Looking forward to 2024: Employee Engagement Trends 

Get ahead of the curve with these 2024 Employee Engagement Trends.

Amongst the many priorities that business leaders juggle, frontline employee engagement is one that they can ill afford to fumble. There are significant and ongoing transformations taking place in the workplace. This, in turn, is shifting perceptions with respect to what constitutes effective employee engagement for frontline employees.

If this leaves you with the impression that employee engagement has become a moving target, you’re correct. There are a number of factors that now affect the employer-employee dynamic and it’s important that executives are ready to navigate these influences to ensure the best possible outcomes.

In this article we explore 10 key trends we expect to be important for organisations with frontline workforces in the next year, and offer some insight into what is driving them. We also share some practical approaches to dealing with these 2024 employee engagement trends.

1. Employee Experience and Personalisation

Broadly defined employee experience is the sum of every interaction and touchpoint an employee has with their employer. The physical or virtual workspace of a company, its culture, processes and an employee’s interpersonal relationships are all factors that contribute to the employee experience.

Frontline employees are often an after thought when it comes to optimising the employee experience. Offering them experiences that align with an individual’s unique career aspirations, building skills (based on real-time analysis of skills needs) and offering flexibility in time and compensation package structures, all contribute to personalisation of the employee experience.

Companies wanting to lift their frontline employee engagement outcomes are going to focus on ways to enrich the employee experience in 2024, leading to purposeful, productive and meaningful work for their employees.

2. Human-Centric Culture

Accepting that frontline employees lead multi-faceted lives and that by taking their needs into account, you can cultivate loyalty and productivity amongst your workforce, is the key tenet of this culture.

A human-centric leader treats each frontline employee as an individual rather than a resource, recognises their struggles and contributions, and incorporates gratitude and flexibility into their engagement with these employees. If you’re concerned that this approach sounds a little too accommodating with little focus on hard deliverables, consider the case of IBM.

Since the company made the culture switch, it improved profitability by 32%, outperformed S&P 500 returns by 211% and delivers products and services to the market twice as fast as previously.

The move towards a more people-focused culture will be central to many of the shifts that will take place in frontline employee engagement over the next year.

3. Leadership in 2024

It’s definitely going to be Gen X’s turn to shine. Sometimes referred to as the ‘sandwich generation’ – because they are stuck between the highly work orientated Baby Boomers and laid-back Millennials and because they were on the cusp of a huge technological shift from analogue to digital – these leaders are going to bring something special to the workplace.

The fact that they have experience of the pre-internet era workplace along with the ‘always on’ workplace of today, helps them bridge the gap between generations.

Characterised by high levels of resilience, a focus on work-life balance, clear goal orientation and a down-to-earth approach, they are often regarded as the ‘everyman’ (or woman) leader.

Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft is widely regarded as embodying many of the traits Gen X leaders. The clear vision he brought to the company, his open and clear communication style and engagement approach based on humility and empathy, have been widely praised within the company.

Considering that business leaders need to have a human touch in their engagements as companies confront unpredictable times, the rise of the Gen X leader is widely seen as an opportune development.

4. Purpose-Driven Organisations

If your business is tackling some of the biggest challenges that society face, such as finding sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels or developing environmentally sustainable solutions to waste management, then you’re considered a purpose driven organisation. Purpose driven businesses are those that factor in the needs of society as part of their business strategy.

For new generations of frontline employees in the workplace, such as Millennials and Gen Z, working for companies that have a demonstrable purpose is an important consideration. Forward looking companies are going to find ways to align their purpose with their employee engagements initiatives.

This can be achieved by:

  • Involving employees in solving problems and discovering solutions
  • Dispersing and sharing accumulated learning, and
  • Ensuring that on boarding exposes individuals to the collective manner in which the company confronts societal challenges.

As much as purpose is going to be an important 2024 employee engagement trend, business leaders should note that pivoting towards this approach is best done in a staggered fashion. Particularly if financial losses are to be avoided, as retail pharmaceutical chain CVS discovered when it withdrew from the tobacco market.

5. Wellness and Wellbeing

Frontline employee well-being has emerged as a critical concern for businesses in today’s fast-paced and demanding work environments. Among the many lessons learned by companies during the global pandemic, the fragility of the human state has stood out and they are responding to this in a multitude of ways.

Customers are increasingly using our digital employee engagement platform to alert employees to physical dangers in the workplace (or allow employees to report these dangers), offering wellness tips and programmes that extend into the employee family unit and cultivating an overall wellness culture.

