Work Life
November 15, 2023
January 25, 2022

Employee Experience Trends

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Many of us have watched with great interest (or anxiety, take your pick) as 2020 continued to serve up challenging circumstances for the entire world. Perhaps it goes without saying that the difficulties we’ve encountered have taken their toll on us as individuals. But what may not be as apparent is how work, workplace culture, and employee experience have changed as a result of these challenges and how they will continue to change as we move forward into the future. 

As the pandemic raged across the world, many organizations found themselves staring down a difficult prospect: “work” as we once saw it needed to pivot, change, and adapt. What once was a nice cozy plan for the future when things were just shiny suddenly became a plan for the present as remote work, flexible scheduling, and all kinds of program changes needed to happen almost immediately—and these changes needed to become more permanent faster than anyone anticipated.

The silver lining in all of this is that these changes in work and workplace culture have been a long time coming, and in some ways, the challenges of 2020 accelerated what was already in the pipeline. Now, instead of seeing employee recognition as a nice afterthought, many organizations use it as their lifeline to keep employees engaged—and many now see the urgent need for a holistic approach to employee experience that means much more than a yearly bonus or birthday card. Indeed, employee experience is more important today than it has ever been, and the trends we’ve seen in the last year only serve to strengthen this idea.

Personalized Recognitions and Rewards

The typical person in today’s world is used to a certain level of choice in virtually everything they do. From nearly endless entertainment options (there are over 300 streaming services alone!) and hundreds of food choices in any given area to the millions of products available on Amazon, people can choose from an endless supply of options for every need or desire they have. If that wasn’t amazing enough, consumers can have nearly instantaneous access to whatever it is they want—or have it shipped directly to their door in a matter of days.

If the modern world offers such convenience and choice, why has it taken the modern workplace so long to catch up? Many organizations are still using rewards and recognition programs that have been in place for decades, and their employee experience suffers as a result. Just think back to the last anniversary gift you received from your workplace (if you got one at all). We’re willing to bet it wasn’t anything groundbreaking. 

An important trend of 2021 is that employees expect the same level of choice and convenience in their employee rewards—and more companies are catching on to that idea as well. Instead of offering a limited catalog of hugely marked up items, companies should offer the same limitless choice and rapid availability that employees experience outside of work. And that goes for service awards, too—even with their more stringent tax compliance requirements. (If you have questions about this, give us a ring. We've worked hard to make tax compliance with service awards much easier for clients.)

Being able to choose their own rewards using a familiar experience like Amazon is becoming a competitive edge that organizations are taking advantage of in growing numbers. By offering this same level of choice and convenience to employees, companies are showing that they care about their employees enough to let them choose—and when employees feel cared for, they care more. 

Remote Work and Recognition

By some estimates, nearly 42% of the U.S. economy is now working remotely, with the majority of this being driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Remote work has been gaining steam in the last decade with many companies offering it as a perk, but current circumstances now paint it as a necessity for many. Even as the pandemic subsides with the introduction of a vaccine, remote work is projected to continue into the future either as a hybrid schedule of office and remote work or exclusively remote work. 

There is no doubt remote work is here to stay and will continue to grow in many industries. Whether your workforce is remote or in-person, it is important to utilize every tool at your disposal to increase engagement and improve employee experience—and there is no better tool than rewarding recognition. In fact we’ve seen companies with over 10,000 employees increase their recognitions through this last year—a testament to the power of recognition in keeping teams united, supporting individuals, and building workplace culture no matter where employees work. 

Employee Rewards as Compensation

One trend that will be increasingly important for the future is something we’re calling “reward compensation.” This is the idea that employees receive, on top of their own salary, an added bonus they can use for their own rewards. We’re excited by the prospect that employee rewards can (and should) be part of compensation rather than a nice fluffy perk or addendum to existing workplace compensation. We’ve seen some organizations move toward this viewpoint of recognition and rewards being part of compensation rather than a perk, and it’s an exciting development to follow. 

Greater Emphasis on Employee Well-Being

While always important, employee well-being initiatives will become even more integral as part of an organization's arsenal to support employee health and safety. Ensuring employees have the tools they need to live well in every aspect of their lives will help retain talent, increase employee satisfaction, and boost ROI as organizations support the physical, mental, financial, social, and occupational well-being of their employees. 

Expanded Flexible Work Policies

The trend we mentioned in regards to remote work will continue, and it will expand into flexible work policies that allow for employees to complete their work according to their own schedule. If employees need a more compact schedule with alternating days on or off, organizations can leap ahead of their competitors by offering such a flexible work policy to their employees. Work will continue to be done as employees rebalance their workload and still make time for synchronizing their work with their teammates. 

Daily Feedback Becomes the Norm

Because work schedules are going to continue being flexible, and expand to even greater flexibility, daily feedback will become even more vital as teams synchronize their work. Feedback has always been a part of work, but its importance—and frequency—will continue to grow as we move into the future. 

Recognition and the Future of Work

The trends outlined here are only some of what we can expect as we move forward into the future—and employee recognition will continue to be an integral part of the future of work itself. No matter what lies ahead, it’s important to recognize that organizations are made of people, and it’s in the individuals that make up our organizations that we can find the most strength. As we look ahead, let us not forget to focus on the individuals, not just the process, and build a culture of appreciation that will weather any storm.