WorkTango asked our executive leaders who collectively share more than 50 years of HR industry experience about their key employee experience predictions for 2024.
Here’s what Patrick Manzo, WorkTango’s CEO; Rob Catalano, Chief Marketing & Strategy Officer; and Monique McDonough, Chief Operating Officer, had to say about the state of employee experience and HR leader priorities in 2024:
1) What top three predictions or trends do you believe will have an impact on the employee experience in 2024?
- A.I.: As organizations begin to infuse A.I. into the technologies employees use every day to do their jobs, A.I. will also have a profound impact on how employers improve the employee experience. I expect more new technologies and approaches to be implemented in 2024 than in any year prior.
- Remote work will become hybrid work: Although remote work is important to many employees, especially since the global COVID-19 pandemic, the need for connection and collaboration will trump the ability to work from anywhere. I predict that although company policies will change, employees will have a desire to get back to the office; perhaps not for five days, but at least for a few days per week.
- Employee well-being (and retention) will be tested: Waves of layoffs, shifting organizational priorities, and change management initiatives became the “new normal” of 2023. The impact in 2024 is that employees are now being asked to do more with less. With heightened pressure and stress levels rising, this is one trend that HR leaders will need to combat in order to protect employee well-being and mental health.
- Empathetic Accountability: Talent management in the COVID era forced people managers to quickly learn how to lead with empathy, grace, and latitude in allowing their team members to navigate the trying times (personally and professionally). People managers needed to learn how to be more, well, human.
Fast forward to today, and a widespread talent reconciliation is taking place as companies restructure their teams to stay competitive in today’s market. During the Great Resignation, the power dynamics between employers and employees shifted in favor of employees. In 2024, the balance is shifting back towards employers. Employee voices are still important, but organizations are making decisions based on the business needs of the company.
The most successful organizations in 2024 will excel by striking a balance between empathy for both business and employee obligations, while also implementing consistent accountability mechanisms to ensure work is completed effectively. Companies will increasingly set clear expectations for the quality, depth, and timeliness of work, and will employ strategies to hold employees accountable for their output.
- Professional Development in Microbursts: The days of the 3-5 year Individual Development Plan (IDP) are behind us. Professionals today care a lot more about short and medium-term opportunities, growth paths, and the “what’s in it for me”. Modern HR leaders need to create professional development programs that help develop and promote talent in 3-12 month increments, not 1-3 year stretches. Adapting to the needs of a new generation of professionals, accustomed to instant information and gratification, is achievable for HR leaders, but requires a fresh approach compared to more traditional strategies used just five years ago.
- New models to get work done: The way that people get work done will continue to evolve as new technology, advanced insights and analytics, and the use of generative AI continue disrupting conventional business approaches, decision-making and workflows.
In 2024, the expansion of A.I. is expected to rapidly and cost-effectively replace tasks traditionally performed by knowledge professionals–particularly those in early career stages or in centers of excellence. This shift will see A.I. taking over a significant portion of certain roles, such as market research, Support responses, feedback analysis, and even coding and testing, transitioning these tasks from human to A.I.-driven processes.
Due to this shift and the resulting cost savings, organizations will leverage the opportunity to elevate their talent recruitment, focusing on individuals who can effectively oversee and balance the outputs of generative A.I. Moreover, as A.I. integration matures, the importance of critical business decision-making involving the synthesis of various information sources will increase..
- Agility and digitization in engagement processes: As companies continue to face market and economic uncertainties, agility and digitization in engagement processes will be key. Regular, more frequent engagement across various pillars such as employee listening, recognition, development, performance, and well-being will become crucial. Organizations will need to become more agile and frequent in their engagement strategies.
- Integrated technology for insight and action alignment: Companies will need to look for integrated technology that aligns insights and actions. This includes ensuring that employees are engaged, and tracking the effectiveness of engagement improvement actions. This 2024 trend underscores the need for holistic platforms that can manage various aspects of employee experience, such as the WorkTango platform, which offers both Employee Recognition & Rewards and Surveys & Insights.
- Professional development and Employee Experience categories: Professional development will grow in importance. A thriving employee experience, which includes connection, appreciation, performance, and growth, leads to a workforce that is both inspired and aligned with the organization’s vision and goals.
2) What strategies should organizations adopt in 2024 to enhance their employee experience?
Having a true Employee Experience Strategy in of itself is a critical place for organizations to start. A clear direction must be established on how to improve the employee experience, and how the organization plans on defining success.
