Employee engagement is important for a strong and productive workforce, but it’s not the only important factor in 2018. Smart companies understand that providing a comprehensive employee experience that follows the employee’s entire journey and offering opportunities for development at every step along the way benefits everything from product quality to resource management to strategic thinking.

It’s these progressive organizations that are leading a shift from employee engagement to a more holistic employee experience approach. And it’s this more nuanced understanding of the impact employee programs can have on the corporate bottom line that you’ll see emerging in 2018.

Six Employee Experience Trends for 2018

As more companies adopt comprehensive employee experience programs, the marketplace is adapting and new avenues of improvement are appearing. Based on feedback from our 8,500+ customers and our recent global employee experience research, here are six trends for high-impact enhancements we expect to see in employee experience in 2018.

  • A shift away from “more frequent feedback” to an increase in the right feedback at the right time: A frequent doctrine of the human resources world is a need for more frequent feedback. While providing recurrent meaningful feedback is crucial to the employee experience, a scattershot approach is not sufficient. In 2018, expect to see companies shift to adopt the real silver bullet: collecting and delivering the right feedback at the right time. When organizations build programs that solicit, collect and distribute feedback at critical moments, leadership can impact real change within their organizations.
  • Employee experience will become everyone’s business: The revolution in technology also allows companies to democratize critical employee experience insights across an organization. While HR has typically been solely responsible for collecting, analyzing and acting on all employee data, now managers can easily collect frequent and actionable real-time insights for their teams during multiple points of an employee’s lifecycle. As organizations enable managers and individuals to act on their experience data, or X-data, individual managers will adopt employee experience responsibilities that were once the sole responsibility of HR. The emergence of guided action plans and manager-enabling technology will direct people leaders with expert content in an automated way that we’ve haven’t seen at scale before. Although this will not alleviate the need for HR to be involved in major decisions regarding employees, it will free HR leadership to be more strategic and proactive.
  • Diversity and inclusion will require org-specific strategies that drive results: Companies are discovering that failure to establish inclusive and diverse work environments today has legal, financial and social consequences. As the pressure for meaningful change continues to build, companies will need to adapt organization-specific strategies to establish and improve workplace cultures. 2018 is the year for diversity and inclusion strategies to be widely adopted across all industries and workplaces.
  • Employee data will become implicit and not just explicit: Artificial intelligence and machine learning are driving a data revolution across the entire enterprise, and HR is also seeing the benefits. Although HR will continue to collect employee experience insights through explicit channels like engagement surveys, the emergence of AI will allow for the integration of a larger variety of behavioral, emotional, and attitudinal indicators (e.g., attendance data) into the equation. In 2018, organizations will continue to utilize their explicit data around employee experience, but also begin leveraging data sources that provide implicit signals of underlying attitudes and emotions.
  • Employer branding will be critical: Online platforms like LinkedIn, Glassdoor and Monster.com are a deep well of information for job seekers. These resources put powerful tools in the hands of candidates and have turned the interviewing and hiring process into a review by all parties. Meanwhile, many companies have failed to raise their game when it comes to talent acquisition. Employee feedback and reaction surveys can help companies build a great employee brand, but attracting top talent will require those organizations to market and advertise that attractive brand and employee experience to a wide audience. Smart companies in 2018 will take steps to reduce the gap between their intended and perceived brand, as well as find external avenues for their employee journey stories to be shared.
  • Organizations will try to understand how to connect employee experience to customer experience: Highly engaged employees help grow revenues, according to Bain & Company — as much as two and a half times more than companies with low engagement levels. With such a clear correlation between engaged teams and improved financial performance, it’s not surprising that many of Qualtrics’ Fortune 500 customers are starting to connect employee data with customer experience data. Understanding the relationship between these two key X-data elements will help organizations understand how to better leverage their engaged teams to drive customer loyalty, profitability and revenue.

As stakeholders begin to adopt the principles and processes of employee experience management, more organizations will benefit from having happier and more engaged employees. Investing in employees’ careers and development will pay far greater dividends than casual Fridays and the monthly birthday cake in the break room. Look for employee experience to take a much more prominent role for smart companies in 2018.

To learn more about engagement, attrition, and work-life balance, please read the Qualtrics 2017 U.S. Employee Pulse.