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New Study Reveals a Disengaged ‘COVID Cohort’ of Employees, Signals Looming HR Crisis

By Perceptyx - May 26, 2021

Perceptyx research finds that employees onboarded during the pandemic are less engaged and
more likely to churn; urges managers to double-down on relationships

TEMECULA, Calif., May 26, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE)  -- A new study from Perceptyx, the leading employee listening and people analytics platform, has uncovered a problem in the making for companies that hired employees during the pandemic. Those employees are markedly less engaged, less connected to the culture, and less proud to work at their company than counterparts who joined pre-pandemic. 

“The past 18 months have been a grand experiment in remote onboarding,” said Brett Wells, Ph.D., Director of People Analytics at Perceptyx. “Now the results are in, and unfortunately it seems most employers have failed to engage their remote joiners adequately. They’ve created a ticking time bomb of sorts, which will likely lead to higher turnover rates in the near future. HR leaders need to rethink how they engage this cohort of employees as well as how they will onboard future hires.”

Perceptyx surveyed more than 1,000 employees during March 2021 about their onboarding experiences and overall engagement at work. The resulting study, Failure to Attach: The Crisis for Pandemic Hires, compared the responses between two cohorts: those who joined during the pandemic (those with the company less than a year) and those who joined prior (tenured for 2-3 years). The differences were notable.

  • Employees who onboarded during the pandemic were less likely to feel part of the team than the prior cohort (73 percent compared to 78 percent). And fewer of them said their employer was effective at keeping employees connected (72 percent compared to 76 percent).
  • This cohort also reported lower well-being across almost every aspect of their experience, except in their ability to balance work and personal life. For example, only 64 percent of pandemic joiners said their employer cares about their health and well-being (compared with 71 percent of the prior cohort). Fewer said the expected pace of work was reasonable (72 percent vs 78 percent), that they felt able to “bounce back” (62 percent vs 72 percent) and that they were overcoming setbacks (71 percent vs 77 percent).  
  • Only seven in ten of these employees would recommend their organization as a good place to work and were proud to work there, compared to eight out of ten in the prior cohort.

Perceptyx also compared the findings against its HR Benchmark Database containing engagement survey responses gathered from 14 million respondents over a three-year rolling period. Those data show turnover is 45 percent higher among employees who wouldn’t recommend their employer and 21 percent higher among those who don’t feel pride in their organizations. 

“Usually, new joiners are more engaged than their slightly longer-tenured peers. Clearly, this ‘honeymoon effect’ was diminished for those joining during the pandemic and likely to be onboarded remotely. Our data suggest the levels of engagement and well-being reported by the COVID cohort are strong indicators of future turnover,” continued Wells.

It’s not all bad news, however. The study showed that employees who onboarded during the pandemic felt more welcomed by their manager than those who onboarded prior (85 percent of remote onboarders felt this way compared with only 79 percent of the prior cohort). They were also more likely to report that their manager supported them in balancing their work and personal life. Managers seem to be making every effort to support their new reports, which is critical for solving engagement issues. According to Perceptyx’s panel research data, employees who believe their manager cares about them as a person are 5.5x more likely to believe they are able to balance their work and personal life. 

Perceptyx recommends putting relationships at the center of employee onboarding experiences. Strong early connections between employees and peers as well as their managers will set the right tone for the rest of their tenure. For more guidance on how to improve engagement among remote onboarders, leaders can review tips from Perceptyx organizational behavior experts here.

About the Data

Failure to Attach: The Crisis for Pandemic Hires was conducted as a paid, panel research study that surveyed working Americans. 

The Perceptyx HR Benchmark Database is a database of several hundred common survey items for external HR benchmarking. This data was gathered from Perceptyx clients over a rolling three-year period and includes data from hundreds of organizations with more than 14 million respondents. Domestic U.S. firms and many multinational organizations, varying in size from 50 to more than 500,000 employees, are represented in the database. Benchmarks are available by industry, sector, sub-sector, job level, job function, age, gender, ethnicity, tenure, country, size of company, union status, Fortune 100/Fortune 500 status, and more.

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