This can be done by focusing on a better experience for the work the employees do; them as living human beings (versus just thinking of people as employees); and on their growth and development. Take a look at this Modern Employee Experience Framework that I recently developed:
I recommend that companies adopt this framework, or something similar to support the critical components of a Working, Living and Growing employee experience:
- Culture – Ensure that there is a clear company purpose and core values that are built into the fabric and rituals of the organization.
- Enablement – In absence of key foundations, it is hard to build a desirable employee experience. Strategies companies should adopt or enhance include:
- Technology – To improve the employee experience or eliminate repetitive tasks for HR to free up time to focus on what really matters.
- Agility – Remove the outdated structure of annual HR practices (i.e. employee listening, recognition, performance management) to focus more on weekly, monthly, and quarterly real-time feedback and development.
- Leadership – Focus on leadership enablement and accountability around employee experience strategies and KPIs.
- Coaching support for managers: HR research in the last few years has really demonstrated the importance of managers. Managers are the most critical influencers when it comes to ensuring business goals are translated into tactical project plans and deadlines. With the need for more empathetic accountability from leaders, the most successful companies will invest in situational coaching for managers to help their leaders embody the appropriate experience for their team members.
- More gatechecks on work & productivity: Despite widespread organizational restructuring and leaner teams, most organizations are not reducing the number of initiatives or projects proportionally to match their staffing. In 2024, productivity focused on the right tasks will be essential. We foresee organizations adopting more agile methodologies, including emphasizing regular check-ins for progress tracking, alignment, and timely course corrections. This approach is expected to significantly transform the delivery of projects and programs. However, this doesn’t mean more micromanagement. It means more pressure testing of results versus inspection of work, and employees should anticipate spending more time reporting on progress and anticipated impact than in previous years.
- Double down on Culture: According to a recent Gallup study, 41% of employees who leave their organization cite engagement or culture as a reason. Culture is perhaps the most controllable variable organizations have to create great work environments and attract, retain and inspire their people.
a. Companies must truly engage with their employees by actively listening to them. Leadership must not only take employee feedback seriously, but also transparently show employees how they plan to enhance what’s working and rectify what’s not.
b. Organizations should prioritize programs that recognize and reward employees for their contributions to enhancing culture and driving business results. These programs should be championed by managers, employees, and colleagues alike, reinforcing company values.
- Utilize Employee Surveys & Insights for continuous understanding: To continuously understand and respond to employee sentiment, leveraging survey and analytics tools is vital. These tools help gauge employee satisfaction, identify improvement areas, and monitor the impact of workplace changes.
- Give regular Employee Recognition to strengthen company culture: Recognizing employees regularly helps strengthen company culture, align with company values, and engage employees.
- Focus on Connection, Performance, Appreciation, and Growth: Companies should focus on connecting employees; showing the impact of individuals’ work; making employee recognition specific and timely; and creating clear paths for career advancement. These steps align with the four pillars of a thriving employee experience.
3) How will hybrid and remote work continue to impact employee experience? What will change in 2024?
A few examples of what we’ll see more of in 2024 include:
- Advanced collaboration tools: I anticipate further advancements in virtual collaboration tools (like AR and VR) that facilitate better communication and collaboration.
- Focus on employee well-being: I envision companies will invest more in well-being programs that address the unique challenges of remote work, providing resources for mental health support, stress management, and maintaining a healthy work-life balance.
- An intentional effort at improving organizational culture: Adding strategies and programs that improve connection and culture will be a prime focus for many companies. For example: doubling-down on recognition to amplify key behaviors and build connection, or investing in technology for better remote team building and experiences.
While we’ll never again see a full return to office, we are seeing a trend where more employees are asking for opportunities to get together regularly. After too many years of being sequestered in their homes, employees are now saying they value and crave those in-person gatherings that create connectedness in ways that fully remote approaches just can’t replicate. Organizations should harness this excitement and look for ways to bring employees together for shared celebrations, team building, and development.
- Growing importance of Recognition in hybrid and remote environments: Organizations must lean into innovative ways to drive deeper connections across teams in hybrid and remote work environments. This includes recognizing meaningful work, not just by managers, but also from peers and senior leadership.
- Importance of real-time feedback in hybrid/remote environments: Real-time feedback at all levels is critical in hybrid or fully remote environments. Feedback helps ensure alignment on priorities, and allows for a quick course-correction if employee sentiment dips.
- Leverage leaders for better team experiences: Leadership enablement will remain critical in hybrid and remote work settings. Enablement involves empowering leaders to support better relationships and build better team experiences, including the ability to recognize and reward in real-time, provide real-time insights, and hold frequent one-on-one conversations and quarterly performance discussions.