12 Employee Engagement and Internal Communications Trends for 2023
With a new year (and fresh uncertainty) on the horizon, everyone in the world of employee experience, internal communications and human resources is likely wondering: what could possibly happen next?
After all, no one could’ve predicted the dramatic swings the business world would make in just one year. Remember the first half of 2022? The Great Resignation/Reshuffle/Renegotiation, exorbitant job offers, and quiet quitting were all fueling massive discussions.
Cut to the backend of the year and the headlines were dominated by rescinded job offers, slashed budgets and mass layoffs. The shift from abundance to scarcity has never felt more pointed.
Between peak inflation, a looming recession, Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine, and the ongoing COVID saga, a lot has rattled how our people think, feel, work and live. With all that taken into consideration, our team is looking ahead to predict what the world of work will look like in 2023.
Read on for 12 trends (in no particular order) that we think you should pay special attention to in the year to come.
1. Core Values Take Center Stage
Core values have always mattered in the workplace. But all signs are pointing toward values becoming THE MOST crucial component of the employee experience.
Recent studies have repeatedly found a connection between a company’s core values and whether people choose to join or leave. – Qualtrics even found more than half of U.S. employees would be willing to take a pay cut to work at a company with better values. As we enter a possible economic downturn, companies can’t afford the cost of replacing experienced talent.
In 2023, I believe we’ll see more companies putting their resources toward uncovering what’s important to leaders and employees alike, ensuring the company’s core values are aligned, and most importantly, that those values are operationalized at every stage of the employee lifecycle.
Core values should be evident in everything from a company’s interview questions to the way they send off departing employees, and I think (hope!) this will finally be the year that companies give this work the time and attention it deserves. – Ann Melinger, CEO
2. The Year of Change Management
As communicators and HR practitioners, we’ve been in a constant state of change for nearly three years. From remote work to the future of work, the Great Resignation to quiet quitting, the war for talent to layoffs – plans are being scrapped as quickly as they’re developed to get ahead of the next curveball. And while we’ve done our best to navigate uncertainty while keeping employees engaged, change fatigue is setting in.
In 2016, the Gartner Workforce Change Survey showed 74% of employees were willing to change work behaviors to support organizational changes, but that number plummeted to 38% in 2022. With a potential recession looming, there’s no doubt that new challenges await in 2023, and I predict we’ll see an elevated need for change management across the board.
My recommendation? Start researching those change management courses and certification programs now. Being able to effectively plan for and lead through change will be the “must-have” skillset for communicators and HR professionals of 2023. – Patty Rivas, Vice President
3. The Future of Work Is Now
Since the pandemic began, business leaders have been forced to rethink their ways of working and determine what makes most sense for both their employees and their business. This new school of thought known as “the future of work” has been trending as something businesses need to conceive and implement.
Spoiler alert: The “future of work” is NOW. We have been living it, breathing it and doing it – figuring out what the “new normal” looks like. We will continue to see companies and business leaders plan, implement and iterate on their strategies in 2023.
The hybrid approach continues to gain traction as the working model of choice for employers with 90% of leaders saying they will opt for a hybrid model post-pandemic. And employees are here for it – and in most cases – are expecting work flexibility from their employers.
Leaders will have to remain nimble and open to feedback from their people as they continue to navigate the challenges that new working models will inevitably uncover. But let’s give this movement a new name, shall we? The “future of work” is today, and the work being put in matters now! – Sonia Segal-Smith, Senior Strategist
4. The Rise of Team-Specific Surveys
In many cases, companies with hybrid work models are leaving the decisions on where and how to work up to individual teams. Because of this, we’re predicting (and hoping for!) the rise of team-specific pulse surveys.
These ongoing, targeted surveys would aim to understand - on a team level- if their ways of working, team norms, and communication/collaboration styles are productive or need to evolve.
It’s also an opportunity to gauge if and how the team environment is fostering inclusivity and psychological safety. What's more, Managers can also determine what skill gaps are present on their teams and in turn, identify any needed development opportunities.
Internal communications and HR can and should be prepared to support and balance survey efforts while keeping "survey fatigue," or lack of action fatigue as we prefer to call it, top of mind. If you want to read more about this trend, How The Future Works by Slack’s Future Forum has INCREDIBLE insights. – Jackie Berg and Becky Sennett, Brilliant Ink Research Team
5. Modern Intranets as Digital Culture Hubs
Fostering a workplace culture will become increasingly important in 2023 as organizations look for opportunities to promote company cohesion in hybrid environments and employees seek an increase in connectivity. In fact, according to Zapier, roughly 71% of Gen Z and 69% of Millennial employees admit they are constantly on or checking their work communication tools outside of work.
So, let’s use 2023 to create a centralized hub for employee engagement that keeps company culture front and center using our intranets! From communicating about your company values to sharing personal bios and engaging employees with fun polls, your intranet can become a valuable tool in creating opportunities for dialogue and connection. – Maira Sarwar-Sheikh, Senior Strategist
6. The Rise of Async Collaboration
If you haven't noticed it happening already, asynchronous communication is going to pop off next year! By using tools like Slack, Loom, and OneNote, we can record live meetings, pre-record onboarding materials, take asynchronous notes, and collect ideas in a virtual environment. All of these tools are now essential for working effectively in remote and hybrid environments.
This is going to continue to become the new norm and will save us all time in meetings (which study after study continues to demonstrate remain unproductive). – Mylanah Gordon, Lindsay McCleary, Danielle Mishkit, and Siona Moses, Brilliant Ink Project Management Office
7. Creating Boundaries FOR COMMUNICATION/COLLABORATION
With the pandemic came a huge shift in how we connect online, but it also came with a lack of boundaries. Now that teams have adopted new online communication and async collaboration tools as the norm, they will start to set more intentional boundaries.
