The risks of not getting employee experience (EX) right are clear at this point: public shaming and diminished ability to attract and retain top talent. Every week brings news of another company in trouble with its employees for not living up to its values.[i] In 2020, we expect companies to work hard to get out of this reactive mode, with a more strategic commitment to their corporate values and to living those values. As part of this, we also expect firms to get serious about their EX commitments.
Here are three of our predictions about how companies will evolve their approach to employee experience in 2020:
- Companies will stop apologizing for unorthodox EX and explicitly state who isn’t a fit. Employee experiences are the opposite of Tolstoy’s famous family formulation from Anna Karenina: “Happy families are all alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Every good employee experience must be good in its own way, while lousy employee experiences are all alike. In 2020, we expect more companies to embrace their unique, challenging employee experiences suited only to certain types of employees, such as Amazon or hedge fund Bridgewater Associates. They’ll take more pride in what sets them apart, rather than apologizing for it. EX leaders will make sure their recruiting communications attract candidates who are the right fit for their company’s unique EX.
- Companies will stop treating gender as binary and find that doing so is good for business. Thirty-two percent of US adults ages 18 to 29 personally know someone who prefers gender-neutral pronouns.[ii] Accordingly, many firms are already embracing the use of preferred pronouns and taking steps to ensure that their colleagues and customers can honor each employee’s preference for he/him, she/her, they/them, and chosen names. More firms will move from these relatively easy steps of acceptance toward affirmation and creating an environment where marginalized and underrepresented groups feel a sense of belonging and community in 2020. As they do, they will reap the benefits of high engagement levels and fierce loyalty in return.
- Companies will democratize EX investments beyond white-collar cubicles. Non-college-educated workers who don’t sit at an office desk represent 21% of US workers today and nearly 2.7 billion people worldwide. These workers have unique job demands: volatile working schedules, demanding customers, long hours standing, and little to no access to task-critical information. In 2020, this deskless workforce will undergo an EX investment renaissance as companies seek to find and retain non-college-educated employees for high-attrition industries like retail, quick-service restaurants, and hospitality. Dick’s Sporting Goods has already committed $10 million to supply retail store associates with mobile devices, and both JetBlue and Walmart are investing in virtual reality solutions to help train their deskless employees.
Several Forrester analysts, researchers, and research associates contributed to this year’s employee experience predictions, including: David Johnson, Emily Jastrzembski, Andrew Hewitt, J. P. Gownder, Keith Johnston, and Alex Sobchuk.
[ii] Source: A.W. Geiger and Nikki Graf, “About one-in-five U.S. adults know someone who goes by a gender-neutral pronoun,” Pew Research Center, September 5, 2019 (https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2019/09/05/gender-neutral-pronouns/).