Reviving Employee Loyalty

How to turn the great resignation into the great opportunity

Workers’ devotion to their employers was slipping even before the pandemic. With Americans quitting jobs at a record rate, it’s now on life support and requires emergency treatment to survive.

The best remedy is for companies to strike a new bargain with their employees. The old version, whereby firms offered pay and benefits in return for hard work and loyalty, has been unraveling for decades and no longer meets the needs of either party. Wages have been stagnant for years, private pensions are almost non-existent for new hires and frozen for long-timers, and employees are increasingly footing the bill for rising healthcare costs.

Many younger employees recognized in recent years that one way up was to switch jobs. The pandemic has poured rocket fuel on that trend. It shifted our priorities and eroded loyalty to everything from where we shopped to where we traveled and where we worked. Traumatized by the loss of life and constant stress, people want to focus on their most fundamental needs – health, safety, and peace of mind, according to our ongoing 10-country survey.


They’re quitting jobs in search of more pay, balance, flexibility, and fulfillment in their work. About 40% of the people we surveyed have switched jobs or are looking for new ones. And it’s not just the quixotic millennials walking out the door. All four generations – from Gen Z in their 20s to Baby Boomers in their 60s – are actively or passively looking, and more expect to go within in the next six months.

The great resignation is driving up labor costs and impacting everything from supply chains and restaurant staffing to truck deliveries and medical appointments. Companies are increasing wages, offering retention and signing bonuses, and even providing free college tuition to hang onto existing employees and recruit new ones. The strategy could slow the hemorrhaging, but companies need to rethink the broader employment contract if they want to build real loyalty. It’s not a one-sized-fits-all approach. Employees want more than just higher wages. They’re looking for greater flexibility, better work-life balance, career development, and inspiring work.

The Loyalty Triad

Money matters, and companies need to offer competitive wages to retain talent. Everyone from bus drivers to bankers are receiving big raises by switching jobs. Globally, more than half of those we surveyed said they are leaving in search of higher pay. Nearly two thirds of Mexicans are eager for a raise, followed by 59% of Brazilians and 55% of Americans.

But that’s just a partial solution for exhausted employees, who also want more balance and flexibility. The latter, including hybrid ways of working, is crucial. Almost half of British respondents, and about 40% of Americans, Chinese, and Germans, want more flexibility in addition to pay. In general, workers have grown accustomed to working remotely and aren’t eager to head back to the office full time. Work-life balance is also key. Globally, almost one third of respondents said improvement on that front is why they are looking for new work, including 50% of Chinese and 30% of Americans. In France, which adopted a 35-hour working week two decades ago, only 26% of respondents who have switched jobs or are seeking new ones said they were looking for a better work-life balance.

Finally, employees want greater fulfillment. Promotions would help in the short term, but nearly one quarter of job seekers said they were looking to leave because of a lack of job growth and career development in their current employment while 18% cited uninspiring work that wasn’t aligned to the company’s mission.


Companies are starting to roll out 2022 benefit packages, and employees will be paying close attention. More than a third of the people we surveyed said they’re planning to leave within the next six months. The right salary, flexible benefits, and opportunities for growth and fulfillment could stop them. Employees want a new contract that recognizes the contributions they make in the office and the challenges they have outside. Companies may need to undertake long-term projects to revamp culture and foster a sense of purpose in people’s work. Leading companies could even harness that passion to create more inclusive and green cultures. They can build a new type of loyalty. 

Taking the Cyber Fight to the Enemy


It’s a digital war out there. Over the past year, cyberattacks have targeted pipelines, water treatment plants, and critical software used by US government agencies and thousands of companies. The stakes for our economic prosperity and security are immense.

Now, not a moment too soon, a counteroffensive commensurate to the challenge is taking shape. Business and government are coming together around a Zero Trust Strategy, which assumes that attackers may already be in computer networks rather than waiting for evidence of a hack to respond.

“It is really the cornerstone cyber program,” Chris DeRusha, the US government’s chief information security officer, told Oliver Wyman’s Cyber lead, Paul Mee, at the Billington CyberSecurity Summit earlier this month.

“We will only be able to start really beating our adversaries when we can do it at their speed.”


Zero trust has been around for a while as a concept rather than a well-developed practice. Now the development of technologies to more precisely control access to computer networks and strengthen identity verification is gathering pace. So too is work on code-scanning tools that can help software developers peer deep into their supply chains to ensure the integrity and security of code. “There is a lot of innovation that’s happening now,” said Katie Gray, who leads the cybersecurity investment practice at In-Q-Tel.

That said, we are still in the early days of a cyber fight back that will be measured in years. The imperative to innovate at all costs – feature first, security last – remains strong within the tech industry. Trained cyber experts are in short supply, and business and government need to move faster to fill the gap with automated tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning. Yet the urgency and the strategy is now clear to everyone.

As DeRusha put it, “We will only be able to start really beating our adversaries and having defense win when we can do it at their speed.”



– Increase in US cyber insurance pricing in the second quarter of 2021 compared with a year earlier, up from 35% in the first quarter.

Source: Marsh Global Insurance Market Index

$5.9 million 

– Amount demanded by apparent Russia-based ransomware thieves to decrypt the computer system of an Iowa grain cooperative. The attack came two months after President Joe Biden warned Vladimir Putin that Russian hacking groups should steer clear of agriculture and 15 other sectors.

Source: The Washington Post

13.3 million 

– The number of telehealth visits conducted by the US Veterans Administration since the pandemic erupted, an increase of more than 1,500% from previous levels.

Source: US Department of Veterans Affairs



Nicol Turner Lee

Director, Center for Technology Innovation at the Brookings Institution

"We have not maximized the opportunity because we focus on technology as a consumption matter – getting devices into people’s hands – instead of getting literacy and knowledge into their heads."

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