What Will Employees Think Is Most Important in 2024?

Experts offer workplace predictions for the upcoming year.

It’s hard to know what we ourselves will find most important in the months to come, let alone what others—your employees—will think is important. Several experts recently shared their workplace predictions in an article by Lily Peterson in ALM Benefits Pro.

Employees Expect Leaders to Be More Proactive

Richa Gupta, CHRO, G-P, told Peterson that organization leaders will be expected to communicate more frequently with employees and to offer ongoing feedback: “The mindset has shifted from ‘my paycheck to my purpose’; ‘my boss to my coach’; ‘my annual performance review to ongoing development conversations.’ It is not an employer’s market anymore; it’s an employee’s market and workers aren’t afraid to search elsewhere to find a workplace, or leader, that fits their needs. In response, there will continue to be not only a transformation of leadership styles, but in the overall organization of leadership strategy.”

This leadership style of ongoing feedback could backfire if you don’t train managers the right way to strike a balance between criticism and encouragement. Some may assume that every feedback interaction must include both positive and negative points, so that even when there isn’t anything negative to say, they will find an area of needed improvement to point out, even if it’s tedious minutia. Similarly, it becomes obvious if what the manager has to say is basically negative, but they stretched to find something inconsequential to compliment. There should be a culture that values substantive, meaningful feedback, with an eye toward avoiding hypercriticism.

Making Workplace a Safe Haven

World events, and pressures such as inflation, make the world feel overwhelming to many. Jan Bruce, CEO and co-founder of meQuilibrium, says leaders in 2024 will be expected to provide a workplace that gives employees a sense of organization and security. One way to do this will be through use of psychological assessments. “Psychosocial risk assessments will become essential for business leaders as they take on the hard job of helping the workforce face current brutal truths in a disordered world, and at the same time remain optimistic about the future. Leaders will use the tangible and effective tools they have to assess and address psychosocial risks and build employee resilience. By making a full commitment to the potential of their organization, employees will be better able to handle difficult change and come out stronger for it,” Bruce told Peterson.

If psychological assessments are delivered to employees or managers (or both), the purpose behind the assessments must be clear, so employees don’t think of these tools as just another chore they have been assigned. It also helps if the assessments can somehow be made enjoyable or interesting. The last thing employees want is more paperwork, digital or otherwise.

Better-Trained Managers

The days of employees accepting poorly trained managers may be over, Jenny von Podewils, co-CEO of Leapsome, told Peterson. You can’t empower managers who are not well prepared for their jobs. “Support employee development through more and better manager enablement,” she stresses. “With poor manager-report relations being a leading cause of employee turnover, HR leaders must equip managers with the tools and skills they need to foster stronger connections and better understand and support their teams.”

The challenge of ensuring your organization has strong, competent leaders is in the evaluation process. Even in a large workgroup, most employees will be unwilling to say anything critical about their bosses, even when they really want to. The fear of the remarks coming back to bite them, with managers retaliating, is too overwhelming.

One solution is to have a Human Resources or Learning professional embed off and on with work groups. “Embedding” could mean simply having the HR or Learning professional sit at a workstation for a month among the employees whose manager is being evaluated. Or, better yet, having someone from HR or Training embed for a day or two here and day or two there, with no prior warning or announcement. It’s an easy way to get a true read on how well managers are doing and what employees really think of them.

Support Managers So They Can Support Employees

Managers can’t be empowered to do their jobs well without the right organization support, Megan Smith, head of HR at SAP North America, told Peterson: “Implementing practices to empower and support the success of front-line and middle managers with sufficient levers for them to work smarter and navigate complex problems effectively will pay off with engaged employees who connect into and feel accountable for the company strategy.”

Budget cuts must be done in a way that doesn’t leave managers with skeleton staffs that are insufficient for the work that needs to be done, or the inability to travel to in-person meetings and events that are crucial to the organization to attend. More importantly, when budget cuts need to be made, it can’t make employees’ lives more difficult than they already are.

 If you can’t afford your current work space, for instance, be wary of moving out of town and extending commutes while continuing to require an in-office presence. And when you take away creature comforts in the office, realize that the discomfort employees experience as a result will boomerang back to their managers, and, ultimately, back to the company as a whole.

Are you providing learning and development opportunities to ensure managers—and the whole organization—can give employees the work experience they expect?