The future of employee experience: 22 predictions for 2022
What lies ahead for employee experience (EX) in 2022? We asked our team of XM Scientists and employee experience experts to forecast the challenges and opportunities for the year ahead. Here are their predictions.
1. Expect a female leadership exodus
Beneath the sheen of The Great Resignation are female senior leaders who are burned out from – and leaving after – two years of exhausting emotional work.
According to our research, overall women’s intent to stay dropped 8 points since last year. Meanwhile, female leader of leaders’ intent to stay dropped even more significantly – by 21 points.
And yet, there will be organizations that attract and retain higher numbers of female leaders in the year ahead.
2. Employee well-being will become business-critical
In 2022, there will be a cultural shift in how leaders build more organizational awareness of employees' well-being, and create space for people to care for their well-being. Senior leaders will start to embrace employee well-being as a business priority, not just a priority for the HR benefits team.
Central to this will be organizations realizing work-induced burnout and well-being can’t be addressed with a quick fix, like a bonus day off or a wellness app. It requires a deep, introspective look at the culture and what practices need to be changed to keep employees well for the long run.
3. Hybrid work is here to stay – and employees want a better digital experience
Organizations that want to get their hybrid work model right must create world-class digital experiences that enable both in-person and digital collaboration.
Realizing the full potential of a hybrid model will require leaders to adopt new mindsets, to define behavioral and working norms, and to engage in two-way dialogue with employees as they navigate this change.
4. Lack of progress with diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging won’t be accepted
With social injustice brought to the forefront, many organizations made public diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) promises, but there is still more to be done.
The good news is that employee perceptions of DEIB efforts have improved year over year. Employees recognize and appreciate the efforts organizations have made over the past year and a half. The challenge will be sustaining these efforts and ensuring that this focus isn’t temporary.
In 2022, DEIB must be a core component of an organization’s employee listening program. Successful organizations will listen to what their people are telling them – and then take action.
5. Employee experience and customer experience collide like never before – with implications for the bottom line
The frontline labor shortage will continue to have a global impact, especially in the U.S. where employees are refusing to accept poor working conditions for low-wage roles.
Indeed, these frontline workers who kept things afloat and profitable during the pandemic were the face of employee experience (EX) and customer experience (CX).
In 2022, the labor shortage will force organizations to take a closer look at the intersection of their experience data. (Hint: Your employees want what your customers already have – consumer grade experiences.)
6. Employees will re-define and re-prioritize their relationships with work
Many people had epiphanies during the pandemic, changing their definitions of what success looks like and causing long-lasting impacts on the psychological contracts between employees and employers.
In 2022, employees will want to fundamentally restructure how they spend their time – and lessen their relationship with work – to create a work-life balance that accommodates their new priorities.
7. HR and IT will team up like never before
As the two most pivotal departments impacting EX in a remote or hybrid world, HR and IT have to throw out the old playbook and never look back.
Employees are underwhelmed by their current technology and office experiences. And to improve EX, IT and HR leaders will work together to design the digital workspace experience.
These once-siloed departments will increase their focus on job enablement to support new ways of working and build a sizable bridge to attract and retain talent.
8. Companies will grapple with hybrid workplace equity
As companies bring employees back on site, leaders will find that it's harder to maintain the level-playing field that naturally occurred when everyone showed up as a square in a video call.
In 2022, there will be people in the room as well as dialing in from home for the majority of the meetings. Forward-thinking companies will measure, optimize, and upgrade their technology to create a more inclusive and collaborative work experience for everyone.
Many will also default activities, e.g., meetings and events, to remote-first unless every participant is physically present.
9. Start investing in The Great Re-energizing
Many people may have left your company during The Great Resignation, but plenty of people stayed, too. Companies will need to re-energize – and perhaps re-onboard and re-skill – their full workforce to keep people happy and engaged.
Lots of employees’ jobs and careers tanked in 2020 and 2021. And yet, some people's careers soared. Re-energizing your workforce will take listening to, understanding, and meeting all people exactly where they are.
10. Employees will bring their whole selves to work (or find somewhere else where they can)
Asking employees to check their personal problems at the door won't work any longer. People want to feel safe to – finally – bring their whole selves to work. They want to talk about their home lives, their mental health, and so on.
