Satisfied, contented workers may be more willing to change jobs than employers expect. A study from global integrated communications agency Zeno Group found that while companies often focus on addressing their disengaged or disgruntled groups, 48 percent of satisfied employees report being open to new opportunities, with many actively searching. In addition, those surveyed report their employers do not recognize this reality, with just 21 percent of respondents saying their employers think many workers are looking for new roles elsewhere.

Zeno’s study “A New Mindset at Work: The Evolving Workplace in 2021,” surveyed more than 4,000 workers in four markets—the U.S., UK, France and China—to explore the changing relationship between employees and employers. It found a global workforce optimistic about the future, but one that expects, if not demands, a new working environment on their terms. Despite global challenges and concerns about the return to work, 54 percent of all employees believe that now is the time for a company to consider making major changes for their employees.

Beyond hybrid work and flexibility, which are seen as permanent expectations for the new workplace, the study reveals new brand imperatives for companies to retain employees. Professional growth and career mobility rank high among employees’ expectations, according to the study. Respondents in the U.S. said interesting work (79 percent), opportunities to grow (78 percent) and the ability to move within the company (73 percent) ranked high among their expectations for workplace loyalty. In all markets, workers were most satisfied with the safety and security they feel on the job; they were most dissatisfied with job growth/opportunities (outside their current employer).

Economic and future prospects are shaping employee views of the workplace. The study suggests employees perceive missing out on the economic recovery, with employees seeing a better economic future for their companies than for their own families. U.S. employees were nine points more likely to say their employer was “headed in the right direction” than their own family’s economic situation; the gap between perception of employer and family trajectory in both the U.K. and China was 13 points.

“Our findings should be a wake-up call for employers,” says Mark Shadle, Zeno’s managing director of global corporate affairs. “Employees have redefined what they expect of their employers—the opportunity to move up, move ahead and achieve a bright future for themselves and their families. Leaders risk losing top talent if they don’t take a hard look at the opportunities they provide for meaningful work and growth as well as their workplace practices, such as flexible work arrangements.”

Across generations, U.S. Millennials reported they are far happier with their jobs and work life than any other U.S. generation. In fact, their rating is 21 points higher than respondents 55 years and up. While in China the opposite is true: 69 percent of people age 55 and older rated work life highly compared to 47 percent of Gen Z respondents.

The study also shows how employees’ values are shifting and how these changes shape their views on the workplace. Out of 37 values, “power” was one of the top three declining values in the U.S, UK and China. Instead, people chose “protecting the family” as one of the top values in all four markets (U.S., U.K. and France No.1, and No. 4 in China).