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UNLEASH reports - empowering managers with data-led talent strategies will directly impact employee experience, productivity, and performance

from  February 16, 2024 | 4 min read

What employees expect from their employer, their working conditions, and the effect of this on productivity and performance, has changed greatly in recent years. 

Gallup reports that at least 50%, newer research suggests up to 60%, of employees are “doing the bare minimum” or what’s referred to as ‘quiet quitting’. In addition to huge talent shortages that aren’t letting up, HR departments are under more pressure than ever to optimize the employee experience.

Unit4 has partnered with UNLEASH to conduct research into how people managers and HR teams are currently measuring, analyzing, and optimizing the employee experience. 

In this blog we will summarize the main takeaways from the report, and how HR departments can adapt to these modern HR trends, all while building strategies for the future.

The report at a glance:

  • 69% say line managers play either an ‘integral’ or ‘make or break’ role in developing a positive employee experience. 
  • More than half (55%) believe their people managers are having an ‘average’ impact on employee experience. 
  • 41% of businesses we surveyed were confident that people managers understood how they contribute to organizational performance.
  • Exit interviews (63%) are the most common method for gathering staff feedback.
  • Only 31% of businesses maintain a continuous feedback loop with people managers. 
  • 65% say their managers are either not given the data at the right time to inform key decisions, or they don’t have access to a full range of insights. 
  • Only 25% of HR and business leaders feel sure that line managers have the right tools to enhance employee experience.

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The role of people managers

It’s clear that line managers are at the heart of employee experience, with 69% of organizations suggesting that line managers play either an ‘integral’ or ‘make or break’ role in developing a positive employee experience. 

This experience is key to performance, productivity, and engagement, not just on an employee-to-employee basis, but on a macro level for enterprises of all industries and sizes.

Line or team managers who have direct day-to-day contact with employees will shoulder the responsibility of improving the employee experience. Currently, more than half of surveyed organizations (55%) believe their people managers are having an ‘average’ impact on employee experience. 

A study from Harvard Business Review reported an improved employee experience increased revenue by more than 50%, and profits by nearly as much. This implies that supporting line managers to improve the employee experience can directly lead to better organizational performance as a result.

Yet, more than half of surveyed organizations (55%) currently believe their people managers are having an ‘average’ impact on employee experience. While less than half (41%) of businesses UNLEASH surveyed were confident that people managers understood how they contribute to organizational performance. 

The evidence suggests line managers need to be empowered to provide an optimal employee experience – but how?

The Current Challenges for Line Managers

25% of HR and business leaders report to UNLEASH that their managers have the right tools to enhance employee experience.

UNLEASH report on the current ways in which feedback, and general employee data, are gathered by the organizations surveyed:

  • Exit Interviews (63%)
  • Pulse surveys (50%)
  • 1:1 sessions (50%)
  • 360 performance reviews (35%)

The fact exit interviews are where many organizations get feedback and data on their employees demonstrates line managers lack the data to initiate proactive change before it’s too late – losing an employee can cost up to 2 times their annual salary. 

Only 25% of HR and business leaders feel sure that line managers have the right tools to enhance employee experience, and it’s clear that there is a data gap where proactive optimization of the employee experience is concerned.

The Data Gap

UNLEASH finds just 55% of organizations provide performance data to line managers, with only 54% having access to employee engagement data. Line managers can’t be expected to optimize the employee experience without visibility and analysis of employee data.

A continuous feedback loop provides “the chance to strengthen employee-manager relationships and align management practices with the wider mission of the organization.” Yet only 31% of organizations report maintenance of a feedback loop or perhaps lack the tools to optimize this process.

The benefit of providing line managers with data is clear, but providing ownership of this data to employees could help engagement, and importantly reduce the rate of quiet quitting as a result.

Microsoft reports that employees are 121% more likely to feel valued by their company when they have access to high-quality data experiences at work, such as the visibility of their performance data and documents.

What can HR leaders learn from UNLEASH’s report on employee experience?

It’s clear that a significant amount of employees currently feel disengaged from their managers, leading to quiet quitting and high employee turnover rates, both of which cost an enterprise their bottom line: whether that’s turning a profit, providing a service, or achieving a wider mission.

Line managers have a great effect on employee engagement, but the report highlights that managers lack the necessary tools to proactively change the employee experience. Equally, when employees are armed with ownership of their data, they too can take proactive ownership of their performance and become more engaged.

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