Gaps Emerge Between Leader and Employee Sentiment on the Future Employee Experience

It’s no surprise that employers and employees have significant differences of opinion when it comes to “return to work.” This has been a contentious issue since remote work became the de-facto standard during the pandemic.

While most employees embrace the new normal, many employers are not so sure about the long-term effects.

 As employers implement their future of work strategies, including decisions around hybrid work and increased flexibility, a gap is emerging between executive and employee perceptions on the future of the employee experience, according to Gartner, Inc.

“We examined the key areas crucial to planning for the future employee experience and discovered significant dissonance between employee and executive sentiment across all,” said Alexia Cambon, director in the Gartner HR practice. “If left unaddressed, this division may lead to a critical failure to build trust and employee buy-in for future of work plans.”

The 2021 Gartner Hybrid Work Employee Survey of 4,000 employees reveals the six perception gaps that employers must resolve:

  • 75% of executive leaders believe they are already operating within a culture of flexibility.

  • Only 57% of employees indicate that their organizational culture embraces flexible work.

  • Nearly three-quarters of executives believe the business understands how flexible work patterns support employees, but only half of employees share this view.

“Employees do not feel that their need for flexibility is seen as a driver of performance,” said Cambon. “More concerning is the clear gap when it comes to autonomy over the decision to work flexibly — 72% of executives agree they can work out their own flexible work arrangement with their manager, whereas only half of employees feel they have that same privilege.”

The gap between executives and employees in their ability to work from home is likely to further disadvantage employees if it makes them less likely to take advantage of flexibility.

  • 66% of employees agree they have the technology they need to effectively work remotely, compared to 80% of executives.

  • Only 59% of employees agree their organization has invested in providing them with resources that allow them to work the way they would onsite in a virtual environment — compared to 76% of executives.

Not surprisingly, employees have lower levels of trust than executive leaders.

  • Only 41% of employees agree that senior leadership acts in their best interest, compared to 69% of executives.

  • Executives are more likely to feel trusted when it comes to working from home, with 70% agreeing that their organization trusts employees not to abuse work flexibility, compared to 58% of employees.

“Without trust, employees may feel wary of sharing their honest opinions about how, where and when they want to work,” said Cambon.

Executives think they listen, but employees disagree.

  • Only 47% of employees believe leadership takes their perspective into consideration when making decisions, whereas 75% of senior leaders feel they do.

Executives hear one thing and employees hear another.

  • 71% of executives agree leadership at their organization has expressed a preference for work conditions to return to their pre-pandemic model, whereas only 50% of employees have that same impression.

Executives feel greater purpose than employees.

  • While 77% of executives agree they feel like they are a part of something important at their organization, only 59% of employees feel similarly.

The increasing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion over the last 18 months has shone a light on how different employee segments feel about their organization’s diversity.

  • 70% of executives believe that managers at their organization are as diverse as the broader workforce at their organization, compared to only 52% of employees.

How these gaps will affect performance and productivity remains to be seen.

Source: Gartner