Remote workers have the extra challenge of needing to clearly draw the line between home and work life. It is harder to take a break from work when your office is in your home and your work notifications are popping up on your phone.
With this, we see robust meeting and communication guidelines in our future – and who better to lead the way in penning these than our friends in internal communications? Greater clarity will enable our people to work with efficiency, effectiveness and balance! – Lindsay McCleary, Head of Operations
8. Authenticity Is the New Polish in Communication
With the rise of Tiktok, real, authentic and even messy content is taking preference over the meticulously planned, highly produced and super polished content that we’ve been seeing for years on our Instagram feeds. The demand for authenticity is pushing content creators to be more creative and is perceived as more trustworthy by consumers.
In 2023, we’ll see employees demand more authentic and real content coming from their leaders – from quick and low-production value videos to monthly musings giving a trail-of-consciousness overview of what’s on their leaders' minds.
Particularly as Gen Z enters the workforce with a higher expectation of transparency and trust than ever before, leaders will need to get more comfortable with more transparency and authenticity in the way they engage with their people. Internal communications is uniquely positioned in organizations in a way that makes them the ideal partners to continue to push and support their leadership in this direction! – Lauren James, Senior Strategist
9. Taking Positions on Politics & Issues
At the urging of employees, companies will wade into even more political and social issues as the next presidential election looms in late 2024. Edelman’s Trust Barometer reported in 2022 that businesses’ societal role is here to stay, urging leaders to step into the light as trust in government wanes.
While we might not see this hit an all-time high until 2024, 2023 is the perfect time to firm up your purpose and values, and set your strategy for addressing hot-button issues.
While action and investment around Diversity, Equity and Inclusion softened in 2022, you can rest assured that every company will be reexamined closely the next time an incendiary event captures the hearts and minds of the populace. – Sara Forner Howland, Head of Strategy
10. Designing with the Human in Mind
Employees are increasingly looking to their employers to take a stance on what they believe, and want to work for companies that elevate their personal purpose and values. In 2023, we'll see these trends expand beyond words and communications with more human-centric design.
From increasing diverse representation to adjusting brands to be more accessible and elevating their universal design practices, designers and communicators can come together to address the core needs of their audiences. Even from choosing more sustainable options for print/merch items to incorporating more personality into designs and brands, we'll see the human experience become the center of all design decision-making.
Employees want to feel a deeper connection to their work and therefore want to work for organizations whose values align with their own. The way we package, design and deliver information to our people will be integral in creating meaningful places to work and retaining top talent. – Claire Turk, Creative Services Lead
11. Pay Transparency Is Coming
Even in a volatile economy where momentum is swinging (supposedly) in the employer’s direction, workplace pay equity programs will remain a top priority for companies in 2023. New York recently joined Colorado in enacting a pay transparency law that requires employers to include a "good faith" salary range in every job ad, and California will be next on January 1, 2023.
Though a handful of states already have pay transparency laws on the books, expect even more states to join the movement in the coming year, due in large part to rightful employee demands for pay equity.
According to a 2023 Syndio Workplace Equity Trends report, which surveyed more than 400 professionals and leaders in HR, Total Rewards, and DE&I, two-thirds of companies are unprepared to comply with new pay transparency laws, which will undoubtedly impact their ability to source and hire top talent. But companies shouldn’t be intimidated – they should get ready.
Throw out one-time, black box pay equity analyses and really lean into communicating pay ranges with candor and authenticity. Equity work is messy work. Embrace it, and you’ll attract the right talent. – Farida Habeeb, PhD, Senior Strategist
12. Demand for Real DEI Solutions
Despite companies pledging billions of dollars, leaders making sweeping statements, and Chief Diversity Officer’s being hired – many are wondering, “What has actually been accomplished?”
Underrepresented employees are tired of the same lackluster read-outs each year. Gen Z, the most diverse generation to date, is entering the workforce with great expectations for inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. Not to mention leaders, who can already find prioritizing DEI challenging in the best of times, are facing a dismal economic climate with many more tough decisions ahead of them.
In 2023, the expectation will only rise for leaders, DEI, HR and IC to sink their teeth into the work beyond buzz words and tick-the-box activities through real strategies with accountability, meaningful outcomes and measurable outputs.
Employees want organizations to move beyond simple hiring and L&D goals – and prioritize the hard work of retention and development through promotion and advancement, pay equity, and manager/leader trainings to truly enhance the experience of all employees.
This all cannot fall on the singular lap of the DEI or HR leaders though. It will require collaboration, investment, commitment and communication across functions and at every level. – Gabriel Galdamez, Senior Strategist
What else should be on your radar?
Qualtrics spoke with 28,000 employees across the globe to identify the top employee experience trends for 2023. Meanwhile, our friends at Staffbase flagged seven important trends (and recommendations) for internal communicators.
For our colleagues in HR, Gartner surveyed 800+ HR leaders to outline HR’s top five priorities for 2023. (Spoiler alert: Employee experience, future of work and change management also topped Gartner's list!) It’s also worth taking a look at five DEI trends to retire in 2023.
The year to come is sure to bring its own set of twists and turns. While we can in no way anticipate everything that will come, we can lean on our unique skillset and lessons learned as communicators and HR professionals to rise to the occasion. We’ve done it before, we’ll do it again – and even more brilliantly than before!
For more bite-sized brilliance, and to keep up with all the 2023 trends as they happen, subscribe to our monthly employee engagement newsletter, the Inkwell. Oh, and be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Pinterest!