Scores for things like communications, work-life balance, career opportunities, feelings of empowerment and energy at work have all gone up since 2018 — in some cases, significantly.1
For example, among the 8.5 million employees within our database, more people feel they can reach their full potential within the present organisation compared to five years ago. And, surprisingly, 14% more employees feel they are compensated fairly. Over the five-year period, only two items within the 100+ core questions we measure globally have declined by a significant amount. Far fewer people perceive their benefits to be competitive versus 2018 (down 17%), and, rather ominously, a lower proportion believe that if they report inappropriate behaviour at work something will be done about it — down five percent in that period.
more employees feel they are compensated fairly, compared to 5 years ago.
the drop in people who believe they are compensated fairly now, compared to 12 months ago.
Workplace experience is favourable overall
Engagement levels have remained constant over the five years. Nearly eight in 10 people report favourable views about the set of measures we use to track engagement: pride in the organisation, willingness to recommend it as a place to work, motivation to give discretionary effort and overall satisfaction at work. That’s important for business.
Multiple studies have revealed the correlation between levels of engagement within the workforce and business outcomes such as productivity, profitability, innovation and customer service — not to mention safety and overall wellbeing. Engagement levels are only 1% higher than in 2018 for these marker items. Given the variations of intervening events such as the pandemic, climate and environmental concerns, and cost-of-living escalation, this finding may surprise readers. It seems most of us are a resilient bunch. But dig deeper, and the data reveals some interesting sub-themes.
Room for improvement in work-life balance
While the five year trend is generally positive, many areas of employee attitudes have declined since 2021. Out of more than 100 separate items, over 60 questions have registered lower scores since the pandemic hit. Some are down a modest 1%–3%, but others show a more significant reduction. As you might expect, fewer people believe they are compensated fairly now compared to 12 months ago (down 5%), no doubt reflecting the impact of inflation and rising cost-of-living. The same decline also occurs in peoples’ perceptions about whether their managers are sensitive to their work-life balance. Equally, perceptions of workplace flexibility, autonomy and communications are down a similar amount. And greater reductions are evident in terms of how employees feel about companies supporting their physical wellbeing and whether their organisations value them.
Stepping back, what we’re seeing is declining satisfaction on a number of “hygiene” factors. Remember, these are scores across all geographies and sectors and reflect global trends as organisations have sought to stay afloat among the effects from higher energy prices, supply chain disruption and rising interest rates in the post-pandemic recovery.
Bright spots: DEI and wellbeing
Some of the highest scores we see in the data relate to collaboration, identity and affinity. For example, eight in 10 people feel their companies actively support diversity in the workplace, with the same proportion feeling they can be themselves at work. Surely, this is welcome news after all the effort to improve DEI activities within organisations. Even more employees feel a sense of belonging within their teams — and believe their managers treat them with respect and dignity. And it’s good to see that more than 80% among the millions in our database are confident in the future of their organisations — even if far fewer express confidence in senior leaders, where broadly six in 10 feel their senior leaders “walk the talk” with actions consistent with their rhetoric.
It’s clear that over the past five years, employees have seen positive improvements in many aspects of the work experience. More recently, sentiment has slipped. Concerns about COVID-19 have been replaced by cost-of-living anxiety. Wellbeing is on the agenda, and people want senior leaders to help them navigate through turbulent times: “Where are we going as an organisation?” “How will we get there?” “And, what’s in it for me?”.
Collaboration on the road ahead
So where do we go from here? People recognise and value efforts to improve the employee experience; they acknowledge improvements in organisation efficiency and effectiveness and, for the most part, in how they’re treated. And yet, even while the significant majority feel engaged and motivated to give extra effort, there is more to do. Productivity is a problem for organisations in many developed economies, and recession may follow on the heels of further interest-rate rises. The advent of generative AI will upend many jobs and workplaces.
Employees aren’t ignorant of these macro trends. They read the news and feel the heat from inflation, technological disruption and global tensions. They have enduring needs: to be treated fairly, to work in harmony with others and for an organisation of which they can be proud. As we head into the next five years, can we give them the skills they (and their companies) need to stay competitive? Can we craft an experience at work that will satisfy employees’ needs and nourish a sense of wellbeing? What will the workplace experience look like in the years to come?
Get in touch with us if you’d like to explore how to craft the best workplace experience for your organisation.
1 Mercer, 2018–2022 global norms.