Employee Engagement

HR trends for 2023: People leaders share their workplace predictions for the new year

Highlights (or, why you should read this post)

  • We researched the latest and ongoing HR trends–from retention vs. acquisition, to talent strategy and providing employee support, to hybrid work.
  • We asked HR and People leaders—including Bravely, Namely, and ThinkHuman—to respond to the top trends we identified with a prediction. 
  • Paired with their insights and key takeaways, here’s our take on those trends to consider, with actionable tips, as you plan for the future of work in 2023. 

Believe it or not, there’s a lot to be hopeful about as we head into 2023. While there’s no denying the realities of a looming recession, widespread layoffs, and rising employee disengagement, this moment offers an opportunity for every company and People leader willing to double down on employee support and advocacy. 

It might sound daunting to commit to prioritizing people when there are so many other pressures to navigate, but—as a dear coworker often reminds me—we can do hard things. Over the past few years, People and human resources professionals have shown that they’re resilient. That they’re committed to showing up and collaborating with leaders and employees to address some of the biggest challenges: to reimagine work, our work environments, and work-life balance, to name a few.

You’re heading into another year that will bring challenges and triumphs, but you’re bringing a new level of lived experience with you. And you’ve got an ever-growing community in your corner, the Blueboard team included.

Which brings us to this post, written to surface researched trends and expert talent management advice you can carry with you into a new year. Read on for actionable tips and predictions from HR leaders and people management leaders that will help you boost employee engagement and retention in 2023 and beyond.

5 predictions from HR and People leaders on what to expect in the new year. 

In reviewing existing trends and research, we saw a central theme emerge: The importance of setting the people who power organizations up for success, with a focus on support and care. We asked HR and People management leaders to respond to the top trends we identified with a prediction. Paired with their insights and key takeaways, here’s our take on those trends to consider as you plan for 2023.  

1. 2023 will see renewed investment in manager L&D.

More than ever, employees want support for their professional growth. Not only do managers need the training to provide this support, they also want their professional development needs taken care of, too. 

Investing in development and upskilling opportunities for your entire employee base can pay off big time—in fact, our friends at Culture Amp found that L&D is essential to engagement, retention, and productivity. But this year, organizations will need to pay particular attention to how we’re supporting the managers who support our employees.

More on why this trend matters and a related prediction from Sarah Deane, Founder and CEO of MEvolution.

The human energy crisis continues, especially in light of the ongoing energetic tolls the past few years have taken on us, paving the way for the Great Re-Energizing. In 2023, organizations will face a critical junction where they will either continue down a path of energy depletion or foster the necessary environment to revitalize their employees.  

In particular, managers face burnout risk more than any other job level. Spending their day giving energy to support stressed team members, supporting leaders' requests, and getting their own work tasks completed, can leave them with little energy for much else. This can be due to lack of positive relational energy: energy people share with each other, in active alignment with their values, that encourages and renews them. The Harvard Business Review found that, “positive relational energy…is the most underutilized yet powerful predictor of leadership and organizational success.” 

Energy (or lack thereof) is contagious. Empowering managers with the performance management tools, training, and skills to understand their energy-blockers, unlearn old behaviors, and re-learn new, energizing ones gives them, and their team, the capacity needed to succeed. Managing their personal energy is key to successfully lead—managing up, with peers, and with direct reports.

A focus on creating, nurturing, and building managers that are positive energizers will be the difference between those that survive, and those that truly thrive, in 2023. 

2. Organizations will prioritize employee retention over talent acquisition. 

The next year will see many organizations more focused on supporting current employees, rather than funneling resources into bringing in new talent. Lattice’s people strategy report found that 84% of HR teams are investing more in employee retention than they have previously, and 61% of HR directors are prioritizing it over talent acquisition.

And for good reason: Many people are watching their social media feeds in real-time fill with news of layoffs, while others are watching their colleagues and friends get laid off—all in the context of an economic recession. This stuff can shake employee confidence and trigger a wave of disengagement if organizations aren’t thoughtful in how they communicate and show up for people. Now, more than ever, you’ve got to remind your workers how much they matter—efforts that extend long after the excitement of onboarding and throughout the entire employee lifecycle.

More on why this trend matters and a related prediction from Will Guerra, Head of Culture Innovation & Strategy, tEQuitable.

The cataclysmic events of the last three years—from COVID, the Great Resignation, and “quiet quitting”, to looming economic downturn, and layoffs—has shifted the paradigm of how we define the workplace. These events also encouraged people to re-prioritize and re-evaluate what they are willing (and unwilling) to tolerate in the workplace.

We saw this front and center with Twitter; when given the ultimatum of staying in a seemingly toxic culture or exiting, large numbers of employees decided to leave. We're also seeing this with workers choosing to unionize across the country and the ramp up of Gen Z'ers entering the workforce; they are explicit about the diverse and inclusive workplaces they want to work for. 

