In the year 2021, 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.
The Importance of Technology Will Continue to Grow
With employees mainly working apart from each other and dealing with a variety of challenges at home—a trend that is almost certain to continue post-COVID—technology will play a more crucial role than ever in 2021. While that isn’t necessarily a surprise, I forecast that the way organizations choose which technology to offer and how to use it is what we’ll see evolve in the coming months.
In the past, technology was considered by some as simply tools to enable work and improve productivity. It also historically focused on the needs of HR or IT rather than the employee, the manager and the business. As technology grows in importance, though, companies need to be in-tune with the needs of their employees to ensure it offers the value necessary to them to encourage their use.
To meet those employee-centric needs, I believe we’ll see more interest in holistic, custom-crafted solutions that offer the flexibility to customize, adjust and scale programs. These solutions are inherently more relevant for employees (not to mention more accommodating of workflow and organizational needs), which ultimately enhances their positive impact on their employee experience.
Efforts to Connect Employees to Each Other & Company Will Increase
As our time as a dispersed and mobile workforce continues, we’ll see employees seek more connection to their coworkers and to their companies. As a result, it be important to create opportunities to both build and foster connections between each other but also to a greater sense of purpose and their company through an employee value proposition.
Because it can be more challenging to align decentralized employees, I predict we’ll see an increase in user-generated content that highlights employee connection to key messages and to each other. This could include things like photo and video sharing activations, social media strategies with hashtags, photo mosaics or even video testimonials.
At the organization-level, companies will be focused on maintaining and boosting their culture in a variety of ways, including by reinforcing values, behaviors, vision and purpose. This will help all employees feel a greater connection to the company which is important because employees that truly feel connected to their organization will be the best means to reiterating an EVP to their peers and potential candidates.
We’ll See HR & Marketing Come Together to Excite & Align Employees
We’ve found in our research that nurturing the identity benefits is the most effective way of engaging employees. When you do, employees feel proud of the work they do and they’re also proud of what it says about them as a person to work for the organization.
Instilling those feelings of pride and self-esteem demands a deep understanding of your employee’s experiences, the things they value and an honest evaluation of what makes your organization unique from any other company they could work for. While some HR and EX leaders have been able to do this well, it requires skills that are more common in marketing than in HR. That’s why I predict that 2021 will be the year we see HR really start leaning in principles of marketing to excite and align employees. Tactics like focus groups, persona development, employer brand campaigns, activation strategies and purpose-driven storytelling are going to become the norm rather than something that only the most engaged organizations leverage to recruit, motivate and retain top talent.
Enhanced Focus on Non-Invasive Employee Data Collection
How well does Google know you? How well does your employer know you? Of the two, which do you actually want to know you better? I think if we’re being honest, even if our current work situation isn’t ideal, given the chance we’d take all of our ‘Google personalization chips’ and place them into efforts to better personalize our own world of work.
That’s why I predict 2021 will bring an enhanced focus on passive—non-invasive—employee data collection intended to maximize use of personalization at work. What’s more, I anticipate reciprocity from employees in this approach once they begin to see the positive impact on their experience. We live in a connected world where people readily share their impressions with the click of a button—Reddit’s user base grew by 430 million MONTHLY ACTIVE USERS in 2019, half a BILLION tweets are sent out each day and 2020 will result in 112.5 MILLION distinct Instagram users.
Brands have been tapping in to these sources of passive data collection for years and it can be a new source of excitement for employees who begin to see similar levels of interaction with their employers. When employers welcome this form of feedback, create safety nets for the data collected and responsibly act on that data to benefit employees and improve their experiences, they’ll see incredible returns—appreciation and loyalty.
Organizations Will Fill the Gaps Made Apparent in 2020
The pace of change is increasing, creating a critical business need for constant evolution. Learning and development programs have been a focus for the past several years, often positioned as a benefit that supports employee engagement. However, surveys in 2020 suggest the primary objective of L&D has shifted from a benefit to a strategic effort to close the skills gap. And it’s a need being verified by the C-Suite—a 2020 McKinsey Global Survey reports that 87% of executives said they were experiencing skill gaps in the workforce or expected them within a few years.
2020 has illuminated gaps for many organizations and, in response, 2021 will bring a year filled with initiatives to evaluate necessary capabilities, identify existing talent gaps, and create strategies for activating the workforce in obtaining new technical and interpersonal skills.
Whether it’s improving communication skills among a dispersed workforce, reinforcing resilient behaviors, recognizing technical skill development, or any number of use cases, we are already seeing more and more clients establish recognition and reward strategies designed to reinforce and celebrate goal and milestone attainment.
Not only will these types of initiatives support internal growth, in certain cases it directly supports customer experience as well. For example, in retail environments, socializing specific areas of employee expertise to customers is helping them identity the right people to support them during their buying process.