A Survey Experiment on Future Knowledge Workers : Consequences of Falsely Promising a People-Centric Workplace : Employee Preferences and Concerns About Employer Brand Integrity: A Study of Future Knowledge Workers
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- Master Thesis 
Decades of empirical research has documented that job satisfaction and employee engagement are important factors at the workplace, which in turn are positively associated with organizational performance. In short, organizations with satisfied and engaged employees tend to perform better than organizations with dissatisfied and disengaged workers. Even though firms often brand themselves as concerned with work environment, job satisfaction, and employee well-being, the actual engagement levels at workplaces worldwide appears to be alarmingly low. Thus, it seems to be a mismatch between what several firms externally portray themselves as and the real experience employees have within the workplace. In addition, the importance for firms to acquire skilled knowledge workers is on the rise as manual labor is increasingly being automated and replaced by highly educated professionals. Understanding and meeting this group of future knowledge workers’ needs is argued to be paramount for companies who wish to succeed in the future. Inspired by these recent trends in society and the business world, we conducted a two-part study on the preferences of future knowledge workers and the effects of not living up to the promises of a people-centric work environment in one’s organization. In the first part of this study, a descriptive survey was used to investigate which factors future knowledge workers deem important when choosing an employer. Based on past research, 20 attributes were tested on future knowledge workers from top universities in Norway. The results showed that job satisfaction, interesting work, good social environment, trust, and opportunity for personal growth were ranked as the five most important factors by a sample of 658 respondents. This part of the study also found that students ranked most people-centric factors as significantly more important than salaries. In the second part of our study, we conducted a survey experiment to investigate the effects of falsely advertising people-centric work practices to future knowledge workers. These results showed that false promises of people-centric practices can have a negative effect on firms’ ability to attract, engage and retain critical talent. Furthermore, the study found that whether a company brands themselves as people-centric or not, had no significant effect on predicted attraction, engagement nor retention levels. One implication of these findings is that companies should be aware of the potential risk of using people-centric branding: The gain from such advertising appears to be smaller than expected, and the backfiring effect that occurs if they should fail to live up to their own promises might be substantial.