Improving the employee experience including increasing engagement levels is the greatest priority for HR leaders right now. This is closely followed by attracting and retaining talent, with HR leaders least concerned about ‘employee relations’ and delivering hybrid working. These are some of the key findings from WorkBuzz’s State of Employee Engagement Report 2022 which involved research with over 300 U.K. business leaders, HR professionals and employees, and drew on insights from over 400 U.K. organisations.

44 percent of business and HR leaders surveyed are prioritising the employee experience and staff engagement, which Steven Frost, CEO of employee engagement expert, WorkBuzz, doesn’t find surprising: “Flexible and hybrid working trends are prompting employees to think about what they want from their organisation and their own employee experience, with an engaging working environment becoming more and more important. Leaders are increasingly recognising this and are looking at ways to provide a fulfilling everyday experience for all.”

Talent attraction and retention are the next priorities for leaders (cited by 41 percent and 35 percent of survey respondents respectively). However, the report regards these priorities as entwined with employee experience as Frost explains, “Employee experience and recruiting the best people are mutually dependent. After all, in a candidate driven market with 500,000 fewer workers in the UK than before the pandemic, the only sustainable way to win the war for talent is by creating a great employee experience.”

The least important considerations for business and HR leaders right now are employee relations (mentioned by just 6 percent of respondents), and delivering effective hybrid and flexible working (stated as important by just 13 percent of respondents).

“It’s interesting that employee relations isn’t a focus for leaders at the moment, when we’re seeing employee experience topping their list of priorities”, says Frost. “I would suggest this is more a reflection of how far HR has come in recent years, as the term ‘employee relations’ is historically associated with tense negotiations between management and employees. In many respects the one-dimensional approach of employee relations is dead in the water.”

The report also points to the reason why so few respondents have identified hybrid working as a priority – just 13 percent compared with 43 percent 12 months’ ago. Hybrid working is now embedded into many organisations, and for the majority of office-based roles, flexibility around how, where, and when employees work is no longer a differentiator; it’s an expected given. With this in mind ‘the ship has sailed’ regarding the delivery of hybrid working, with HR leaders moving onto other priorities.

Ian Barrow, Senior Employee Experience Consultant from WorkBuzz adds, “This latest research confirms much of what we’re finding day-to-day, with organisations laser-focused on ways to add value to their employees’ everyday experiences. And although hybrid working is still important, the focus is less on how to deliver and embed it, and more on how to overcome the new challenges it presents, so employees are in a much better place to thrive in today’s ever-changing landscape.”