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2022 Career Optimism Index™ Shows Significant Gap Between Employee Realities and Employer Perceptions, Highlights Actions Needed to Move Beyond the Great Resignation

By Sharla Hooper

The study was conducted by the University of Phoenix Career Institute, part of the University’s College of Doctoral Studies, which examines workforce dynamics to inform solutions that can foster workplace equity

As the Great Resignation continues to disrupt the U.S. workforce, the University of Phoenix Career Institute™ has released its 2022 Career Optimism Index™, a comprehensive study assessing the state of Americans’ career trajectories. New to this year’s Index—and based on findings uncovered in last year’s report—is the addition of employers as a surveyed group, alongside American workers. As a result, the Index reveals a striking disconnect between employee realities and employer perceptions of workers’ needs, underscoring that in order to retain talent, employers must address core employee needs in several critical areas.

Designed to identify barriers to career advancement and uncover solutions that can foster workplace equity, the survey measures employee and employer attitudes, priorities, and challenges. According to this year’s results, nearly 1 in 3 Americans say they would quit their current jobs without having another job lined up, but an astonishing 69 percent would consider staying in their current roles if their employer instituted key changes in the workplace. With 76 percent of employers concerned about retention and 90 percent prioritizing it, these gaps require employers’ immediate attention:

  • Compensation: 86 percent of employers think their employees are satisfied with their compensation but, in reality, nearly half of employees are unsatisfied and 56 percent are living paycheck to paycheck
  • Training:  89 percent of employers say upskilling opportunities are provided frequently, in comparison to 61 percent  of employees who say these opportunities are provided frequently
  • Advocacy: 91 percent of employers believe their employees have someone in their professional life who advocates for them, but only 63 percent of employees agree
  • Mental Health: 85 percent of employers say their employees have mental health resources available yet less than half of the workforce have taken advantage of resources available to manage work-related stress
  • Job Security: 91 percent of employers believe their employees feel empowered in their job, but 52 percent of American workers see themselves as easily replaceable in their position and 41 percent worry about losing their job

In addition to these gaps, 40 percent of Americans say COVID-19 has taken their career off course. But despite these challenges, 81 percent remain hopeful about the future of their careers, with 73 percent saying that hope is what got them through the past year. By taking concrete steps to address these gaps, employers could begin to successfully transition away from the Great Resignation and into the Great Retention, helping to stabilize the American workforce. 

“The second year of the pandemic has revealed American workers’ resiliency, grit and optimism against a multitude of challenges; however there is a clear disconnect between employers and their employees that must be addressed in order to retain and grow talent amid the Great Resignation,” said University of Phoenix Provost John Woods.

Housed within the University’s College of Doctoral Studies, the University of Phoenix Career Institute TM conducts research to inform problem-solving and partners with leading organizations such as Jobs for the Future to break down barriers that Americans face in their careers. The Institute has committed to fielding the Career Optimism Index TM study every year, sharing the results broadly to help inform societal solutions to career advancement and workplace equity.

Each year, the Career Institute calculates an Optimism Score considering the five pillars of career optimism: Financial Security, Skill Development, Mental Health/Wellness, Career Trajectory, and Job Security. The scoring scale ranges from 0 to 100, with 0 being the least optimistic and 100 most optimistic about careers. This year’s overall Career Optimism Score lands at 64 (from 65 last year), reflecting stability in levels of career optimism and strength in Mental Health/Wellness (80), Job Security (82) and Career Trajectory (80), despite significant challenges of Financial Security (54) and Skill Development (53). 

For more information about the University of Phoenix Career Institute TM and the complete Career Optimism Index™ Study, visit

The Career Optimism Index™ study is one of the most comprehensive studies of Americans’ personal career perceptions to date. The University of Phoenix Career Institute will conduct this research annually to provide insights on current workforce trends and to help identify solutions to support and advance American careers and create equity in the workplace.

For the second annual study, more than 5,000 U.S. adults were surveyed about how they feel about their careers at this moment in time, including their concerns, their challenges, and the degree to which they are optimistic about core aspects of their careers, their advancement in the future. The study was conducted among a diverse, nationally representative, sample of U.S. adults among a robust sample to allow for gender, generational, racial, and socioeconomic differences and includes additional analysis of workers in the top twenty media markets across the country to uncover geographic nuances. This year, the study also explored insights from 500 U.S. employers who are influential or play a critical role in hiring and workplace decisions within a range of departments, company sizes and industries to provide comparison between the workforce and those who hire, train and retain them.

University of Phoenix Career Institute™ was created to address broad, persistent and systemic barriers to career advancement through research-based solutions and impactful partnerships that break down barriers Americans face in their careers.

University of Phoenix is continually innovating to help working adults enhance their careers in a rapidly changing world. Flexible schedules, relevant courses, interactive learning, and Career Services for Life® help students more effectively pursue career and personal aspirations while balancing their busy lives. For more information, visit