Indeed survey finds ‘higher ups’ are responsible for employees’ happiness

August 17, 2022, 2:00 PM UTC
Smiling employees walking in office
New survey data from Indeed finds 57% of professionals believe "higher-ups" are responsible for an individual’s happiness at work.
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Good morning!

Who is responsible for your employees’ happiness and wellbeing? It might be you. 

Job search site Indeed, in collaboration with Forrester, conducted a survey to better understand workplace happiness. The findings, released today, reveal a strong increase in the number of workers who believe “higher-ups” at their companies are responsible for fostering a happy work environment. Even more so than their direct managers. 

Fifty-seven percent of the respondents say higher-ups are responsible for an individual’s happiness in the workplace. And almost half (46%) say their expectations for happiness in their jobs have grown in the last year alone. 

Even the perception of what wellbeing looks like at work is shifting. A majority of professionals surveyed (67%) say they view wellbeing at work as a right, rather than a privilege. And what has been most commonly understood as tenants of wellbeing—fair pay and flexibility—are now simply considered the baseline. 

The research also reveals that feeling energized, having a strong sense of belonging, and trust are now the top three components of workplace wellbeing. Experts at Indeed believe this is a trend that will continue to increase over time, especially among younger workers. Fortune spoke with Cathryn Baker who leads Indeed’s ESG communications about employees’ changing needs and views on workplace happiness. 

When it comes to workplace happiness it appears less of the onus is being put on middle managers. Does that mean it all rests upon the C-suite now?

Wellbeing in a workplace starts with upper-level management and works its way down to junior levels. From our findings, happiness at work is a shared responsibility between individuals and the organization, with managers still holding a critical role. 

That said, there are some nuances: While C-suite and middle managers are both seen as responsible for employee happiness, how employees view this responsibility may vary on work structure and executive visibility. Workers who have very limited interaction with senior leaders may feel more strongly that those they see on a daily basis, such as a direct manager, are more responsible for their overall happiness and wellbeing while at work. 

The report suggests employers’ might be over-indexing on fair pay and flexibility, and forgetting about other components of wellbeing. How is this detrimental?

Fair pay and flexibility are foundational needs for optimal workplace wellbeing, but they are not enough on their own. An employee’s wellbeing goes well beyond the need for fair pay and flexibility, and there should be additional conversations about other needs that have a large impact.

That said, unequal pay and a lack of flexibility are the top reasons employees consider new opportunities. For this reason, they have to remain table-stakes. But we cannot ignore other motivational areas for employee wellbeing, from mental and emotional health to appreciation and recognition.

Belonging and trust were high in revealed importance. In what ways can leaders foster more of this in today’s workplace?

Cliché, but lead by example. Employees look to senior leaders to set the tone at work. Leaders who cultivate space for honest conversations and actively support employees and peers by giving resources are effectively building a culture of belonging and trust. It’s also critical the actions move beyond talking and actually putting practices and policies in place that support a welcoming and trustworthy working environment. 

Want to learn more? In the latest episode of Fortune’s Leadership Next podcast, Indeed’s CEO Chris Hyams spoke with CEO Alan Murray and senior editor Ellen McGirt about how employees’ changing priorities are shaping the war for talent.

I want to hear from you! What are the biggest HR challenges and priorities today? Reach out to me at I’m hosting 15-minute desksides with HR and DEI executives. You could see your response in a future newsletter.

Amber Burton

Reporter's Notebook

The most compelling data, quotes and insights from the field.

By now, most in HR have heard of the shift toward a skills-first talent economy. More employers are dropping outdated degree requirements in favor of skills-first hiring. This move away from traditional higher education requirements comes at a time when college enrollment is down and the need for talent is up. As of spring 2022, there were four million fewer students enrolled in college than just 10 years ago, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

But findings from a recent Morning Consult survey commissioned by the nonprofit American Student Assistance and Jobs for the Future highlights the gap between adoption and true acceptance of skills-first hiring:  

  • Though 72% of employers say they don’t see traditional degrees as the most reliable method to determine a candidate's skills, over half (52%) say they continue to hire candidates with such degrees because they’re viewed as less risky.
  • Perhaps with this gap in mind, 37% of Gen Z students say they believe employers still favor degrees. 
  • And 65% say they fear the risk of choosing what they consider to be the wrong non-degree post-secondary path. 

If the numbers tell us anything, it’s that we still have a long way to go in the journey toward true adoption of a skills-first hiring culture.

Around the Table

- What’s the best way to fill out an Equal Employment Opportunity form for a nonbinary employee? Co-creation. One HR expert says it's best to include a colleague in the process when filling out EEO-1 reporting forms. HR Dive

- Online reviews are playing an increasingly important role among young professionals selecting internships. In the Wall Street Journals As We Work podcast, a college intern shares what he considers to be a “good” internship and the resources he used to make the decision. (P.S. this blurb was written by an intern). Listen time: 25 minutes. Wall Street Journal 

- Amazon workers at a packaging facility in California staged a walkout to protest unsafe working conditions and demand higher pay. About 150 employees left their posts in an effort to get Amazon’s management to increase base pay from $17 an hour to $22 an hour, and address “suffocating heat” in the warehouse. CNBC

- Apple announced in a company-wide memo that starting Sept. 5, its employees must return to the office three days a week. In the memo, CEO Tim Cook said the return would foster “in-person collaboration that is so essential to our culture.” Apple previously implemented a return to office policy in June 2021, but the plan was scrapped after employees published an open letter to the company online. Financial Times 


Everything you need to know from Fortune. 

Let's talk about menopause. Menopause is often couched in a stigma that makes seeking and obtaining appropriate healthcare unduly difficult, writes Kate Ryder, founder and CEO of women’s health clinic Maven. In a commentary for Fortune, she explains why employers need to ensure they’re offering adequate care and benefits for menopause treatment. —Kate Ryder

How about them Apples. An Apple employee claims the company is threatening to terminate her employment after she posted a viral TikTok video giving security advice regarding a stolen iPhone. The Apple repair technician was allegedly informed she had breached corporate policy by giving away confidential information. —Alice Hearing

Gender pay gap in Hollywood. Bryce Dallas Howard, star of the latest Jurassic Park reboot, says she was paid significantly less than her male co-star, Chris Pratt. According to Howard, the difference in their paychecks was even bigger than the previously reported $2 million. —Chloe Berger

This is the web version of CHRO Daily, a newsletter focusing on helping HR executives navigate the needs of the workplace. Today’s edition was curated by Paolo Confino. Sign up to get it delivered free to your inbox.

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