Forward-thinking companies will accommodate this shift and show greater empathy for family time and overall health – knowing that these are the very things that people are no longer willing to sacrifice for their jobs.
11. Candidate experience will get up to speed
Given the ongoing war for talent – and the need to scoop up high-quality talent before a competitor does – companies will accelerate the recruiting process and decrease time to offer.
They will also increase the likelihood that candidates accept offers by fine-tuning the selection process and giving candidates the right information at the right time, so they can make informed decisions at the offer stage.
12. Companies will make work-from-anywhere work
In 2022, companies will create a path for employees to move more easily to other geographic locations – with or without an office. These forward-thinking organizations will also explore how to pay their employees equitably, regardless of location.
Read more: Tech in the 'anywhere' workplace
13. Progressive organizations will adapt to labor shortages in innovative ways
With more employees looking for new jobs, there is an opportunity for progressive organizations with strong talent brands and a solid employee experience to attract some amazing talent.
These talented individuals will bring in new and different skill sets that will drive change, innovation, and transformation. And in many cases, this will be critical to the survival of businesses, as they will not be able to develop these future skills quickly enough purely relying on internal talent, re-skilling, and redeployment.
14. The 4-day work week will go from pilot to permanent
More companies will adopt the 4-day work week (and other once-fringe working schedules) to meet employees’ demands for rewriting the playbook on employee experience – and making work fit their lifestyles, instead of the other way around.
15. Focus on corporate social responsibility, say millennials
Millennials, the largest segment of today’s workforce, are a socially conscious generation. They want employers to take a firm position on issues that matter.
Our research found 75% of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a socially responsible company and 76% consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work, compared to 58% across all age groups.
In 2022, companies will increase their focus on corporate social responsibility – and the impact on brand, including talent brand, in the market – to attract and retain younger employees.
16. Employees will demand respect for workplace boundaries
In the future of work, employees will demand psychological safety to voice when they are at, or approaching, workload capacity. And they will want their boundaries with work (and workplace technology) to be taken seriously.
Progressive companies who support the renegotiation of workplace norms, and support employees’ healthy relationships with work, will become a beacon to top talent looking for work-life balance.
17. Realistic job previews will help close candidate experience gaps
To help close the experience gap once a candidate is hired, companies will provide more realistic job previews during the recruiting and interview cycle.
By effectively communicating and demonstrating their company culture and how they prioritize EX, companies will differentiate the candidate's experience from other jobs they are interviewing for – creating a competitive advantage for the companies who get it right.
18. Employees will need support with re-entering anxiety
From returning to the office to returning to business travel, employees will experience re-entering anxiety.
In 2022, companies will need to provide support and resources for employees coping with PTSD, burnout, and other long-term or delayed mental health issues related to the pandemic.
19. Internal mobility will be a powerful retention tool
Nailing internal mobility is the premium alternative to people leaving. Companies that want to retain institutional knowledge will dismantle antiquated career progression schemas that only focus on promotions and upward mobility and, instead, embrace what people actually want– to grow, try new things, find meaning and purpose, work flexibly, and have great relationships at work.
20. A return to learning and development
Companies re-focusing on learning and development will be critical to attract and retain key talent into the future.
Our recent research has found that a lack of growth opportunities is the number one reason both managers and individual contributors are seeking new jobs in the next 12 months.
As employers look to navigate the anticipated leadership exodus and retain talent, learning and development will play a key role.
Supplemental reading: How to develop your people for the future of work
21. Reset days are here to stay
In 2022, more companies will institute organization-wide rest and reset days to help address employee burnout and support well-being. In addition, individual leaders will perpetuate this new concept of forced downtime after large energy expenditure, such as after a big project.
For those organizations that really invest and rebuild their culture to be anti-burnout – and market that desirable culture well – it could become a massive competitive advantage in recruiting top talent.
22. Physical workspaces will continue to transform
The office is still a valuable place for employees, but the reasons why have changed. Instead of being a place they’re required to go to, employees want the flexibility to go to the office for intentional collaboration and socialization, but with the freedom to decide when and for what purpose.
Organizations that listen to their employees and continue to evolve their physical workspaces will see a strong ROI on key metrics like engagement and likelihood to recommend.
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