Company leaders don’t have much control over local, national, or world events. Yet these external circumstances, events, and decisions impact employees — individually and collectively. The work environment mirrors the societal and political challenges of the larger world, likely with employees on opposite sides of polarizing issues.
In parallel, employees enjoy personalized, data-driven Customer Experience (CX) and User Experience (UX) outside of the workplace forming the expectations they have for work. This dynamic has major implications for how organizations create a culture and share information that motivates employee activation — both for and against employers.
What’s more, and particularly over the last few years, organizations have experienced the impact of “The Greats” (resignation, regret, uncertainty, reprioritization, reshuffle, and so on). With this shift in how employees navigate employment, organizations must rethink the relationship with their employees.
This reality requires an employee-centered workplace experience, communication, and culture.
Integral’s Study with The Harris Poll
Organizations have great systemic influences on their employees. To that end, Integral partnered with The Harris Poll to conduct a study in the summer of 2022 of more than 2,000 employed individuals across the United States.
The 2022 Integral Employee Activation Index tracks the issues we examined last year while exploring new areas including digital transformation and manager roles. Findings include insights into workplace experience, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors of employees across industries, company sizes, career levels, genders, generations, racial/ethnic backgrounds, and more.
A Look at Today’s Employee Realities
Our research examines the relationship between personal and company values—and the positive impact of alignment (and perils of misalignment.)
With personal values aligned with the organization’s values, employees are more likely to:
— Have a positive mindset about their job
— Feel better about their company culture
— Come to work ready to take positive actions on behalf of the organization, both on- and off-line
— Feel that their colleagues have a more positive work culture
Meanwhile, employees who do not believe their employer’s values align with their own are far more likely to take negative actions against their employer’s interests—such as:
— Flouting safety protocols
— Preventing cyber-security risks
— Disclosing confidential information
— Sabotaging their organization
The top-ranked issues seem to indicate that employees want their employers to take a stand on issues that impact their personal and professional well-being and economic security. Fortunately, these are concerns that most employers can take action on.
The overwhelming majority (40%) of participants selected employees’ health and well-being as their top issue—along with universal access to health care (19%).
Additional issues included:
— Job creation (32%)
— Data privacy (23%)
— Income inequality (21%)
— Gender inequality (20%)
— Racial inequality (19%)
Yet, a closer look at a variety of employee subsets by gender, race/ethnicity, and generation have important differences and priorities that organizations should not ignore. Employers need to take a more sophisticated approach to employee segmentation that enables personalized, targeted, and relevant content for employees.
Business Implications for Communication Professionals & Organizations
It’s hardly news that employees represent a diverse population with needs and attitudes that vary by age, race/ethnicity, gender, political philosophy, and generation. What isn’t as clear, is that an organization’s performance on societal and political issues impacts employee turnover and performance on the job. What’s worse, many organizations continue to treat employees as a monolithic population.
Pew Research data shows that of workers who quit a job in 2021, a majority cited feeling disrespected as one of the reasons they left. A lack of advancement is another reason.
When an organization loses an employee, it costs them: in productivity, knowledge, or experience; in recruiting, hiring, and onboarding expenses, in team morale, and so much more. From an economic and cultural standpoint, there are repercussions in the broader culture.
Who Will We be in this New Reality?
Teams entrusted with employee experience typically focus on content creation. Yet, a positive workplace culture fostered by intangible “soft skills” and a strong employee experience requires more than content consumption. To be engaging and effective, organizations need to create intentional employee experiences, weaving together daily touch points throughout the employee journey. To do this well, organizations need to understand the landscape of employees’ personal values and mindsets across the workforce.
As Worlds Collide
In this milieu of remote, hybrid, and on-site work environments, organizations must provide employees with an inclusive experience. Particularly while “return to the office” continues to be in our lexicon, online life is an essential part of “real life,” and has been for some time now. Online life is part of that experience.
And employers need to catch up.
Our Index results found more employees say they connect with their organization and colleagues on external social media channels than internal channels, such as their organization’s intranet.
Employers need to understand and plan for this behavior—especially since customers are demanding transparency into the companies they patronize, and external audiences find employee communications behaviors more credible than the organization’s official communication.
Employees can be your company’s best advocates and ambassadors. Disengaged and demoralized employees, however, are more likely to unsubscribe.
More than half of the employees surveyed (55%) share content or promote their organizations online. And most employees who do not follow or interact with their organizations online are non-managers. This is not great news.
It does, however, indicate that as online, virtual, and even 3D worlds intersect, cross-functional teams must partner to develop meaningful experiential touchpoints that drive positive employee behavior.
About the Author
Ethan McCarty lectures at the Masters’s level on Digital Media & Analytics and Employee Activation at Columbia University’s School of Professional Studies. He is the founder and CEO of Integral, an employee activation agency, recently named 2021 Best Agency by the Institute of Internal Communications. Integral recently conducted the Integral Employee Activation Index, which highlights new ways organizations can use to drive positive employee engagement and outcomes.