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What Employee Experience Trends Will Shape 2022?

That’s precisely the question Dr. Sarah Johnson, vice president of enterprise surveys and analytics at Perceptyx, and Dr. Brett Wells, global director of people analytics at Perceptyx, sat down to answer in our recent fireside chat webinar. To help human resources professionals and organizations prepare for 2022, they looked at key learnings from 2021 and shared data as well as their perspective on the four key employee experience trends that will continue to shape the future of work in the new year.

Four Key Trends for the New Year (Same as the Old Year?)

Of course, the past two years have been challenging ones for employees, managers, and HR practitioners alike, and 2022 is likely to be equally dynamic, especially when it comes to the employee experience. Many of the trends that shaped 2021 – the shift to hybrid and remote work, the increasing quit rate in many industries, new employee requirements for work/life balance and well-being, just to name a few – won’t disappear in the new year. For Drs. Johnson and Wells, this means applying the lessons we’ve learned about the employee experience in recent months and making them a prime focus for action in your 2022 plan.

1. New Ways of Employee Listening: Through the pandemic, organizations have learned the importance of listening to their employees. However, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to employee surveys or employee listening programs. What we do know, according to Dr. Johnson, is that listening is at its best when strategy leads the methodology, and survey design focuses on the specific questions your organization needs answered. It really comes down to collecting the data and feedback your team needs to improve decision making, and create a better employee experience. This can be done through a variety of survey types, including lifecycle, pulse, census, etc. But organizations need to go further and connect the data across their surveys and data sources to better understand potential cause and effect, as well as likely outcomes. For instance, organizations can examine their onboarding processes to understand how the new hire experience drives engagement years down the road or predict who is at risk for attrition by comparing data from exit surveys to employee responses in previous engagement surveys. By interrogating and comparing these datasets, organizations can truly unlock the power of people analytics as well as listening.

2. The Great Resignation: While it’s true that voluntary exits are at an all-time high (3% of the workforce according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics), the Great Resignation is not affecting all industries equally. Dr. Wells notes that the sectors most impacted by the Great Resignation are many of the same ones that were hit hard at the onset of the pandemic – retail, hospitality, foodservice, and healthcare. Other industries, like financial services, technology, warehousing, and transportation have not seen the same large increase in voluntary exits. In fact, some of their exit rates are actually trending down.

“There is a Great Divide in terms of the organizations experiencing the Great Resignation,” Wells stated. “Also, most of these workers that were displaced not only left their current job – think retail, hospitality, and foodservice workers – they took advantage of the pandemic to learn a new skill and change industries altogether.”

Recent panel research from Perceptyx found that three out of five respondents learned a new skill during the pandemic to help them improve their career. These skills primarily involved technology, so many people found new careers in IT, computer programming, cybersecurity, and the like. As Dr. Wells mentions, it may be time to stop calling it the Great Resignation and refer to this period instead as “the Great Upward Mobility.” 

3. Defining the Differences between Employee Experience, Employee Engagement, and the Employee Value Proposition. As Dr. Wells defines them, “employee experience is the way things work around here.” Employee engagement, in contrast, is an employee’s “emotional reaction to how things work around here.” Employee value proposition (EVP) refers to the “benefits that are received as a result of working for an organization, recognizing that each of those benefits has a value attributed to it, and that each of us prioritizes or ranks those values in a unique way.” While each of these terms are defined differently, Dr. Wells talks about how each has changed through the pandemic.

Employee engagement rose at the beginning of the pandemic because people were rallying together to support their co-workers and get through it. But that boost is now fading, and engagement scores are dipping for many organizations. Additionally, even as engagement scores were rising, so were scores for burnout and workload, which is outside of the norm.

For EVP, a number of components, such as compensation, health benefits, and 401(k) matching, all remained stable and of high value. However, five other factors began rising in importance during the pandemic. These included company stability, manager quality, team quality, social responsibility/justice, and more flexible, remote-friendly work policies. (Watch the full webinar for more information on why these are gaining in popularity.) With EVP having a direct correlation with intent to stay, companies must heed what their employees want or face the consequences. Perceptyx research found that 50% of people whose current organizations were not meeting their top 5 EVP attributes intend to leave within the year, while less than 5% of people whose organizations do meet their needs said the same.  

4. The Hybrid and Remote Work Experience: As Dr. Johnson points out, the majority of workers do not or cannot work from home. However, for those who can, the change to a remote or hybrid environment during the pandemic is the “most significant shift in the work experience in a generation.” Since this is still a new phenomenon, we don’t understand all of the implications to organizations – yet. This is exactly why this trend is going to be a vital area of continued focus and study for 2022 and beyond.

“The best way to start that work is to add an element to your HRIS system that reflects the primary location where an employee is working, whether it’s in a traditional environment like a store, a hospital, or a distribution/manufacturing facility, full-time in an office, part-time in an office as part of a hybrid arrangement, or fully, 100% remote,” Dr. Johnson said. “This will become a critical demographic to help you understand the differences in work experience across all of those employees.”

While we continue to collect data on this topic, there is still so much to learn. However, one thing we do know is that remote work does not work for everyone. The younger generation of workers, even though they are tech-savvy, are more likely to want to be in the office. The research also shows that remote hires aren’t attaching to organizations like they used to. There is a lack of loyalty or commitment, and it may lead to faster turnover than what is traditionally seen with new hires. Additionally, research shows that remote workers can be at a disadvantage for development, promotion, and pay increases. Organizations will have to take all of this information into consideration when building their go-forward work plans. 

Is Your Organization Ready for 2022?

The bottom-line? Watching these trends, studying their implications for your unique workforce via strategic listening, and then using that information to guide decision-making can help your team prepare to tackle whatever comes next in 2022. While this article is a good recap of the discussion, Drs. Johnson and Wells offered up so much more in the full event. Access the recording now to get the full benefit of their expertise, or visit our Resource Library to review our research on these topics and more.

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