16 Barriers to EX Success in 2024 — and How to Remove Them
As we continue our "EX Trends to Watch in 2024" series — be sure to check out parts one, two, and three here — this fourth installment focuses on the complex barriers to a world-class employee experience (EX), as well as solutions that might help organizations tackle them. Our panel, composed of experts from our research and People@Work teams, brings a wealth of knowledge, shedding light on how the leading organizations we support are tackling these EX challenges.
1. Reaching Front-line Healthcare Workers
Crystal Perel, M.A., Senior Consultant: "In my work with organizations that have deskless workers, I've observed a significant struggle in effectively communicating actions to the frontline. This challenge is particularly pronounced in healthcare, where clear and actionable communication is vital. The key lies in developing communication strategies that are not only disseminated but resonate deeply with frontline staff, ensuring they are not just informed but also engaged and empowered." (Read our recent blog on EX trends in healthcare.)
2. Data Challenges and Executive Decision-Making
Ellen Lovell, Ph.D., Senior Consultant: "Access to clean, integrated data is a major hurdle, compounded by the frequent shifts in executive decision-making. These shifts, often fear-driven and financially motivated, lead to a cycle of indecision and rework. For instance, well-conceived performance management plans are often scrapped or revamped, resulting in lost time and resources. This reactionary approach can severely impede the effectiveness of EX initiatives."
3. Leadership and Shifting Priorities
Sarah Jorgenson, Senior Consultant: "I've noticed significant disruptions due to changes in senior leadership and shifting C-suite priorities. This often leads to a 'wait and see' mode among leaders and employees, causing delays in action planning. The need for clear, consistent leadership and defined priorities is critical to prevent stagnation and ensure the successful implementation of strategic EX initiatives."
4. Organizational Structures Lead to Reporting Challenges
Christian Roome, Senior Consultant: "In my experience, a lack of clarity on what should be reported from an organizational structure standpoint is a recurring issue. As large organizations undergo structural changes, determining what to include or exclude in reports, and how to compare trends fairly, can be both time-consuming and distracting. This focus on minutiae often detracts from understanding larger, more impactful issues in EX."
5. Clean Data as a Barrier to Effective Employee Listening
Davinder Johal, M.Sc., Senior Consultant: "The effort required from core teams to execute any form of listening is a significant barrier to more frequent employee feedback. In any organization, accessing clean, unified data can be challenging. Additionally, there's a misconception of 'survey fatigue' when it's often more about 'action fatigue' — the exhaustion from repeated surveys without meaningful follow-up. Streamlining data collection and effective action planning at the managerial level are essential for meaningful employee engagement."
6. External Economic Pressures and Organizational Clarity
Bradley Wilson, Ph.D., Principal Consultant: "Organizations are grappling with external economic factors that drive rapid change. This often leads to confusion about what is within our control. This ambiguity can prevent organizations from taking necessary steps to support employees through the stress of internal and external pressures. Clear understanding and definition of organizational scope are crucial in these times."
7. Connecting EX Data with Business Impact
Crystal Perel: "In a recent case, a Chief People Officer I worked with needed to demonstrate the value of EX data to his C-suite peers. We successfully linked business scorecard data with EX data from the highest and lowest-performing stores, making a clear case for the impact of EX on business outcomes. This approach is increasingly vital for HR leaders to show the value and ROI of integrating EX with business strategies."
8. The Necessity of Data Literacy in HR
Ellen Lovell: "There's a growing expectation for HR leaders to be data literate and use this data for evidence-based decision-making. However, there's a lack of consistent standards on what this literacy should entail, leading to poorly planned ideas or practices. The accountability expected in this role needs clearer enforcement and guidelines."
9. Storytelling with Data
Sarah Jorgenson: "HR business partners are being asked to connect various data points, from lifecycle surveys to other business metrics like quality, attrition, and performance. The challenge is in storytelling with this data, presenting it in a way that's both compelling and informative." (Read our blog on this topic.)
10. Customer Data Analytics and Confidentiality in Europe
Christian Roome: "I'm encountering client data analytics teams more frequently. They view our survey data as a rich resource, but there are often conflicts over data confidentiality and usage here in Europe. It's a balancing act between leveraging this data and maintaining the privacy and trust of our clients and their employees."
11. Navigating Return-to-Office (RTO) Policies
Crystal Perel: "Many organizations I work with are adopting semi-flexible hybrid policies for RTO, avoiding a hardline approach. However, there's often a disconnect between senior leadership's office-based preferences and employees' desire for a hybrid model. Flexible policies can alleviate this tension, serving as a significant part of any Employee Value Proposition. A good portion of the workforce is willing to accept a lower salary in exchange for this benefit."
12. Industry-Specific Attitudes Towards Remote Work
Ellen Lovell: "Industries like FinTech and insurance are demanding more in-person work, attempting to revert to pre-pandemic work styles. This is creating challenges for employees. On the other hand, healthcare is moving towards hybrid work for non-clinical roles, though there's still a demand for a certain level of in-person work. Partly this is due to a desire to revert back to the old ways of working (the “good ol’ days” before all this financial pressure), but there are also pragmatic reasons such as paying for a physical office location and expecting it to be used."
13. Discrepancies in Flexible Work Expectations
Sarah Jorgenson: "I've seen inconsistencies in what is communicated about flexible work during recruitment versus the actual workplace reality. This 'bait and switch' can lead to employee dissatisfaction, underscoring the need for clearer communication about work arrangements."
14. Flexibility in Hybrid Work Arrangements
Christian Roome: "Most of my clients have formalized their remote work policies, typically mandating a partial return to the office. While employees are generally okay with a 2-3 day office presence, complete inflexibility can be frustrating. I'm also noticing leader pushback in sectors where flexibility isn't feasible, which could lead to future issues."
15. The Impact of Mandated Office Returns
Davinder Johal: "Hybrid and flexible working questions are no longer a focus in many employee programs. Most organizations have implemented office return mandates, with varying reactions from employees. One CEO I spoke with was surprised that no one left despite the mandate, leading him to believe it's business as usual, while others are still assessing the impact of these mandates."
16. A Necessary Focus on Collaboration and Connection
Bradley Wilson: "Since the pandemic, there's been a shift in how organizations manage RTO, focusing less on individual work arrangements and more on fostering team collaboration and connection. The alignment of work arrangements between managers and direct reports is emerging as a key factor in performance and engagement."
Maximizing the Value of Employee Listening with Perceptyx
These first-person insights from our team underscore the critical role of effective employee listening strategies in navigating the complexities of today’s fast-evolving business world. In times of uncertainty, such strategies are not merely beneficial but essential in setting organizational priorities and addressing employee needs. To explore how Perceptyx’s EX experts and best-in-class People Insights Platform can assist your organization in these challenging times, we invite you to schedule a meeting with our team.