'It’s now on us to respond': A new Atlassian study finds many employees would quit if their employer didn't align with their values

Mike Cannon-Brookes (left) with Atlassian co-founder Scott Farquhar (Photo by Kelly Sullivan, Getty Images for Fortune)
  • Atlassian released a report which found Aussies want businesses to be just as concerned with their impact on society as they are with their financial performance.
  • The research was conducted by PwC, and found 31% of employees would quit their job if their company didn’t align with their values.
  • Dom Price, work futurist at Atlassian, told Business Insider Australia most businesses have a stance on certain issues, they may just need to be more vocal about them.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Australians want their workplaces to play a bigger role in issues that matter to them.

Research commissioned by tech company Atlassian found businesses are more likely to lose employees if they don’t take a stand and be vocal about important issues.

According to the Return on Action report – which was conducted by PwC – 69% of respondents agree that businesses should be just as concerned with their impact on society as they are with their financial performance.

It found that only 34% of people are satisfied with the amount of action their company is taking on major issues like climate change, data privacy and the cost of living.

Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes said in a statement that for Australian businesses, sitting on the fence is no longer good enough.

“As business leaders, we have an awesome responsibility,” he said. “Employees want us to ensure we are making the planet better, not worse. Faced with government inaction on some of our biggest problems, it’s the business community that can step up and drive meaningful change”.

Fellow co-founder Scott Farquhar said in a statement that many companies focus only on the return on investment but “times have changed”.

“As business leaders we should listen to the views of the workforce; focusing on our impact on society delivers a return of its own,” Farquhar said. “It’s now on us to respond.”

The report’s major findings

The research was conducted in October 2019, with a survey conducted on 1,200 Australian employees. A similar study was conducted on more than 2,500 employees in the US, where Atlassian is publicly listed.

In the report, the most important issues for Austrailans were the environment (55%), economic factors (47%) and health and wellbeing (45%). The report also found that 75% of respondents acted on at least one societal issue in the past 12 months – mainly around the environment.

When it came to employee retention, the report highlighted that 31% of employees would quit their job if their company didn’t align with their values. This attitude was felt most strongly by Gen Y (39%) followed by Gen Z (29%), Gen X (25%) and Baby Boomers (22%).

What most Aussies want their employers to do is take responsibility for their environmental impact, as well as use and invest in renewable energy. They also want business leaders to hold politicians to account on major issues.

And Generation Z are most vocal, with 72% valuing businesses that speak out on issues that are important to them.

While the environment was a major issue for Australians, in the US, it was economic factors. The report highlighted that the top issues were economic (42%) followed by environmental (37%) and health (33%).

And US Gen Z were the most supportive of business action. This generation is also more likely to quit if their employer didn’t align with their values (43%) compared to millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers. Plus, 57% of Gen Z believed employees should be able to voice their opinions on issues that matter to them.

Employees want business leaders to act

Dom Price, work futurist at Atlassian, told Business Insider Australia that the report is designed to help businesses understand what the opportunity is for them.

“This is not intended to point a finger of blame or criticise anyone but to say as a business community in Australia, what [is] our opportunity right now to build an environment where we get to thrive and not just survive,” he said.

Price highlighted that companies may already have a stance on particular issues but they aren’t necessarily vocal about it.

“It’s [about] whether they vocalise that or not,” he said. “Not only vocalise it, but are they consistent with it?”

“We want businesses to find their voice on the topic that they can and should impact. Things like mental health, the health system, drought, the climate, cost of living – these are all things that businesses impact every single day, whether we want them to or not. But they are ones where we believe having a positive stance will have the right impact.”

Price also emphasised the importance of businesses listening to their employees.

“If my biggest asset in my business is my people, and they’re saying something really loud, I should listen to them,” he said.

“As a business leader, I should be listening to them and seeing how can I can amplify them, try to support them, and how I can make them feel not separate from the world, but the work that they do and the things that they support in my business, support the world as well. And that congruence is where you get highly motivated and engaged employees.”

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