2023 is the year of resilience for businesses around the world. Today’s workplace puts the employee first by listening to and adapting to their changing needs.
Employees want more from their organizations and are voicing their need for their ideal employee experience in a purpose-led culture. They’re even willing to look elsewhere during the unstable times to fulfill their desires. At the same time, business leaders are constantly having to adjust and quickly respond to unpredictable industry shifts and world events.
To succeed today, the employee experience must remain a top focus – and the only way to thrive is to zero in on employee resilience, productivity, and retention. By doing so, leaders will benefit from both short and long-term success.
All said and done, 5 workforce trends will help with the how and what you can do now to be ahead of the competition in 2023.
The top five workforce trends for 2023 will be:
- Development must evolve from skills to the whole person
- Pressure is on managers to build morale
- Lean teams could drive lean results
- Building trust is business critical
- Moving beyond purpose to belonging
Trend 1: Developing talent will be imperative but the how will shift
What is the future of employee development?
The future of employee development is a holistic view of self-improvement where organizations and leaders help individuals achieve new goals and develop new skills beyond their day-to-day tasks, specifically including improving personal wellbeing.
How is the concept of development evolving?
Development has long been a cornerstone of employee retention, career growth, and succession planning. However, employers must increasingly take a holistic view of the development of the whole person rather than a narrow focus on job skills and direct productivity drivers.
A key piece of this reimagined development pillar is a focus on holistic wellbeing, especially mental health. At a time when depression and anxiety rates are climbing, employers must help their team members develop coping mechanisms and healing strategies to manage and reduce mental health symptoms. This requires not just an investment in wellbeing programs, but measurement of adoption and impact. A program is only valuable if it is effective in addressing employee needs.
Emergence of new benefits and benefit categories
We expect to see more mental health programs implemented, with a push to drive usage not just availability. Employers may also consider increasing mental health counseling amounts and potentially adding new sub-categories that allow for higher mental health expenditures. It’s also likely that employers will increase benefit flexibility, empowering individuals to choose how to make the most of their benefits package.
Investing in tools to support wellbeing
Other tools and programs contribute strongly to employee wellbeing and development. For example, employees who feel connected to their colleagues are twice as likely to say they feel a strong sense of mental wellbeing. Connection is a known challenge for HR with dispersed or remote workforces. Identifying, investing in, and successfully implementing programs or technologies to drive connection will be crucial to helping employees develop their mental wellbeing.
In addition, recognition frequency correlates strongly with mental wellbeing, while individuals who say their organization has a recognition program are 26% more likely to say they feel a strong sense of mental wellbeing . That difference is even stronger when the recognition program in place is Achievers, which drives a 59% increase in self-reported mental wellbeing.
Individuals who say their organization has a recognition program are 26% more likely to say they feel a strong sense of mental wellbeing.
Trend 2: Pressure is on managers to build morale
Stop using “being busy” as an excuse for managers when it comes to building morale. An organization’s senior leaders, such as the C-suite and VPs, play a crucial role in developing strategy and modeling company values from the top. However, the importance of front-line managers in increasing and maintaining engagement, productivity, connection, and belonging cannot be underestimated.
We know companies are increasingly operating with lean teams and many managers are also “doers”, with tasks and OKRs of their own. However, being busy simply cannot be an excuse for failing to meet the needs of their teams.
Organizations must empower managers to be effective people leaders and hold them accountable for ensuring their team is motivated and satisfied.
How can managers become more effective?
Contact with employees should meet both quantity and quality requirements. Encourage one-to-one meetings at least bi-weekly and train managers in best practices. The AWI suggestion for best-in-class meetings between managers and their team members is to start with positive feedback, ask where they need help, discuss personal and professional goals, and to end with two to three actions for the week ahead.
Recognition is another powerful lever. AWI data from the 2022 State of Recognition report shows that regular meaningful recognition from managers triples their Manager Net Promoter Score (mNPS). Train managers on recognition best practices such as frequency and meaningfulness to ensure they are aware of the impact they can have through the simple act of saying thank you.
