What Workers Want

What qualities do Oregonians look for when choosing a place to work?

From September 14-22, 2021, the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center conducted a statewide survey of Oregonians’ values and beliefs, including what is important to them about their place of work. The questions were intended to gather preliminary data to inform more in-depth research in the months ahead.

The online survey consisted of 1,124 Oregon residents ages 18+ and took approximately 15 minutes to complete. This survey’s margin of error, for the full sample, ranges from ±1.8% to ±2.9% depending on how the response category percentages split for any given question. Due to rounding, numbers may not add up to 100%.

Respondents were contacted by using professionally maintained online panels. In gathering responses, a variety of quality control measures were employed, including questionnaire pre-testing, validation, and real-time monitoring of responses. To ensure a representative sample, demographic quotas were set, and data weighted by area of the state, gender, age, and education.

This survey uses aggregated data to analyze the opinions of BIPOC residents in comparison to the opinions of residents who identify as white and not another race. BIPOC residents are not a monolith; the grouping represents a wide diversity of races and ethnicities. The findings included in this memo should not be construed such that all people of color are believed to share the same opinions. Disaggregated race data will be provided when sample sizes permit reliability.

The question numbers in this document correspond with the survey questionnaire, available at the bottom of the page (Q12-28, Q29-44).

Workplace Characteristics

Respondents were provided a list of things people often feel are important in what they do as work or employment. They were then asked to rate, selectively, the importance of each item if they were choosing a place to work (Q12-28). Nearly all of the workplace features or outcomes were viewed as very or somewhat important by a strong majority of Oregonians.

Only being in a leadership position (37%) and having people admire my accomplishments (47%) were viewed as very/somewhat important by less than 50% of Oregonians (Q20, Q24).
  • Interestingly, the percentage of those who say it is very/somewhat important having people admire my accomplishments declined with age, from 61% among those ages 18-29, to 33% among those ages 65-74 (Q20).

How Important Each Workplace Quality is to Oregonians

When examining responses of “very important,” several priority tiers emerge.

  • Tier one includes features or outcomes that receive “very important” scores of 60% or higher. There is only one feature within this tier: Having a work-life balance (63%) (Q27).
    • This feature is rated highly by all major demographic groups. Notably, more than 60% of Oregonians with and without school-aged children rate this feature as “very” important.”
    • This priority placed on healthy work-life balance corresponds with recent research showing high levels of employee burnout and work-related stress during the COVID-19 pandemic[1].

  • Tier two includes features or outcomes that receive “very important” scores between 50-60%:
    • Obtaining health insurance benefits (58%) (Q21)
    • Being with people I respect (51%) (Q16)
    • Earning a good salary (50%): The percentage of Oregonians who view this feature of their work as “very” important is higher among renters than homeowners (57% vs. 45%) (Q12).

  • Tier three includes features or outcomes that receive “very” important scores between 40-50%:
    • Being in control of my own destiny (48%) (Q25)
    • Having a job I can be proud of (47%) (Q13)
    • Enjoying work, having fun (47%) (Q15)
    • Feeling appreciated by leadership and coworkers (44%) (Q19)
    • Developing my skills (42%): A notable 55% of Oregonians ages 18-29 rate this feature as “very” important. This is perhaps unsurprising as this age group is newer to the workforce (Q17).
    • Proximity to where I live (40%): Ratings of “very” important were higher among those making less than $50K per year compared to those making $100K or more (44% vs. 31%), perhaps indicating the latter group is more likely to be able to work from home (Q26).

  • Tier four includes features or outcomes that receive “very important” scores between 20-40%. It is worth noting that many of these features still receive high overall (very/somewhat) importance ratings from Oregonians.
    • Flexible hours (38%): Oregonians with school-aged children are more likely to view this work feature as “very” important than those without kids (44% vs. 36%) (Q22).
    • Learning new things, having new experiences (36%) (Q18)
    • Contributing to society’s benefit (32%) (Q14)  
    • Involvement in important decisions (21%): Interestingly, men are more likely than women to rate this feature as “very” important for their place of work (25% vs. 18%) (Q23).

“Other” Answers

Respondents were also given the opportunity to list other characteristics, an option which many people selected. Often these were similar to the listed characteristics, but with more specific detail or elaboration.

