Employee engagement has decreased in the United States for the first time in 10 years. The percentage of engaged employees fell from 36 percent in 2020 to 34 percent in 2021, according to a recent Gallup survey. This downward spiral continued into 2022; just 32 percent of full- and part-time employees are now engaged.
While these numbers are startling, we can pinpoint the drivers of disengagement and prevent them from causing burnout and high turnover. This article will discuss what’s influencing the modern employee experience (EX) and how businesses can adapt to these shifts.
The Current State of EX
As the saying goes, good employees are an organization's greatest asset. To maintain high customer satisfaction, enhance product quality, and establish a reputable brand, you need top talent. Your company's success ultimately hinges on the experiences your employees have from initial recruitment to onboarding, development, and beyond. These experiences, whether positive or negative, shape their work ethic, level of collaboration, and commitment to improving overall operational performance.
Prioritizing a positive employee experience is essential to cultivating a motivated, committed workforce that’s eager to stay with your organization. However, positive EX isn’t as simple as stocking your break room with free snacks or offering flex Fridays. What employees want and need changes, especially during turbulent economic times. In 2023, EX will be directly affected by remote work, digitization, and changing expectations.
The Rise of Remote Work
The rise of remote work has brought significant changes to the employee experience. With the widespread adoption of remote work policies, employees have more flexibility and autonomy over their work schedules and locations. This newfound freedom has enabled many to achieve a better work-life balance, reduce commuting time and costs, and improve their overall quality of life. Additionally, remote work has allowed organizations to access a wider talent pool and increase diversity and inclusion.
However, remote work also poses several challenges for employees. Remote work requires employees to be self-disciplined, organized, and have excellent time management skills. It can also lead to feelings of isolation and disconnection because employees miss out on face-to-face interactions and the sense of belonging that comes with working in an office environment. In addition, remote work can blur the boundaries between work and personal life, leading to burnout and decreased productivity.
The remedy? The fix here lies in a hybrid work model. Research from Andrew Reise reveals that the optimal balance of in-person interaction leads to the highest levels of employee engagement.
Our study shows that 55 percent of participants would like to work remotely for most of the week (3-5 days) but still crave some office access. In addition, 53 percent said they would like office space for equipment use and collaboration with coworkers. Though culture can be maintained virtually to some extent, it’s not a replacement for face-to-face meetings. Furthermore, workers with higher pay scales expressed a need for office space to meet with clients (46 percent).
Digitization and Employee Experience
The ongoing digital transformation has significantly impacted employee experience positively and negatively. On the one hand, digitization has created new opportunities for employees to collaborate, access information, and work more efficiently. The use of digital tools and technologies has streamlined many business processes and enabled employees to work remotely, giving them more flexibility and work-life balance.
However, digitization has also posed several challenges for employees. The rapid pace of technological change requires employees to continuously learn new skills and adapt to new tools and systems. This can lead to feelings of stress and being overwhelmed, and some employees may struggle to keep up with the pace of change.
Conversely, organizations that fail to digitize can also cause a negative employee experience. Things such as outdated computers, clunky software, and repetitive manual processes can cause workers to lose confidence in your organization. A significant proportion of employees (38 percent) are experiencing burnout, with the primary cause being ineffective processes and systems.
The remedy? Progressive organizations prioritize investing in appropriate tools that enable their employees to work efficiently and with an eye toward future advancements. With the vast array of technological options available today, it is more convenient than ever to equip employees with the tools to optimize their productivity and boost their confidence in their position.
Changing Employee Expectations
In the past, going above and beyond in the workplace was seen as an exceptional trait that only a few employees possessed. However, in recent years, it has become an expectation that many organizations have of their employees.
With the constant disruption brought about by technological advancements and economic shifts, employers have relied heavily on their employees to keep up with the market's ever-changing demands. As a result, many employees are feeling overworked and overwhelmed.
In response, they are pushing back and setting boundaries to prioritize their well-being and establish a better work-life balance. However, studies show that those who feel they have achieved a good work-life balance are still willing to go above and beyond for their organizations, demonstrating the importance of a healthy work-life balance in fostering employee productivity and loyalty.
Moreover, with the changing work landscape and the rise of new technologies, employees seek more flexibility, room for growth, and positive work culture from their employers. Additionally, employees want opportunities for professional development, career growth, and clear communication and feedback from their managers.
Positive work culture is also crucial for employees who want to feel valued and supported by their organization. A company that prioritizes employee experience by offering a supportive and inclusive work environment can attract and retain top talent, increase employee engagement and productivity, and foster a positive company culture. As employee expectations continue to evolve, organizations need to adapt and respond to these changes to remain competitive in today's job market.
The remedy? Above all, listen to your employees. Instead of relying on annual or biannual employee engagement surveys, consider utilizing regular pulse surveys and open feedback platforms. To gain a real-time understanding of your employees' challenges, incorporate candidate interviews, engagement surveys, ongoing performance conversations, annual performance reviews, and exit interviews into your approach.
In addition to utilizing pulse surveys and feedback platforms, employers must encourage and model healthy work-life balance behaviors. This includes offering flexibility and autonomy in work environments, such as hybrid work models, which enable workers to adapt their schedules around personal responsibilities, such as caring for sick children or attending medical appointments. By creating a supportive work culture that emphasizes work-life balance, employers can help mitigate burnout and reduce employee stress levels.
Furthermore, offering clear job expectations, reinforcing the company's mission and values, and providing career development opportunities are surefire ways to keep workers engaged. Employees want to feel that their work is meaningful and that they are contributing to the company's success. By setting clear expectations and reinforcing the company's mission and values, employers can help to cultivate a sense of purpose among employees.
Lastly, offering career development opportunities, such as training and advancement programs, helps keep employees motivated and engaged by providing opportunities for growth and development within the organization.
The Importance of Talent Retention
In the second half of 2023, quit rates will remain high, correlating with the rise in employee power. Firms that slow down EX investments will pay for it in labor retention and low-engagement costs, according to a Forrester report, Predictions 2023: Future of Work.
Talent retention is crucial for any organization because it can save time and money in recruiting and training new employees. Retaining talented employees also boosts team morale, productivity, and the business's overall success.
Andrew Reise can help you understand the needs and expectations of your employees with our industry expertise, proven employee research methods, and strategy development framework.
How Companies Are Upgrading Employee Experience
No matter how refined a company’s brand strategy is, it won’t elevate EX if the right employees with the right behaviors aren’t backing that strategy. That’s the problem a large telecommunications company recently came to us with.
Read the full employee experience strategy success story to see how we helped develop an employee experience strategy that prepared the whole organization to deliver on its brand’s promises.