When employees say their manager supports the development and fulfillment of a professional development plan, they are three times more likely than average to say that they would recommend their manager. Offer clear career planning processes and empower managers to offer intermediate development steps such as stretch assignments and upskilling. As discussed earlier, organizations must also expand their definition of development, giving managers the skills and tools to support their employees’ holistic wellbeing.
The traditional management approach is directive and solution focused — the manager identifies the problem and tells the employee what to do. A coaching approach reverses this process. The employee is empowered to identify both problem and solution, with the manager taking a consultative role. Training managers in coaching techniques helps them better develop and support their team members, moving from an authoritarian role to an authoritative one.
Trend 3: Lean teams delivering lean results could impact your bottom line
A recession is looming, if it’s not already here, and we know many organizations are freezing or even cutting headcount. As organizations begin to operate with leaner teams, they must ensure they’re still maintaining productivity, as well as retaining top talent.
During the pandemic we saw organizations blame declining engagement scores on the impact the pandemic was having. With another major event on the horizon, organizations can’t afford to make that mistake again. Regardless of what is happening with the social, economic, or political landscape, your employees continue to be your number one asset.
Leaders must focus on keeping and motivating existing employees to successfully navigate the rough waters ahead.
How can you measure productivity?
Achievers Workforce Institute measures productivity by asking respondents to assess their own productivity at work. This may sound ripe for overestimation, but just a quarter of employees say they are their most productive selves at work. Two-thirds say they are somewhat productive, with about 10% admitting they are mostly unproductive at work. Using this metric, we are able to correlate measurable inputs with self-reported productivity, identifying the key drivers of productivity.
The productivity problem
Productivity is important, but it’s notoriously difficult to measure outside of specific industries and roles. Instead of trying to nail down a nebulous productivity metric for every employee, focus instead on the levers that we know can impact productivity every day.
What drives employee productivity?
- Recognition frequency
- Acting on feedback
- Manager effectiveness
The more often an employee reports receiving recognition, the higher the likelihood that they will report being highly productive at work. Just 16% of those never recognized are very productive, compared to 44% of those recognized weekly. Even a small increase from quarterly to monthly recognition leads to a 35% increase in productivity.
Gathering and acting on feedback can be a critical driver of productivity, with two-thirds of those who say their company consistently takes action on feedback also saying they are productive at work.
We know that manager effectiveness is an impressive productivity driver. Employees who rate their manager as very effective are almost twice as likely to report being their most productive selves at work
Tackling top talent
Even in tough economic times, attraction and retention of top talent is business critical. Research from the 2008 Great Recession found that layoffs of just 1% of the workforce led to a 31% increase in turnover.
Meaningful check-ins throughout the entire employee lifecycle will become increasingly important. From the hiring process and the days before start, to consistent onboarding and opportunities to make connections, employers must build “moments that matter” into their retention strategy.
The Achievers Workforce Institute Belonging Model is a straightforward way for HR leaders to align their current strategy and programs to a data-backed model for driving belonging at every stage of the employee lifecycle.
What is belonging at work?
Belonging at work is an experience of connection, security, and community — it’s about feeling at home in one’s place, without reservation.
What is the AWI Belonging Model?
- Welcomed – Introduced to, and incorporated within, the organizational culture and community
- Known – Understood, motivated and celebrated as an individual
- Included – Valued and accepted without reservation
- Supported – Consistently and meaningfully nurtured and developed
- Connected – Developing and maintaining relationships across a diverse population
Trend 4: Trust drivers are changing, if you don’t focus on two ways you’ll be left behind
Compared with people at low-trust companies, people at high-trust companies report: 74% less stress, 106% more energy at work, 50% higher productivity, 13% fewer sick days, 76% more engagement, 29% more satisfaction with their lives, 40% less burnout.
In challenging times, such as a global pandemic or looming recession, trust in company leaders becomes even more critical. Employees with low trust are more likely to be impacted by high levels of stress and uncertainty and could look for a job elsewhere.
What can organizations do to increase trust in company leaders?
The most effective way to increase trust in company leaders is to demonstrate that trust goes in both directions by listening and acting on employee feedback.
