Keeping the Employee Experience Bright Amid AI and a Stormy Labor Market

AI, employers, economic forecast
XpertHR, May 2023
Laci Loew, XpertHR Senior Analyst, HR Strategy and Insights

There is no doubt that AI is moving in, and moving some employees out in the process. According to CEO Arvind Krishna, hiring at IBM will be paused in the coming years for roles the company thinks could be replaced with artificial intelligence as automation replaces about 7,800 non-customer-facing jobs impacting about 26,000 employees.

The World Economic Forum shares startling data as well, reporting 81% of companies are expected to adopt AI in some form by 2027 and thus anticipating job displacement in a minimum of one-fifth of companies.

Public concern over chatbots' disruption of the labor market is real. It doesn't stop there. AI-driven labor market transformations are being exacerbated by economic troubles, geopolitical disruptions, and growing social pressures - all with additional pressures on the labor equation.

The collective impact of a turbulent and transforming market is taking a toll on engagement and the employee experience (EX) with:

  • 87% of employees unsatisfied at work; and
  • 60% of US employees contemplating quitting their jobs this year.

Employees are concerned about job stability, lacking skills they will need for the work of the future, earning fair pay for their contributions, focusing on their well-being, and how closely their company's values align with their own.

In response, leaders are stepping up investing in at least four strategies to prepare workers for the prevailing disruption and empower them to successfully navigate the change while ensuring healthy work cultures and compelling work opportunities for all.

Deploy a Skills Strategy and Internal Talent Mobility

With 68% of employees responding that they would stay in their job if their employer upskilled them, organizations are doing just that. Nearly 82% of employers indicated in the World Economic Forum's 2023 Future of Jobs Report that the highest priority workforce strategy over the next four years is their investment in employee learning on the job.

There is no single answer to what up-skilling and talent mobility looks like, but the most effective organizations:

  • Match employees with work based on their skills and interests;
  • Deploy talent marketplaces to increase the visibility of critical work streams; and
  • Encourage all employees to take up work priorities of greatest personal interest.

When employers democratize development and work opportunities, they've created a game-changing work strategy -- employees perceive leaders' support, they become excited about their prospects for compelling work, and those feelings translate to engagement and a great experience.

Provide Fair Pay Showing Commitment to Equity

If employees don't understand why they are paid what they are, and how it is fair and equitable, they are likely to be unhappy. This means leaders need to get serious about pay gaps and any lack of pay transparency.

Pay equity (equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, age, ethnicity, or some other demographic) and pay transparency (published and reasonable pay ranges for jobs and open and honest conversations between managers and leaders about employee pay and those ranges) are prerequisites for what employees expect.

In our 2023 Pay Equity and Transparency Global Research Study, employees advised that fair pay and transparent pay practices were strongly correlated with their levels of performance and productivity. This was particularly true for GenZ and Millennials - employee segments that will comprise the majority of the workforce by 2025.

Enable Flexible Working and Focus on Well-being

While some organizations are facing budget cuts, this is precisely the wrong time to pull back on well-being investment with 77% of employees saying they would consider leaving a company that doesn't focus on wellbeing.

On the 2023 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® List, well-being is one of the most significant differentiators. More than 80% of employees at one of these top companies, report having a psychologically and emotionally healthy workplace, and for employees working at a company not on this list, almost a full 30% fewer report the same.

When asked how they are supporting well-being at these "best" companies, leadership said:

  • Flexible working arrangements (remote and hybrid);
  • Additional paid time off (e.g., Friday afternoons away from work, week-long all company break, etc.) to combat stress and burnout;
  • Financial wellness benefits; and
  • Apps on mobile devices to extend well-being tools to friends and family.

Well-being is not lip-service; it has measurable business impact. At these "Best" companies, employees' discretionary effort is 70% higher than it is at organizations not on the "Best" list and revenue per employee at these same organizations grows 7%.

Align Organizational and Employee Values

A full 60% of Gen Zs and 62% of Millennials expect companies to take a stand on causes that matter to them including human rights, race discrimination and sexual orientation. These employee segments don't shy away from controversy, and they respect employers who do the same.

They reward the brands that offer bold transparency by staying engaged employees, fully supporting them and ensuring friends and family do, too. In contrast, they will shun, and vacate quickly, organizations that do not rise up - and statements on websites or job boards are not enough.

These employees are looking for observable action - think Chick-Fil-A being dismissed because of the organization's statements about supporting traditional marriage versus same-sex marriage or Ben & Jerry's who they've generally embraced because of leadership's obvious commitment to social issues such as democracy, climate change, and LGBTQ+ rights.

As Millennials and Gen Z gain volume and influence in the world of work, employers are doubling down on their efforts to align organizational values with their employees. In return, these companies can expect employees to stick around, be productive, and shout to the hilltops about how great it is to be there.

So, How Big a Deal is EX, Really?

With organizations designing and redesigning talent strategies to advance the employee experience, is it all really worth the effort one might ask? Yes.

If there is any doubt about the importance of creating a great employee experience in today's workplaces, just look here: According to WTW, "employee experience shapes business value and is a predictor of business performance," and companies that invest in employee experience outperform those that don't by 2x in terms of average profit. So, I'll ask you, is it all really worth it?