When COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, many believed work and life would return to normal within a few weeks or months. Now, nearly two years into the pandemic, it’s clear nobody really knew what to expect and we've been defining our "new normal" ever since.
HR leaders have been presented with the unique challenge of redefining how they prioritize the health and safety of their employees during a health crisis, while also looking to retain and recruit top talent amidst record levels of people quitting their jobs. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's to expect the unexpected. But, by understanding how the employee experience has evolved over the last two years, employers can make plans for what to prioritize in 2022 to address the needs and expectations of their people.
Research from Qualtrics, the leader and creator of the Experience Management (XM) category, reveals the top trends for HR professionals to expect in the coming year, including how likely employees are to stay in their roles, how hybrid work has become more than just a phase and how benefits like mental health days off won't address long-term employee well-being.
1. HR professionals should expect an ongoing employee exodus
Research shows that the Great Resignation will persist. Employees are less likely to stay in their jobs in 2022, with 65% of workers saying they intend to stay in 2022 compared to 70% of workers in 2021. In fact, employers should also pay particular attention to individual contributors and female middle managers, who are among the employee groups more likely to quit.
2. Hybrid work is here to stay
At the start of the pandemic, millions of in-office workers made the transition to remote work in order to prevent the spread of the virus. Now that so many people have worked from home for so long, 35% of workers would actually consider looking for a new job if they were required to return to the office full-time. In fact, 1 in 2 employees feels their physical and mental well-being has actually improved while working remotely.
Moreover, employees are underwhelmed by their current technology and office experiences. In fact, 30% of employees said their experience with their company's technology exceeds their expectations and only 23% feel their experience working at their office exceeds their expectations.
As employers consider their return to office plans, they should take into account their employees' level of interest in remote, in-office, and hybrid work as well as how they can offer better workplace experiences for their people. Thanks to in-depth market research regarding the employee experience, the people have spoken — in-office working may never be the same again.
3. Employees expect to see more action toward greater diversity and inclusion
Many organizations made public commitments to improve corporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and employees expect real progress. Qualtrics research shows that 70% of employees say their organizations have made sufficient progress towards greater DEIB. Interestingly, there's a perception gap between business leaders and employees on DEIB efforts. Among senior leaders, 80% say their actions show they are genuinely committed to greater DEIB, while only 58% of individual contributors say the same.
4. Trust, open communication, and manageable workloads can help employee well-being
So many workers have experienced burnout during the pandemic, with many struggling to find a manageable work-life balance, and many organizations have responded by offering unique perks like mental health apps and special time off to recharge. Yet, with the rise in hybrid work, the lines between work and life are continually blurred. Research shows that 29% of employees won't always take a sick day, even if they aren't feeling well enough to work, and among those employees, 61% cite workload as the reason why. And while employees aren't working, 20% often worry about work problems during their personal time.
As HR executives/leaders consider what to focus on to address long-term employee well-being, establishing manageable workloads, fostering strong human connections, and encouraging open, transparent communication should be top priorities.