businesses, and the time to act is now. With new and changing reporting requirements, listed companies are having to embrace ESG but without this pressure, private companies risk falling behind.

In our global Next Gen survey, 64% of respondents believe there’s an opportunity for family businesses to lead the way in sustainable business practices. Whilst 72% of next gens say they expect to be involved in increasing their business’ focus on investments for sustainability in the future, only 28% are doing this now. And although two-thirds of next gens expect to be involved in reducing their business’ environmental impact in the future, only one in four is already involved today.

Get in touch if you’d like to discuss any of the issues in this article and how they relate to your business.


Financial Times, ‘Keeping the lights on’, Daniel Schafer, 10 November 2009, accessed on 4/7/22 here: https://www.ft.com/content/bd1e8620-ce2e-11de-a1ea-00144feabdc0

Die Verweildauer des Managements von Familienunternehmen und Unternehmen im Streubesitz, Stiftung Familienunternehmen, München 2010, accessed on 4/7/22

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Dr. Peter Bartels

Dr. Peter Bartels

Global Entrepreneurial and Private Business Leader, PwC Germany