New research from Qualtrics shows the top drivers of engagement and ways HR can prepare for 2024.
By Maggie Mancini
Employee expectations will be higher than ever in 2024, and employees want to have a voice when it comes to building a workplace experience that addresses their needs, according to the 2024 Employee Experience Trends Report from Qualtrics.
New hires show lower levels of engagement and well-being compared with more tenured employees. The novelty of a new job is no longer enough to ensure that newer employees stay engaged for the first six months.
Approximately 39% of all employees who have been with a company for less than six months plan to leave within the next 12 months, a six-point increase from last year.
“We found that 50% of global HR executives say that talent attraction and hiring is a priority, but only 41% say the same for onboarding,” says Dr. Benjamin Granger, chief workplace psychologist at Qualtrics. “These early months are when employees are making their first impressions of a company, and first impressions are really difficult to change. Put simply, HR leaders should invest time and resources to ensure that there is a common thread woven across the talent attraction, talent selection, and new hire onboarding processes.”
One area for improvement is career growth, which is among the top drivers of engagement. New hires are less likely to believe their career goals can be met and have conversations about their development than the global average.
As the debate continues over how many days employees should spend in the office, research shows that key indicators of a positive employee experience are highest for employees with hybrid work schedules. Employees in hybrid working arrangements have the highest levels of engagement, intent to stay, and feelings of well-being in comparison to employees who work in the office and those who are remote.
“From the perspective of employees, hybrid work seems to be a good compromise, as our data shows,” Granger says. “But it’s important to note that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Leaders must understand the needs of their employees and focus on the broader expectation and need for flexibility. Workplace flexibility is not just about where work gets done. Our research has shown that many employees prioritize when work gets done as well as how it gets done and measured in the overall umbrella of workplace flexibility.”
Granger adds that companies need to understand the needs of their own workforces. Some employees have quiet at-home workspaces and may feel more productive at home, while others may feel more productive in the office. Granger says companies should be intentional about bringing people into the office, focusing on collaboration and engagement.
Employees are comfortable with their employer listening passively to work emails, work processes, virtual meeting transcripts, and chat messages to improve their experience. They are less comfortable with organizations using social media posts, whether anonymously or not — just 41% of workers are comfortable with social media being used.
This comfort may reflect dissatisfaction among workers: 48% of individual contributors feel that their organization responds to employee feedback, while 86% of top-level leaders believe they do.
Granger says that there are two avenues for improving trust. On one side, improved listening can help leaders ensure they’re addressing impactful areas. Expanding listening efforts can help leaders identify pain points and challenges.
On the other hand, improving communication can help improve trust by drawing an explicit connection between employee feedback and action. Granger says that he recommends a three-by-three approach, communicating action at least three times through three different media.
As organizations incorporate AI into their business, leaders have work to do to build trust among employees. Workers are more comfortable with AI in the workplace when they have a sense of control over it, such as for writing tasks (61%) or as a personal assistant (51%), than in situations like performance evaluations (37%) or hiring decisions (29%).
Senior leaders are more willing to use AI than lower-level employees, with C-suite executives being most positive about it. About two-thirds (65%) of C-suite leaders are open to it, twice the number of individual contributors that would use AI (32%). Nearly a quarter (23%) of employees are neutral on whether they would want to use AI at work.
“Leaders should introduce AI gradually, starting with lower stakes scenarios like writing tasks,” Granger says. “This gives employees time to get comfortable with these technologies and develop an appreciation for how they can help them personally in their work. Human decision-making is most often done in a social context, making many employees more apprehensive about the role of technology in very personal matters like performance appraisals and job interviews.”
Granger says that leaders should emphasize human accountability before introducing AI into the workplace and establish a track record of benefiting employees through the use of AI technology. This, he says, may also help improve trust.