This is far from a ‘soft’ 2024 employee engagement trend and should not be under-estimated. Manufacturing giant J&J, through a focus on getting its workers to quit smoking, was able to save U$250 million. The savings came about as result of lower healthcare costs and a decrease in smoking related absences.

6. ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) and DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion)

DEI primarily focuses on fostering an inclusive and equitable workplace culture, whereas ESG assesses an organisation’s sustainability performance and impact across environmental, social, and governance dimensions. More and more, frontline employees want to see these frameworks translated into working for a company that values sustainability and has an appreciation for the value that a broad collaborative approach can bring to the workplace.

This 2024 employee engagement trend has been growing strongly and will continue into the future. Looking ahead companies can integrate these frameworks into their engagement approaches through:

  • Establishing inclusive policies
  • Building diverse leadership teams
  • Engaging stakeholders, and
  • Ongoing industry benchmarking

Business leaders need to appreciate that ESG and DEI are ‘live’ subjects. Utilising a variety of ‘listening tools’ in the workplace is a critical element in helping executives stay abreast of challenges in this space.

7. Learning/Upskilling

Numerous studies have proved that frontline employees who have access to opportunities for learning and development are more engaged and motivated at work.

We’ve seen how technological advances have altered the learning process in organisations while working with our clients. Our solutions, which include mobile micro-learning capabilities, point to a future where task-oriented knowledge is always available and learning opportunities are personalised.

Technology is also useful when dealing with propriety knowledge and skills. Starbucks for instance has leveraged technology to develop curriculums and e-learning programs that speak to their intellectual property and how it is best deployed to their advantage throughout their organisation.

With global estimates revealing that some 40% of the workforce will need some form of re-skilling during 2024, there is little doubt that finding innovative ways to offer sustainable learning opportunities to frontline employees is going to be very important.

8. Talent Management

Imagine hiring upwards of 124,000 employees – both internally and externally – each year. Microsoft has been doing this the past few years and has been one of the pioneers in hiring new talent based on competencies rather than skills alone.

Skills are strengths or proficiencies that individuals gain through training and experience while competencies are sets of demonstrable proficiencies and abilities that individuals use to achieve a goal or complete a task.

Employees with strong competencies are usually talented individuals and represent a major business asset. However, with only 9% of global CEOs stating that they believe their employees possess the right competencies to take their companies into the future, a lot of work will have to go into this aspect of talent management.

9. Data-Driven Decision Making

On the hunt for ‘superpower’ to lift your frontline employee engagement initiatives? Look no further than your organisational data.

We’ve noted an incredible rise in data driven decision making when it comes to frontline employee engagement initiatives during the past few years among our clients. This process makes use of data collected at various touchpoints to make informed and calculated decisions.

While we have no doubt many companies will explore the power of data in the year ahead, it is vitally important to gather and use data in an ethical manner. Transparent practices and policies that set employees at ease with respect to how their data will be used and what benefits they can expect, are a must.

10. Workplace Flexibility

This is one of the most important 2024 employee engagement trends. From a frontline worker perspective, flexible work practices are high on the list of employer must-haves. While executives might feel emboldened to call ‘time’ on work-from-home practices when seeing large business like Goldman Sachs and Google, implementing return-to-office policies, this view is not shared by employees.

Flexible schedules (the option to select work hours) have given many frontline employees a never-before sense of control over their working lives, which they will not easily relinquish. Employers must address the demand for more flexibility among their frontline workers or face the possibility of losing them.

What does the future hold? The answer lies in mutually beneficial work arrangements that are powered by innovative thinking.

JM Smucker, a food manufacturer dealt with return-to-office policy resistance by adopting a novel approach to remote work. The outcome of rigorous internal analysis of its production and customer needs resulted in the following:

Employees can live and work from anywhere, provided they are responsible for their commuting costs when coming into the office.

They are expected to be at work six days a month, during 22 ‘core’ weeks of the year that align with the company’s busiest work periods.

While the policy is only a few months old, more than 80% of employees have adhered to the requirements, proving that there is still space for lateral thinking in this area.

Employers also need to put more thought into how to offer flexible work arrangements for frontline employees in the retail and manufacturing sectors, who are becoming unhappy with the lack of flexibility in their roles.

Key Takeaways

When it comes to 2024 employee engagement trends, there is growing appreciation amongst business leaders that frontline employees see and experience the workplace in a way that is unique to them as individuals. They look at everything that happens at work as an integrated experience, which impacts daily life both within and outside the workplace. This includes overall physical, emotional, professional and financial well-being. As a result, there is a distinct move towards offering employees an organisational life experience that fits with their personal expectations.

To find out more about how you can improve employee experience with Wyzetalk’s solution, talk to an expert.