Trends Shaping the Future of Employee Experience in 2020

ITA Group
ITA Group

In the year 2020, we’re predicting efforts to refine and enhance the employee experience will continue to be a top area of focus for leaders everywhere. And they should—companies that have a dedicated focus on employee experience tend to also have a strong culture, heightened employee engagement, a diverse and inclusive environment, and high levels of touch throughout the employee life cycle. ITA Group team members share top employee experience trends we predict will gain traction in the coming year.

Employees networking at an event

Sophisticated Approaches to Organizational Culture

Culture will continue to be a primary focus for organizations in 2020—but what I’m loving is how much more sophisticated they’re getting with their approach. Many organizations have spent years trying to bring clarity to what their cultures are so that they can define and accurately represent themselves. Now, it’s time to promote that identity both internally and externally.

As trends sometimes go, “what’s old is new again”—and I think we’ll see that come to fruition as organizations work to ensure employees understand and align to that determined cultural identity. As much as technology plays a role in the workplace, I anticipate we’ll see companies pull back from their reliance on it to communicate these important messages. Instead, we’ll see an uptick in employee events to unite and energize their people. These will range from smaller, local-level gatherings to large-scale productions. But they’ll have similar intent: amplifying excitement and longevity to their message of their cultural identity while also creating extraordinarily valuable human connection among their people.

Christina Zurek, SHRM-CP & CEP Insights & Strategy Leader

employees being recognized at event

Importance of Building Emotional Connections

Discretionary effort offered by employees in the workplace has been on the decline for almost a decade. Employees’ intent to stay at organizations has also been steadily declining for about five years now. Because employers are challenged to gain the commitment and trust of their employees, connecting with employees at a more emotional level will be a focus for organizations in 2020.

Historically businesses have existed to generate profits and return value to shareholders. But data is now proving the best-run organizations do more—they invest in their employees and communities to build long-term value. CEO’s that are a part of the Business Roundtable agreed to change their statement on the purpose of an organization, which now begins like this:

Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment, and economic opportunity for all.

Employees today value working for a “mission-driven company” that they more personally identify with—they desire connection to work of purpose alongside people they enjoy—and when they find it give more discretionary effort and are more likely to stay at an organization! And organizations are taking notice, working to develop higher organizational purpose statements and focusing more on their employees as a means of driving business success. This is leading to work on creating strong employee value proposition, one that emotionally connects employees to something bigger than themselves, and one that helps employees more clearly understand all the ways they fit (or maybe don’t fit) at the organization. This is being supported by:

  1. More company events to communicate with employees (show transparency and build trust) and to create opportunities for connection amongst employees
  2. More recognition of behaviors aligned to the organization’s values and of meaningful work

Tanya Fish, Strategy Advisor

Investing in Human Capital

I’m excited to see companies making quantifiable investments in their people. There’s previously been limitations due to the impact of some of the “softer” employee experience metrics that can be influenced. Now, we can demystify this ROI conversation with real outcomes we’ve seen among companies who’ve invested in team members. Think beyond just “volume of recognitions issued.” Instead, consider aiming towards enterprise outcomes like increased retention among new hires, increased product knowledge through annual report metrics like Percent of Planned Sales, or Cost Avoidance ROI by way of referral impact to bottom line.

So how do you show the value of an investment in a near-sighted workforce that expects annual report level metrics the very next quarter? You scale, stack and structure the questions being asked. Three months into the program, you anchor entirely to engagement metrics. Six months in, you are showing participant satisfaction levels with the program. Twelve months and beyond, you are intentionally segmenting your audience by engagement level and layering in your annual report metrics like referral rate, retention rate and percent of planned sales.

In a climate where levels of discretionary effort are as low as 18.4% and intent to stay is < 50%, the needle is set and ready to be moved. I’m excited to contribute to the painting of this potential with data analytics.

Mitch Stearns, Data Analyst

Make Technology Adoption Easy

The HR technology landscape is an ecosystem. There’s no end-to-end solution within the Employee Experience space, let alone the entire market. Industry expert Josh Bersin likes to use the analogy of HR technology being like apps on your phone—you choose the ones you need, delete the ones you don’t—and it needs to be a quick and painless experience. Furthermore, the employees using this technology have consumer-grade expectations, and expect it in the flow of their work.

As the market continues to grow and get more specialized—and as organizations begin to increasingly rely on multiple vendors for their HR technology suite—it will be crucial for these vendors to meet these rapidly changing market expectations and make it as easy as possible for companies and employees to adopt their technology.

Chris Grunwald, Product Manager

branded posters in workplace

Reduce Email Overload for Impactful Communication

How many emails did you not open today? Better yet, what's your unread email count in your inbox? I think everyone is feeling the frustration of email overload. I'm excited that the case for email being the primary channel of communication with employees is receding. It gives us the opportunity to be more thoughtful and tailor communications to provide the right information at the right time in the right place.  

At the heart of it, putting the employee first when communicating to them should be the goal. What will help them do their job, engage with your message and receive the information you have to share? This is a trend that goes even beyond email through responsive design that allows a variety of content to be viewed on any screen size or device—even applying ADA requirements to communications that really benefits everyone.

Brian Tallman, Creative Director

The efforts organizations take to evaluate the moments of impact in the employee experience, to respond to the needs employees are vocalizing and the efforts companies are making to humanize the way they support their employees, will continue to be top of mind for leaders in 2020. Strategic planning, thoughtful messaging, user-friendly technology and regular measurement combine to create employee experiences will help your company build a cohesive, engaging work environment where employees and the company alike can thrive.

Ready to start making changes to your organization’s employee experience? Get some initial ideas with our ebook, Improve Retention and Engagement by Enhancing the Employee Experience.

Improve Retention and Engagement by Enhancing Employee Experience