When given the right tools and opportunity, employees can take an active role in vocalizing their needs. Based on tens of thousands of interactions we've had with our users, we've identified the most common recurring areas of organizational support employees are looking for: 

  • They want to feel supported by resources that center their well-being,
  • They want to have a voice and have their feedback met with solutions, 
  • They want to feel safe being their authentic selves, 
  • And, using their voice, they want equity to be the framework of policy and promotion and they want their organization to invest in their growth. 

It's now up to organizations to lean in, listen, and act on what they're hearing to better retain their employees. In 2023, people will guide the success and longevity of any organization and it will all begin with how they are treated, supported, and valued as a whole.

3. Leaders will get creative in providing support for employees. 

Most organizations are tightening the pursestrings heading into 2023, making it tougher than ever to implement the kinds of People programs you might’ve envisioned to instead focus on need-to-haves like healthcare. But providing support to your employees doesn’t have to involve major investment, especially when it comes to emotional and social support—crucial pieces of employee wellbeing.  

Doing more with less will require creativity, but you can show up for your team without drastically upping spending. Consider things like: making sure employees feel heard with feedback surveys and meaningful dialogue, encouraging folks to establish clear work-life boundaries, collaborating on more flexible work schedules, taking time off to recharge,  and establishing mentoring or coaching programs.

More on why this trend matters and a prediction from Katasha Harley, Chief People Officer, Bravely.

The past few years have revealed that employees expect flexibility and personalization in when, where, and how they work—and now, how they learn. At Bravely, we’ve seen the benefit of providing individualized coaching to employees and leaders alike, with 92% reporting that they have learned a new skill as a result of coaching. 

L&D leaders have long sought ways to mitigate learning loss—such as follow-up sessions with the program facilitator, creating small cohorts for continued learning, or sending reminders to participants months later. In order to overcome the forgetting curve, companies must provide programs tailored to the individual by teaching what is needed in the moment and reinforcing the lesson through further resources. 

The employee requirement for individualized support will continue to transform the People/HR function in 2023. Companies will invest in their people by partnering with providers who can deliver a comprehensive, custom learning experience for their employees. L&D will continue to be a must-have for increasing employee retention and engagement, but with much higher success in this new format.

A LinkedIn post (with black text and hands-pointing emojis to emphasize each point) that shares 2023 employee experience trends based on research by Qualtrics.
Grant G., from Qualtrics, highlights the research-backed call for workplaces to prioritize the employee experience in every aspect of the organization. 

4. HR professionals will navigate the era of radical transparency with intention. 

Employees are demanding increased transparency as they prioritize values alignment, navigate economic uncertainty, and seek assurances that they’re working for an organization they can be proud of. HR professionals often want to be transparent with their people, but what you can share is greatly limited by laws, regulations, and the executives you work for. Striking the right balance will be a key challenge in 2023. 

Have open discussions with your leadership team about the conversations you are and are not willing to have beyond the business metrics, and share this with your people. Know the reasons behind why you’re doing what you’re doing, and be prepared to message that in a way that’s motivating and builds trust.

More on why this trend matters and a prediction from Meredith Haberfeld, CEO at ThinkHuman.

The call for inclusion is a call of the time.  For the first time in decades, people are having real discussions about racism and other “isms” (ableism, sexism, anti-semitism, homophobia, islamophobia, ageism, classism, etc).  We’re realizing it’s insufficient to not be overtly oppressive to marginalized groups; that we need to be actively inclusive to shift a world that was not built to work for or include everyone.  

Shifting the tides takes work at the systemic, organizational, and individual level.  

As individual leaders, we each have a sphere of influence. We have the opportunity to set the tone and model behavior to create an environment where each person feels respected, seen, able to contribute, and valued for that contribution.  

To be the best we can be as individuals and leaders, we need to consistently challenge ourselves with new ideas, fresh perspectives, and to continue building the capacity to have difficult conversations.

The Five “BE’s” can act as a compass on your inclusive leadership journey:   

  • Be Brave
  • Be Creative––Shifting “like me” Scenarios
  • Be Receptive to Feedback
  • Be an Active Co-Conspirator
  • Be Respectful Of Boundaries

As you encounter new situations, you can return to these five “BE’s” and they’ll act as a useful filter for how to navigate what are sometimes complex situations.  When used as a filter, they give rise to new actions and support your ongoing growth as an inclusive leader.

5. Companies will get honest about hybrid work and flexibility not being where it needs to be.

Hybrid work may be here to stay—but it’s far from its ideal version. A June 2022 Gallup poll found that the respondents top three challenges facing hybrid workers are reduced access to resources and equipment, weakened connection to their organization's culture, and less collaboration with their team. 

