Welcome back to our series on diversity, equity and inclusion in commercial real estate. By now we’ve established that although conditions have improved, women and minorities are experiencing higher levels of discontent with their jobs. Many employers—both in and outside the industry—have caught on and have been taking steps to alleviate the pressures on their workforce.

What remains to be done is up for debate, but there are some factors that are universal. Last week’s commentary focused on burnout and what companies are doing to support employees’ mental health in an effort to retain happy, productive workers.

Flexibility is Key to BalanceAlong with an increased awareness of level of stress caused by workload, the need for better work-life balance has led to a push toward more flexibility. This is a sentiment shared by much of the population, but even more so by women and younger generations. The work-from-home experiment during the pandemic proved that it can be done, and many workers are now hooked. In fact, flexibility/hours rounded out the top three most important things to the global workforce, after salary and job security, in ADP’s study, “People at Work 2022: A Global Workforce View.”

Not surprisingly, the importance of flexibility varied by gender. LinkedIn’s Workforce Confidence Index found that while just 47 percent of men cited flexible working conditions as a priority, about 58 percent of women said it was. A full 70 percent of CREW Network’s 2022 survey respondents favor working for a company with flexible work arrangements like a four-day work week, two percentage points higher than 2021. Nearly three-quarters of parents (74 percent) would prefer more autonomy on when they work, but so would 68 percent of those without children.

According to a 2022 Deloitte Global Gen Z and Millennial Survey, the younger Gen Z and millennials push more for flexible work schedules than older generations, with a large percentage of these demographic groups (49 percent of Gen Zs and 45 percent of millennials) preferring that style of working.

Of employees currently working remotely, ADP found that 64 percent said they would consider a new position if forced to return to the office full time. Most human resources leaders (94 percent) expect some workers to remain remote, as do CEOs. When asked about how they envision the working environment in three years for corporate employees whose roles were traditionally based in the office, 45 percent of participants in the KPMG study saw them as hybrid, 34 percent saw them as still in office and 20 percent saw them as fully remote.

Path to Pay Equity is Transparency

Countless employee-based studies have shown that when it comes to taking or staying at a job, the most important factor for most workers is compensation. And in a world where the disparity in pay between genders and ethnicities is no secret, the importance of pay transparency is becoming paramount. An increasing number of U.S. cities and states are starting to require salary ranges posted alongside job listings, and the vast majority of workers believe more pay transparency would close salary gaps and benefit the overall workforce.

In the trenches, meanwhile, the story varies. About 60 percent of the 19,000 professionals surveyed for LinkedIn’s latest Workforce Confidence Index said employers were transparent about salary ranges, with men ages 18 to 34 agreeing most strongly. Yet among the 35 percent who said they had experienced pay discrimination, women accounted for 58 percent.

Among women, CREW found that 59 percent of employees are appreciative of their company’s gender pay equity policy. Yet 68 percent of the women surveyed in Deloitte’s Women @ Work 2022 Global Outlook say they’d change jobs if the new company had a culture of greater pay transparency even if the job and salary essentially remained the same as their current work.

The findings also differ when broken up by age cohort and position. For instance, LinkedIn’s survey found most business owners are unwilling to share their salary information with family members, let alone colleagues. Just 28 percent of baby boomers agree sharing pay information will lead to equality in pay.

On the other end of the spectrum are the youngest members of the labor pool. About 81 percent of Generation Z workers and 75 percent of millennials believe sharing information about pay and salary will lead to more equitable pay in the workplace.

Workers are already discontented. Just 37 percent of employees believe they’re paid fairly by their employer and nearly half believe they could make more money right now simply by switching jobs, according to Employ’s 2022 Job Seeker Nation Report. And in Robert Half’s just-released 2022 Salary Guide, nearly half of all workers think they’re earning less than they deserve. Gen Z professionals (57 percent) and women (52 percent) are most likely to feel shortchanged.

These trends are already having an impact. Robert Half reports that starting compensation for U.S. professional occupations is expected to increase 3.8 percent overall in 2022, with high-demand roles seeing even bigger gains. Further, nearly half of employers are offering signing bonuses to entice new hires.

This positive momentum should not be derailed. Companies can still do more, such as committing to new pay transparency policies and re-evaluating negotiation and discretionary pay norms. Many are paying more than lip service—66 percent of companies surveyed by Payscale earlier this year indicated they would be conducting such an analysis in 2022. And if a business has a culture of inclusion and diversity, then paying women fairly will likely be top of mind.

To avoid losing top talent, companies will need to both enhance their compensation strategy and show that pay equity is a priority. More intentional work needs to be done to promote women and employees from diverse backgrounds into leadership in commercial real estate and other predominately male industries.

Be sure to come back next week for the final installment of this series.

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