Employee experience might get short shrift in 2024. Making it a priority could set your business apart.
Leaders have a lot to be mindful of. The big decisions – and their consequences – rest on their shoulders. That affects the organization’s financial performance, market share, growth, and a host of other metrics of success. They also have a lot of data at their fingertips that they use to make these big decisions. It can be immensely helpful, providing insights into what the business does and does not do well with a great deal of accuracy. What leaders must never forget among all that data is that the decisions they make affect real people, and real people will be instrumental in the success or failure of those initiatives. With research firm Forrester predicting an employee experience recession in 2024, it’s important for leaders to not let that happen in their organizations. It also opens an opportunity to stand out from other employers and lay the foundations of a bright future.
Buck the Trend
Forrester’s analysts forecast a big drop in the percentage of companies making a strong commitment to DEI programs, with only 1 in 5 maintaining an endorsed companywide strategy and DEI personnel, down from 1 in 3 in 2022. Commitments grew substantially in the wake of the social movements of 2020, but budget cuts have decimated DEI teams since.
“As a result, too many companies will default to ‘check the box’ efforts such as heritage days, leading to performative — rather than substantive — DEI programs,” Forrester VP and principal analyst J.P. Gownder wrote.
Perhaps on a related note, employee engagement and culture energy fell in 2023 and will do so again this year, with engagement dropping to 34%. Forrester cites return-to-office mandates and compensation disputes as contributing factors.
Leaders who read the tea leaves can dare to go a different direction and re-emphasize all the changes companies made in 2021-22 to enthuse their employees and become the place where people want to work.
“By developing a mature EX program, your organization can drive higher productivity, lower attrition, and more creativity. And leaders who invest in, rather than shying away from, AI recruiting and skills intelligence can increase the adaptiveness and competency of their workforce,” Gownder wrote.
Most Valuable Resources
Employers who emphasize employee experience this year will ease a lot of tensions they might not even be aware of. A MyPerfectResume survey of 1,900 U.S.-based workers conducted in October found that workers are uneasy about a lot of things entering the new year.
Though a recession seems far less likely than the predictions of early 2023 held, a whopping 78% of respondents said they expected one in 2024, and 85% are worried about losing their jobs. If they do look for other work, 69% expect increased competition for job openings and 61% expect a longer recruitment process than usual. All that stress can be grating, and 40% predict more burnout than in previous years.
When it comes down to money, 69% said more people will quit their jobs this year if they don’t consider their salaries rewarding, and 68% said employers need to pay more to keep their workers. While we surely won’t see numbers comparable to the “Great Resignation,” these results still serve as a warning to employers to prioritize employee experience.
“Companies will lose their most valuable resources – their people,” TalenTrust founder and CEO Kathleen Quinn Votaw advises. “Put people first and thrive. Don’t be foolish, people don’t grow on trees, they are precious.”
In a six-month trial in 2022 in the U.K., 61 businesses adopted a four-day work week for their employees, all but five decided to keep the change in place beyond the trial’s end, with 30% declaring a permanent switch. As for productivity and revenue, they were up for employers who shared their financial data. While those gains might have been surprising, the benefits to employees were not. More than 71% reported feeling less burned out and 73% more were more satisfied with their lives. Businesses saw a 57% reduction in churn and a 65% drop in employees calling in sick.
“Finding ways to stand out as an employer and to give people back a little bit more quality of life absolutely provides a competitive advantage,” Joe Mull, an HR veteran and author of “Employalty: How to Ignite Commitment and Keep Top Talent in the New Age of Work,” told Fox 32 Chicago. “That’s one of the reasons these four-day work weeks are being talked about so frequently nowadays. That’s a pretty obvious and transparent way to say, ‘We want you to have a job that doesn’t take over your life but fits into it in a better way.’”
The changes don’t have to be that drastic for businesses to offer a more humane employee experience. Mull also advocates for better benefits such as more paid time off and allowing employees to receive benefits from Day One. He advises easing workloads and building a culture of respect. Too often, Mull says, employees are treated as a commodity first and as people second.
“This is a dehumanization of the workplace,” he said on his Boss Better Now podcast. “It’s a huge ingredient to what’s driving people away from workplaces. There has been for too long a steady increase in the amount of comfort that businesses and leaders have with employee suffering.”
Re-emphasizing employee experience will make current workers happier and more likely to stay, and it will make companies the “destination workplaces” that attract top talent. That will allow leaders to reap “all the benefits and business results that dedicated employees generate,” Mull says.
Putting people first makes it easier for success to fall into place. Of all a leader’s responsibilities, employee experience should be at the top.