Just as the shift to fully remote work in 2020 felt chaotic at the time, the transition to a hybrid model is a work in progress, too. Now that companies have tested it out in 2021 and 2022, the coming year will see employers continue to get clear on why they want employees back in the office and how that’s benefiting their workforce and bottom line.

A screenshot of a graph (with black text on white background) that shows data from an Indeed report that analyzed pre and post pandemic remote job searches. The blue data points show pre-pandemic percentages, which are lower than the green data points which show the greater percentage of remote job searches in 2022.
This chart based on data from a Glassdoor and Indeed report on hiring trends shows the correlation between remote job searches pre- and post-pandemic—and that remote work is absolutely still a priority for people seeking employment.

There are still some tough conversations that need to be had. While the debate about where we work might be intellectual for some, it has very real, lasting impacts for others. Research shows that the outcome of this conversation disproportionately impacts people from marginalized communities who, for various reasons (such as fear of discrimination or difficulties due to disabilities), do not want to work on-site.  It’s critical that leaders go into these conversations with open ears and eyes—seeking input from all communities within their workplace.

More on why this trend matters and a prediction from workplace experts at Namely

It’s been three years since COVID-19 first hit, and employees across the country still want to work remotely. Whether it’s because they don’t have to commute or can work flexible hours, 59 percent of employees are more likely to choose a remote-first employer.

Looking ahead into 2023, companies that don’t offer remote work in some capacity will be at a disadvantage when it comes to competing for top talent. Whether it’s implementing a hybrid workplace model or fully embracing WFA, remote work policies will continue to have a major impact when it comes to attracting and retaining employees.

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As Glean CEO Arvind Jain writes for Fast Company: "The biggest mistake we can make is trying to apply the old formats and ways of doing things to this new world.” Nothing is set in stone and, as your people and processes evolve, so too should your hybrid work policy.

As you plan for 2023, here are 5 workplace trends to consider that improve employee connection. 

With these HR predictions in mind, let’s take a deep dive into more specific trends and the actions you can take to foster employee connection—a resounding theme in all of the HR trends and predictions we’ve surfaced—in the new year. 

1. Employees expect transparency from their company, particularly around pay. 

Building and maintaining trust with your employees is more important than ever before—and part of that trust-building is being transparent. If workers suspect their boss is hiding things from them, they’re more likely to disengage or leave.

This new employee appetite for transparency is showing up sharply in pay transparency. Gone are the days of the hiring song-and-dance of salary negotiations. Job seekers now expect employers to be upfront about pay ranges, and in some places, legislation may even demand it. Just look at New York City: As of Nov. 1, 2022, a new law requires employers advertising jobs in the Big Apple to include a “good faith salary range.”

In the new year, continue to strive for transparency where you can—especially transparency that supports increased equity and inclusion in your workplace.

2. Skills-based hiring moves front and center. 

While many organizations are prioritizing employee retention over hiring, companies will still need to fill key roles in the coming year. One way hiring managers are combatting a tight labor market is to shift the focus from college degrees and formal qualifications to the actual abilities and value a candidate can bring to your organization. 

"Given that technical, or ‘hard,’ skills, can be easily confirmed through pre-employment testing, certification, and employment history, why are so many employers still requiring degrees?" –Harvard University researchers Joseph Fuller, Christina Langer, and Matt Sigelman in HBR

Going into 2023, skills-based hiring will continue to gain traction. In November 2022, a new bill called the Advancing Skills-Based Hiring Act was introduced in the House in an attempt to move this hiring strategy forward. And at a recent HR conference, Gartner suggested fighting the IT labor shortage with skills-based hiring and compensation.

3. Re-establishing human connection at work remains a top challenge and urgent priority.

A 2022 Blueboard survey highlights the importance of connection in the workplace: Nearly three in five employees said they’d consider quitting if they didn’t feel connected on the job. Despite this, organizations continue to struggle to facilitate employee connection—particularly in hybrid work models. In fact, a recent Airspeed survey showed that just 15% of workers said their colleagues know their hobbies or interests.

From benchmarking the current state of workplace connection through the collection of employee feedback and metrics, to empowering managers to strengthen relationships with their direct reports, to iterating on hybrid work support systems and reinforcing positive employee behaviors––organizations will need to confront the employee connection gap across multiple fronts in 2023.

If that feels overwhelming, start by encouraging simple habits: “I’m a manager myself, and I love to ask my people about things they’ve recently experienced that brought them joy,” Blueboard VP of People & Culture Allyson Tom writes in Forbes. “Over time, I can spot patterns and gain a deeper understanding of what it is that fills their cups—whether it’s nature, family, food, activism, etc. This understanding then helps me identify ways I can support my employees in their pursuit of personal fulfillment.”