According to data from Achievers Workforce Institute research, trust more than triples when employees say their company takes meaningful action on feedback. Comparatively, when respondents say their company does not take meaningful action, almost no one has high trust.
What is an effective feedback cycle?
An effective feedback cycle includes gathering, responding to, and acting on employee input from multiple sources.
The Achievers Workforce Institute feedback cycle looks simple, but implemented effectively it could have a big impact on employee trust.
Regularly gather feedback through a variety of methods, from pulse surveys and ad hoc survey tools to Q&A sessions and feedback panels.
Employees want to feel heard. Before you start using the information gathered, reflect back to employees the key things you heard and how that data is going to be used. Not every piece of feedback can be acted upon, but it can all be addressed to show you’re listening.
Wherever possible, identify team-level micro-actions that will have an immediate impact on your employee base. Other feedback may require larger scale, slower actions at an organizational level, but when you take action at the frontline your employees will see and feel that effect directly.
Trend 5: It’s time to retire your purpose-led cultures
Leaders are increasingly talking about developing purpose-driven organizations, but what does that really mean, and what are they missing when it comes to creating an effective company culture?
From purpose-driven to community member
Corporate social responsibility has been a hot button topic for the last decade, and employers must evolve beyond taking action because of optics, instead integrating company and community values into their organization to create a truly inclusive community for team members.
Individual leaders over brand statements
Leaders will need to find their own voice as an employee. They will no longer be able to stand behind the corporate brand, but be expected to weigh in personally on political, environmental, and social issues. They won’t be expected to be an advocate for everything, but they need to pick their social topic and start to play a role in activating this within their organizations.
The purpose of purpose
Purpose is about having a bigger goal beyond simply profit. Many organizations have a purpose statement such as Boeing’s “To connect, protect, explore, and inspire the world through aerospace innovation”. This is intended to guide the organization in looking beyond daily tasks and metrics to understand how it is impacting the wider world. We know purpose is important to employees as well. It’s not enough to be given a task list to check off, employees want to understand how they’re contributing to their company, community, and wider world.
Purpose drives belonging, with 41% of respondents saying feeling a sense of purpose at work helps them feel a stronger sense of belonging. This is even more important for offline workers, where 46% agreed that purpose impacted their sense of belonging.
Purpose drives belonging. 41% of respondents say feeling a sense of purpose at work helps them feel a stronger sense of belonging.
Belonging at work
AWI has established belonging as the North Star for HR — the one employee objective to rule them all. When employees feel a strong sense of belonging, they are less likely to leave, more likely to be productive, and report feeling a stronger sense of engagement.
Belonging will take on new meaning as the distance between office, life, and our social environment shrinks. Employees will hold their employer to account for more than just a great job, but a place to find their community and feel included.
What drives belonging at work?
The upcoming AWI 2023 Engagement and Retention Report finds that recognition frequency is a key driver of belonging at work. With an average of 25% of employees saying they feel a strong sense of belonging at work, this more than doubles when employees are recognized weekly. Even an increase from quarterly to monthly recognition increases belonging by 72%.
In addition, this new research shows that Achievers users are more than twice as likely as average and almost three times more likely than users of other recognition programs to report a strong sense of belonging.
An employee-driven vision of the future
What do all these predictions have in common? They are being driven by employee needs and priorities.
Employees are no longer willing to compromise on the work features that matter most to them, from flexibility and feedback to effective managers and true personal development. Company leaders that want to drive results and create a culture of belonging for every employee must focus on the levers that have the most impact on holistic employee experience throughout the lifecycle.
That is why the Achievers Employee Experience Platform has the tools to track and act on the drivers of employee engagement with Achievers Listen a solution dedicated to capturing the voice of your employees. It also includes a platform dedicated to improving the number one driver of engagement – employee recognition – with Achievers Recognize.
By building a flexible employee-first experience, organizations will be better equipped to become resilient, increase productivity and hold onto top talent in both the good and challenging times.
Discover what you can do this year to increase resilience in individuals, teams, and organizations. Read the HR Preparedness report or connect with us today to learn how Achievers is helping customers recession-proof their organizations.