Other job features important to Oregonians include quality and characteristics of employer leadership; impacts on physical and mental health; family; and the workplace climate:

“Integrity – of the company and the people there.”

– Male, age 65-74, Crook County, white or Caucasian

“Having a 32-hour workweek to balance mental health and work.”

– Female, age 18-29, Washington County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x

“Not soul-sucking.”

– Female, age 30-45, Jackson County, white or Caucasian

“Sustainable practices as a part of the workplace and products.”

– Female, age 65-74, Lincoln County, more than one race or ethnicity

A significant number of Oregonians listed a response related to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the “Other” category:

“Not feeling discrimination.”

– Female, age 18-29, Washington County, Hispanic/Latino/a/x

“Equal pay, irrespective of gender.”

– Female, age 65-74, Washington County, white or Caucasian

“Respect and equality for all in the workplace.”

– Male, age 30-44, Multnomah County, Black or African American

“Environments of equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

– Non-binary or gender non-conforming, age 45-54, Yamhill County, white or Caucasian

Ranking the Most Important Employment Considerations

Next, Oregonians were asked to rank the same list of work features/outcomes in terms of the top five most important things to have if they were choosing a place to work (Q29-44). When combining ratings of 1-5, a top tier emerges, all receiving combined scores of 40% or higher. These results largely correspond with the higher-tier priorities from Q12-28:

  • Earning a good salary (64%). This feature is especially important to Oregonians ages 30-54 (72%). 20% of Oregonians rank this as their number one priority (Q29).
  • Having a good work-life balance (50%). This feature is slightly more important for Oregonians with school-aged children compares to those without kids (53% vs. 48%) (Q44).
  • Enjoying work, having fun (46%). Compared to the previous feature, this is more of a priority for Oregonians without school-aged children than those with kids (48% vs. 39%) (Q32).
  • Obtaining health insurance benefits (44%). Among age groups, this priority was most important for those 45-54 (53%) and least important for those ages 18-29 (36%). This is perhaps unsurprising, as many in the youngest group are able to remain on their parents’ health insurance (Q38).

It is interesting to compare these results to a 2013 Oregon Values and Beliefs statewide survey, which did not test the importance of having a good work-life balance, but did show that salary, benefits, and enjoying work/having fun were all top-tier priorities then, as well[2]. However, it should be noted that salary appears to be a stronger priority now than in 2013.

Demographic Trends

Identifying What Unites Us, Understanding What Divides Us

Reported below are statistically significant subgroup differences between BIPOC and white Oregonians, and urban and rural Oregonians.  Many of these differences are not major and are presented to inform public education and communications initiatives. 

Oregonians of color and whites show consistent alignment on what is important about where they choose to work. Most priorities show only a few percentage points of difference between the two groups. For example, when combining the ratings of their top 1-5 priorities, both groups selected earning a good salary as their clear choice, at an identical 64% (Q29). However, there are a few statistical differences worth point out:

  • Oregonians of color are more likely than whites to think developing my skills is a “very” important part of the work environment (54% vs. 41%) (Q17).
  • Oregonians of color are more likely than whites to think flexible hours are a “very” important part of the work environment (44% vs. 37%) (Q22).
  • BIPOC Oregonians provide slightly higher “very” important scores for feeling appreciated by leadership and coworkers than whites (48% vs. 43%) (Q19).

Urban and rural Oregonians also show strong agreement on what is important about where they choose to work, with mostly marginal differences between these groups. Here are a few datapoints that stand out:

  • Urbanites are more likely than their rural counterparts to think contributing to society’s benefit is a “very” important part of the work environment (38% vs. 28%) (Q14).
  • Lastly, urban and rural Oregonians place equal importance on proximity to where I live¸ with an identical 42% both groups seeing this feature as “very” important (Q26).

This research was completed as a community service by the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center, an independent and non-partisan organization. OVBC is an Oregon charitable nonprofit corporation (www.oregonvbc.org).

For More Information:


[1] https://www.oregonlive.com/topworkplaces/2021/09/survey-of-4000-companies-shows-loyalty-to-employers-is-down.html?utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_campaign=theoregonian_sf

[2] 2013 OREGON VALUES & BELIEFS PROJECT STATEWIDE AND REGIONAL RESULTS; DHM Research | PI Research; Oregon General Population Age 18+; N= 1,958;