A LinkedIn pulse survey asks what the top priority is for 2023, with employee experience being the top response.
The data is loud and clear. This LinkedIn pulse survey shows the employee experience is at the  top of the list for HR teams as they plan for 2023.

4. Companies are still identifying ways to support employee wellbeing, especially mental health

In 2020, companies spent $51 billion on employee wellness, and that number is predicted to go up to $100 billion by 2030. And while it may not be in the budget to implement a robust workplace wellbeing program, you can take science-based actions to support mental health that don’t break the bank:

  • Help employees find purpose in their work. One-on-ones between managers and direct reports can include discussing the “why” behind each employee’s work. If a worker isn’t lighting up over their work lately, their manager can help them brainstorm ways to infuse meaning and purpose into their job or find side projects they can do that align with their values. 
  • Establish clear work-life boundaries. Work-life boundaries—especially for remote employees—ensure your team can truly step away from their desks to refresh and recharge. Uncertainty around those boundaries can make for a lot of unnecessary stress, so consider creating written guidelines that outline expectations. For example, you can add to your employee handbook things like when workers are expected to be online and reachable, how long is acceptable before replying to a Slack message, and what the protocol is around calling someone’s phone number to discuss an urgent work matter.
  • Foster connections between coworkers. Many coworkers are seeing each other in person less often than in pre-pandemic days, which means fostering connection is more important than ever. Remote team-building activities, such as arts and crafts or a trivia session, are inexpensive and fun ways for coworkers to get to know each other outside of their job roles. 

5. 2023 is the year HR embraces employee advocacy. 

In the past, HR was often seen as the bearer of bad news delivering pink slips during economic downturns. Going forward, companies and employees are seeing HR for what it really is: a champion for the workforce. And as the economy and job market continue to be turbulent, every employee needs you in their corner, especially those from marginalized communities. Advocating for your team means infusing diversity, equity, and inclusion into your organization's processes, policies, and culture. And, it means prioritizing care and support for HR professionals, too. 

According to Glassdoor research, corporate investments in DEI peaked in 2021 but started to show signs of decline in 2022. That's not just bad news for society, it's bad news for your employee retention. A November 2022 Indeed/Glassdoor survey found that 62% of U.S. workers would consider leaving a company or declining a job offer if they didn't believe their manager supported DEI initiatives.

HR has a key role to play in DEI, as DEI strategist and consultant Lily Zheng points out: “When things go wrong, HR is meant to be the first line of assistance and accountability as the steward of feedback, conflict resolution, and disciplinary processes. In other words, HR—when done right—almost perfectly complements the needs of effective DEI work.”

Why employee recognition is your secret sauce for retention.

Amid budget cuts, hiring freezes, and layoffs, HR and People professionals are charged with a seemingly impossible task: Do more with less. Given the current climate, taking care of the people who remain at your company is the top priority (and solid business strategy). The new year presents HR department leaders with a bright opportunity to re-engage and foster the growth of existing employees

One more time for the folks in the back! A prediction for 2023 (and always): Your people invest in your company, and supporting them with consistent opportunities to grow (and thrive!) should always be a priority.

One method to consider? Operationalizing employee recognition. 

Gallup research shows that when employees get sufficient recognition for their work, they're four times (4x) as likely to be engaged. And engaged employees are not only more likely to stay at your organization—they’re more likely to positively impact company culture and your bottom line. 

So why is employee recognition such an effective tool? Several reasons, such as:

  • Recognition promotes employee growth. When used effectively, it promotes culture-building behaviors, high-performance, and learning. As Gallup puts it, “[Recognition is] a coaching and behavioral tool that shows what excellence looks like.” 
  • Recognition shows employees how much they matter. When employers show their workers that they notice and appreciate their efforts, employees feel valued. And this sense of “mattering at work” is an essential part of employees’ ability to stay engaged.

Of course, not all employee recognition is effective. The key is to take a strategic approach: To embed employee appreciation and recognition into your company processes. This requires intention, vision, and maybe some investment in digital transformation in the form of new technologies and workflows for successful optimization—but it’s oh so worth it. 

Meaningful, strategic employee recognition offers a clear path to a more fulfilled, engaged, nourished workforce. And organizations with thriving employees perform better across the board—from providing a superior customer experience and meeting staffing needs, to being more profitable in general.

Want to learn more about how to build an impactful employee recognition program that boosts employee engagement and retention? Start with this post on the 3 different types of employee recognition and how to use them.

For HR and People leaders, the end of the year is a time of reflecting, planning, and setting ourselves and our employees up for success in the coming year. As you look ahead, consider how you’ll center the employee experience in 2023 and create a transformative ripple in your team and company. You’ve got this.

Read our round-up and analysis of HR trends (and why they matter) for 2022 and 2021.

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