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Employers beware of the widening employee experience perception gap

Discover the growing disparity between employer and employee perceptions of the workplace experience and the rising demand for AI integration in HR.

Only 13% of UK employees, and 20% of employees worldwide, currently rate their employee experience as ‘excellent’, compared with 64% of HR and Reward professionals who claim that their organisation is delivering an ‘excellent’ employee experience.

New research* reveals how a substantial gulf is emerging between employers and employees when it comes to evaluations around the quality of employee experience. And much of this is being driven by an alarming decline in employee sentiment when it comes to the experiences they get at work. In 2023, 38% of employees around the world rated their employee experience as excellent, compared to only 20% today.

Commenting on the research, Michael Tigwell, Benefex’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “It’s concerning that employers feel that they are performing better than they actually are when it comes to providing great employee experience. It’s certainly not a result of a lack of focus or effort on the part of employers, but there is clearly a disconnect between the initiatives they’re undertaking to enhance employee benefits and reward experience and what their people actually need right now.”

The research also uncovers a growing appetite for greater deployment of AI technologies within HR teams. With the amount of time spent on admin being the biggest frustration among HR and Reward professionals, 41% believe that their teams should be doing more with AI. They point to a series of benefits they expect a greater use of AI to deliver, including freeing up time to focus on more strategic work (49%) and helping to alleviate job-related stress (39%).

At the same time, HR and Reward professionals also express some concerns about widescale use of AI within their HR organisation. More than a quarter (26%) are worried about the danger of bias in HR-related AI applications, and 20% are concerned about the risks of using corporate information in AI models. At a personal level, as many as 19% of HR and Reward professionals state that they expect AI to replace most jobs in reward and benefits, and 10% fear that AI will replace their own job.

Employee expectations have risen significantly over the past year, with 81% stating that their employee experience at work has become more important to them. As you would expect given the ongoing cost of living crisis which is affecting people across the world, the primary area where expectations have increased is salary. People are looking to maximise their income to cope with rising costs and financial challenges. But beyond salary, employee expectations have also risen in relation to workplace benefits, recognition and wellbeing.

In response, employers in all industries are looking for ways to improve employee experience and, in particular, they’re prioritising wellbeing support. 84% of HR and Reward professionals point to wellbeing as vital to a good employee experience.

Employee benefits are viewed by both employers and employees as the most effective vehicle to protect employee wellbeing. Indeed, benefits is cited as the top priority for workforce-related investment over the coming year, with 71% of organisations planning to increase spending on benefits.

Employee expectations around benefits continue to evolve, with demands for more flexible and personalised benefits, increased choice and for benefits to be more closely aligned to people’s personal values. More than 90% of employees state that it’s important that their benefits protect them if they get sick, help them to achieve work-life balance, and support their financial, physical and emotional wellbeing. 59% state that benefits provision is a very important consideration for them when selecting an employer.

Elsewhere, the research shows that employees are attaching greater importance to recognition at work. 94% report that it’s important for them to be recognised for their efforts and achievements at work, and 89% feel it’s important to be able to recognise their colleagues. However, employees are unimpressed with the technology that employers are providing in order to facilitate recognition, with only 42% rating it as good or excellent. This is consistent with wider dissatisfaction around technology, with 61% of employees stating that the technology they use at work lags behind the technology they use at home.

Michael Tigwell, concluded: “Arguably the biggest learning from this research is that employers can’t stand still when it comes to employee experience. They need to continually listen to employees to understand their changing needs and build agility into their reward and benefits strategies, so they can respond in a fast and effective way. This means embracing new ideas and implementing new technologies, such as AI, which can ease pressure in the HR department. ”

*The full research from Benefex is vailable in the new white paper, “The Expectation Exponential: Keeping your reward and benefits strategy ahead of employee expectations,” which is available for download here.


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