This article is brought to you by Qualtrics.
Research on 14,500 workers across Asia helps uncover the drivers and issues set to have the biggest impact on EX next year, as put together Dr. Antonio Pangallo, Principal XM Scientist, Qualtrics & Principal Researcher for 2024 Qualtrics Employee Experience Trends.
There is one thing workers expect in 2024 over any other: balance.
We continue to operate in a world of change, and employees expect their employers to help them find balance within it. So while many employees are open to hybrid work, using AI technology, and are willing to share more insight into their employee experience (EX) than ever before, they want to ensure the changes introduced deliver meaningful value - for their own benefit and that of the organisation.
Helping employees find balance is a key competitive advantage. At a time when many countries across Asia are focused on driving productivity and economic growth, prioritising a great EX is one of the most sustainable and impactful levers organisations can pull. There is a well established connection between employee engagement and organisational outcomes, including profitability, productivity, operational efficiency, and customer satisfaction.
Linking people initiatives and programmes to business outcomes has never been more important. To help HR and business leaders deliver significant business value through a strategic people-focus, Qualtrics spoke with 14,500 workers across Asia to understand the drivers and issues set to have the biggest impact on their EX next year.
Some time in the office is better than none
As return to office mandates continue to dominate workplace discussions, our research reveals employees in hybrid working arrangements have the highest levels of engagement, intent to stay, wellbeing, and inclusion compared to those working full-time from the office or home. This could be for a number of reasons: the want to connect and collaborate with colleagues in-person; the opportunity to have hard boundaries between work or home life; or the desire to have a routine outside of home.
To ensure the hybrid programmes organisations put in place support the needs of employees and the goals of the organisation, employers need to be more nuanced and flexible around how employees work best.
This starts by empowering managers and leaders to develop flexible work plans based on what they know works best and individual needs, and then set minimum expectations of what’s expected to ensure the best outcomes for both employees and the organisation.
Workers would rather AI assist them than evaluate them
AI is the other big topic dominating workplace discussions. Qualtrics' research shows workers across the region are largely comfortable using AI in the workplace (and some of the most willing globally) as long as they retain a sense of control over it - such as for writing tasks, as a personal assistant, or resolving an internal query. Comfort levels drop when AI is used for activities like performance appraisals or hiring decisions.
One of the most interesting aspects about these findings is the link between employee engagement and openness to using AI: the more engaged an employee is the more open they are to using AI at work.
With AI adoption set to continue at pace, driving increased employee engagement needs to be a priority if employers and their teams are going to unlock the full value of AI at work.
Employees are comfortable sharing work emails and chats for an improved employee experience, but more ambivalent about social media posts being used
This might be a surprise for some, but employees say they are comfortable with their employer listening passively to work emails, work processes (i.e. interview notes), virtual meeting transcripts, and chat messages in return for a better EX.
Passive listening isn’t monitoring productivity. It’s ultimately about signals in communication helping employers better understand the everyday experience for employees. For instance, how do the times, moments, and frequency at which people send messages, emails, or have meetings correlate with that individual’s or their team’s engagement and wellbeing scores.
This approach is going to understandably raise concerns about transparency, control over data, and potential misuse. And this is why governance is key to passive listening. Building trust through clear communication, transparency about data usage, and involving employees in decision-making processes will be vital to alleviate concerns.
For HR leaders and teams, passive listening represents a significant shift in how they listen and respond to employee feedback. For decades, teams have relied on active listening tools - like surveys. While these mechanisms will remain a critical part of EX programmes, employers can no longer rely on surveys alone to capture the frequency and immediacy of insights they need to drive timely and meaningful improvements.
The new-job honeymoon phase is over
Historically, employees have been more engaged during their first year in a new role. In 2024, the reverse is now often true: new hires show the lowest levels of engagement, feelings of inclusion and wellbeing, and are the most likely to leave. This has been a trend that we have seen gain traction over the last few years.
For organisations, this trend is concerning. Losing a new hire is expensive for a multitude of reasons - the business hasn’t recouped the value of the hire and the cost of finding, interviewing, hiring, and onboarding is lost.
In today’s tight labour markets, organisations need to focus on getting the new employee experience right to retain and enable the talent they’ve worked hard to attract.
To improve the experience for new joiners, there needs to be a critical focus on onboarding programmes. Employers must ensure onboarding programmes are optimised for remote, hybrid, and onsite employees. It’s about aligning the new hire experience with their expectations - the first few months cannot simply involve checking items on an onboarding checklist. New hires also need to see where there is growth and development for them - growth is a key driver for EX, but traditionally opportunities for this group have been limited or difficult to realise.
Frontline employees are unhappy, poorly supported and least trusting
Service and support teams are often the direct connection between an organisation and their client base, and are pivotal to great customer experiences. Yet, Qualtrics' research shows morale is worst among 'frontline' or customer-facing employees, such as retail workers, restaurant servers, cashiers, teachers, healthcare workers, and more.
This needs to be a call to action for employers to pay closer attention to their frontline employees. They are closest to the customer, so it’s hugely important and valuable to understand what they need, to understand their lived experiences, and tap into their ideas for ways to improve outcomes for customers.
Employee experience: A critical driver for strategic growth
2024 is set to be another year of change. The ways teams work, the tools employees use, and the expectations people have will continue to evolve. To successfully and confidently navigate this transition, being able to quickly and deeply understand and deliver what workers need is going to be critical. It will enable leaders and their teams to drive optimum outcomes and clearly link them to business success at a time when investments are under scrutiny.
EX is a key driver for growth in today’s economies, and the employers that maintain their people-centric focus will undoubtedly be the standout high performers in years to come.
Lead photo / Provided by Qualtrics