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January 26, 2016

“Finn Futures” Debuts National Survey of US Attitudes and Beliefs on Collaborative Workstyles, Business Ownership and More

New research finds that Americans believe the most important initiative companies can undertake is investing in their employees through training and growth opportunities, followed by recruiting and retention of talent.  Those surveyed also ranked diversity and inclusion programs last in importance.

This view of employee enrichment programs extended to minorities: for non-white Americans, investing in employees, providing flexible work environments and recruitment rose to the top in terms of importance, while diversity programs ranked near the bottom of the list provided.  The only group of Americans with a significantly different view of enrichment programs was millennials, who ranked social responsibility above training, recruiting and all other initiatives.

In addition, despite the current trend toward collaborative workstyles, the survey found that more than half of Americans would prefer to work individually.  Only a third favored collaboration.

"This desire to work individually could be a result of a natural tension between poorly integrated collaborative efforts in American business and a genuine, individual desire to advance professionally,” said Dan Leidl, Director of Organizational Development & Human Capital at PRG and author of “Team Turnarounds: a Playbook for Transforming Underperforming Teams”.  “Ambiguity at the decision making level and a lack of explicitly shared goals can result in distrust in collaborative environments. Transparency and clarity are the keys to getting the most out of collaborative work styles; being even more explicit about how shared efforts can lead to individual gains may help groups overcome collaborative frustrations.”

These findings are part of “Finn Futures,” a new and ongoing series of research to be released periodically throughout the year by Finn Partners and its polling and research division.  The workplace study was conducted to examine the validity of prevailing assumptions and fills a gap in recent workplace research, which has focused heavily on managers, not necessarily the opinions and concerns of American workers across all strata.  A report of the full survey is available here:

“We have seen surprising results, especially with regard to diversity programs, collaboration and owning your own business,” said Finn Partners Director of Research Christopher Lawrence. “The lower ranking of diversity programs seems to fly in the face of what we believe to know about the value of diversity to businesses’ bottom lines.  But the fact that this ranking is consistent across all demographic groups may indicate that these programs themselves are not seen as immediately beneficial to individual workers who are hyper-focused on career growth and trajectory. They place greater value on training and investment – essentially, color-blind programs that benefit all employees, regardless of gender, age or race – as of concrete, personal importance.”

Among the key findings: 

  1. Employee training and growth opportunities (ranked first) decisively trumped diversity (last).
  • Among the six workplace initiatives tested, fully one third (33%) rank investing in employees first; over half (55%) rank it in the top two.
  • For non-whites, investing in employees, providing flexible work environments, and recruitment are the top three respectively; diversity programs rank fifth.
  • Millennials believe that acting socially responsible is most important, followed by investing in employees; they rank diversity sixth.


  1. The majority of Americans in the workplace prefer to work alone.
  • More than half of Americans (52%) prefer working individually.
  • Despite the trend toward more collaborative work teams, only a third (33%) of those surveyed volunteer wanting to work that way.
  • One-tenth (9%) prefer to work one-on-one with a supervisor or boss.


  1. More than half of Americans (54%) – especially millennials and minorities – would prefer to own their own business.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of adults under 45 say that “owning their own business would be the best employment scenario”
    • More than two-thirds (67%) of millennials agree.
    • Only 44% of those 45+ would rather be their own boss.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) of non-white Americans want to own their own business, significantly higher than white Americans (49%).
  • More than a third (37%) with household incomes less than $40K feels strongly that they want to own their own business – significantly higher than all higher-income categories.


  1. Millennials may be less invested in their industry or company.
  • 43% of American workers plan to spend more than 10 years within their current industry; 69% plan to spend six years or more.
  • About half (49%) plan to spend six years or more at their current company.
  • But, on average, younger Americans believe that they will spend no more than seven years working in their current industry and no more than six years with their current company. 


  1. More than 60% of employed Americans would go back to school
  • 70% of adults under 45 say that “going back to school to earn a different or higher degree is worthwhile.”
    • 74% of millennials agree...
    • …compared to only 53% of those 45+.
  • 71% of non-white Americans agree with this sentiment, significantly higher than whites (49%).
  • More than half (51%) of African-Americans strongly agree with this statement.


Survey methodology:

This survey was conducted online of 1,000 American adults nationwide, November 8 – 17, 2015.  The data was weighted slightly to ensure it was representative of the U.S. population.

finn futures infographic



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