In 2024, employees want to know what’s in it for them – and they might leave if they don’t get it
Balancing technology and humanity is key to building a future of work that meets employees’ rising expectations
Employee expectations will be higher than ever in 2024, and employees want to have a voice when it comes to build a workplace experience that addresses their individual needs, according to the 2024 Employee Experience Trends Report from Qualtrics, which was released . They’re welcoming of new technology, if it helps them meet their goals – including AI and passive listening to their messages and e-mails.
Qualtrics asked nearly 37,000 employees across 32 countries about the state of work, and our experts parsed through the results to identify emerging trends.
The trends that will define the employee experience in 2024 are:
- The new-job honeymoon phase is over
- Some time in the office is better than none – unless it’s five days a week
- Employees are comfortable sharing work emails and chats for an improved employee experience, but more ambivalent about social media posts being used
- Frontline employees are unhappy, poorly supported and least trusting
- Employees would rather AI assist them than evaluate them
The new-job honeymoon phase is over
Historically, employees were more engaged during the first year in a new role, but now, new hires show lower levels of engagement, well-being, and inclusion compared with more tenured employees. The novelty of a new job is no longer enough to ensure that newer employees stay engaged for the first six months, a critical time for business leaders as the cost to hire a new employee approaches $5,000, according to a 2022 report from the Society for Human Resource Management.
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Thirty-nine percent of employees who have been with a company for less than six months plan to leave within the next 12 months, a 6-point increase from last year. Some are even “boomeranging” back to a previous job.
The data reveal how important the first several months of a new job are to building committed and loyal employees–yet only 41% of HR leaders prioritize onboarding new employees to fully integrate them into the company. With many of these new employees excluded from annual engagement surveys, organizations may be missing critical information for retaining their newest hires.
One area for improvement is career growth and development, which are among the top drivers of engagement. However, new hires are less likely to believe their career goals can be met and have conversations about their development than the global average, indicating that organizations can increase engagement by focusing on growth opportunities earlier in an employee’s tenure.
“It’s not enough to get great talent in the door,” said Qualtrics Chief Workplace Psychologist Dr. Benjamin Granger. “The first several months are when employees form first impressions of working at a company, and first impressions are difficult to change. Hiring and onboarding are inextricably linked experiences that need a common thread tying them together. Otherwise, organizations run the risk of early and costly turnover.”
Some time in the office is better than none – unless it’s five days
As the debate continues over how many days, if any, employees should spend in the office, the research shows that key indicators of a positive employee experience are highest for employees with hybrid work schedules.
Employees in hybrid working arrangements have the highest levels of engagement, intent to stay, and feelings of well-being and inclusion in comparison to employees who work full-time in the office. In fact, those in a hybrid setting also have higher scores than employees who are fully remote and don’t spend any time in the office.
Previous Qualtrics research offers insights into why employees benefit from hybrid work. Half of employees working remotely during the middle of the pandemic felt their physical and mental well-being improved, according to Qualtrics’ 2022 Employee Experience Trends Report. However, their level of trusting relationships with colleagues decreased at the same time.
“Hybrid models give companies a good way to balance individual and organizational needs, giving employees flexibility while making time for essential in-person collaboration,” said Granger. “Still, a one-size-fits-all approach may not be the best strategy, and leaders would be wise to build in flexibility within their work location policies and bring people together with purpose.”
Employees are comfortable sharing work emails and chats for an improved employee experience, but more ambivalent about social media posts being used
Recent advances in feedback technology give organizations new ways to find out how employees are doing beyond engagement surveys. Unlike directly solicited feedback, “passive listening” does not require extra effort from employees but still provides critical insights.
Today’s employees are comfortable with their employer listening passively to work emails, work processes like interview notes, virtual meeting transcripts and chat messages to improve their experience. In fact, 70% of workers are comfortable with their organization using email data to better understand and improve their experience at work. They are less comfortable with companies using social media posts, whether anonymous or not – just 41% of employees are comfortable with social media being used.
This comfort with such technology may reflect dissatisfaction among employees: just 48% of individual contributors feel that their organization responds to employee feedback, while 86% of top-level leaders believe they do.
“Trust and transparency are paramount when it comes to incorporating passive listening,” said Granger. “Leaders can gain valuable insights into what is positively or negatively affecting employees’ experiences through passive listening, but they must be open with employees about how this information is being used – and how it is not.”
This acceptance of passive listening may also be a trade-off for remote work. Employees are much more comfortable with passive listening if they work from home at least one day a week. Less than half of employees who do not work from home at all are comfortable with their organization taking insights from their data. By comparison, at least 57% of employees who do work from home at least once a week are comfortable sharing this information.
However, this openness isn’t always freely given and not all employees feel equally comfortable with it. Gen Z and millennial workers are more willing to open up these channels than older workers, especially their social media posts. Forty-five percent of workers in the younger generations are comfortable with their organization using insights from their non-anonymous social media posts, compared with just 37% of Gen Xers and 29% of Baby Boomers.
Frontline employees are unhappy, poorly supported and least trusting
Frontline workers1 like cashiers and restaurant servers are critical to business results, and often the only direct connection a customer has with a company. But compared to all employees, morale is worst among these employees – they don’t feel their basic pay and benefits needs are being met and they lack support to effectively do their job, but don’t feel they can propose changes to the way things are done.
The pandemic transformed office- and desk-based work, introducing new technology and raised expectations for flexibility around when and where work is completed. The nature of frontline jobs often prevents them from being able to take advantage of many of these changes, which may be contributing to an unhappy workforce seeking better resources and benefits. At the same time, staffing shortages and inflation have added pressure.
According to Granger, “the importance of frontline employees can’t be overstated, yet they are having a markedly different experience at work. We’re seeing the effects of that as workers recognize their collective strength in demanding better pay, benefits, and working conditions. Even seemingly small improvements can have a significant impact in helping frontline employees feel recognized and appreciated for the value they bring.”
Investing in resources to support frontline staff not only improves engagement among this essential team, but can directly impact customer loyalty as well. Research from Qualtrics XM Institute has shown that investing in frontline employees pays off with an improved customer experience.
Employees would rather AI assist them than evaluate them
As organizations work to incorporate AI into their business, leaders have work to do to build trust among employees. Workers are more comfortable with AI in the workplace when they have a sense of control over it, such as for writing tasks (61% of employees would use AI for this) or as a personal assistant (51% of employees), than in higher-stakes situations like performance evaluations (37%) or hiring decisions (29%).
The exception to this is people who identify as transgender or nonbinary, who report being more comfortable with AI for performance appraisals (46%) or job interviews (35%) than the global average.
Senior leaders are more willing to use AI than lower-level employees, with C-suite executives being most positive about it. About two-thirds (65%) of C-suite leaders are open to it, twice the amount of individual contributors that would use AI (32%).
Still, a surprising share of employees are undecided about AI. Nearly a quarter (23%) of employees were neutral on whether or not they would want to use AI at work, indicating a need for more clarity and guidance on how AI is being brought into the workplace.
Granger continued, “when employees are engaged and trust their leaders, they are more open to AI at work – especially when they feel a sense of control over how these technologies are used and are convinced that they will benefit them personally. This highlights a tangible benefit of employee engagement and the importance of communicating the individual benefits of AI as leaders look for ways to use intelligent technologies to increase efficiency and business results.”
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