Employee wellbeing on the decline, study warns

Workers in NZ feeling less engaged as well-being, inclusion, and intent to stay slide

Employee wellbeing on the decline, study warns

Employers pumped a huge amount of resources into wellbeing throughout the pandemic – but it appears that their effectiveness has dried up. New Zealand employees are reporting lower levels of engagement, wellbeing, inclusion, and intent to stay with their employer for three-plus years.

The latest annual Qualtrics Employee Experience Trends report showed that scores for all categories have declined in comparison to last year. Wellbeing in New Zealand currently sits at 66%, compared to a 72% global average.

It seems Kiwi employees are also more willing to jump ship, as the intent to stay with a current employer (51%) was well below the global average of 65%.

The study also revealed that frontline employees such as cashiers, restaurant servers and retail workers are the most unhappy, poorly supported and least trusting of their managers. Dr Crissa Sumner, senior manager – XM Advisory Services at Qualtrics says that at a time when companies are facing challenging markets and trying to lift productivity, employee experience is one of the most important levers for businesses to prioritise.

“​When you consider great employee experiences are linked to positive business outcomes - including profitability, productivity, retention, and customer satisfaction - employers need to act now or they’ll be missing out,” Dr Sumner says. “One of the most important actions they can take to reverse this trend is ensuring managers have the insights, tools, and support they need to lead teams through the current period of continued change at work.” ​

AI and hybrid working results in mixed feelings

When it comes to time spent in the office, companies are still trying to nail the right balance. Qualtrics research shows that some time spent in the office is better than none – but at five days a week, engagement and wellbeing starts to drop, and employees are less likely to say their expectations are being met.

Figures show that an average of 2-4 days in the office yields the best scores across all five metrics. Experience vs. expectations drops sharply when that rises to five days a week, with 39% of hybrid employees reporting a good experience compared to 30% of full-time office workers. However, the score is even lower for those who spend no time in the office at all (27%).

New Zealand employees also appear to be the most hesitant about adopting AI-powered tools to help them with their work. Half of local respondents (50%) said they were not open to using AI, compared to 42% globally.

When it comes to the type of AI assistance on offer, data shows that employees would much rather work with AI tools than be managed by them. 55% of employees would be open to having AI help them with writing tasks, and 40% would take on AI as a personal assistant.

However, when asked whether they would use AI for internal support, coaching and personal growth, formal education, performance appraisals or job interviews, the answer was a resounding no. Only 16% of respondents were willing to be interviewed by an AI bot compared to 70% who disliked the idea, and only 20% were open to performance appraisals being conducted by AI bots.

“While the world of AI-driven systems may unsettle some employees, if companies prove they are driving organisational improvements based on their usage, the organisation can build trust,” head of employee experience product science Matthew Evans says.

“By emphasising transparency, explainability and communicating action, organisations will mitigate the risk of coming across as ‘Big Brother’ and can even see improved relationships between employees and leadership.”

Employees comfortable with sharing work emails and chats for better experience

Alongside directly solicited feedback such as an engagement survey, ‘passive listening’ to channels such as work emails, interview notes and chat messages can provide critical insights around engagement.

It seems New Zealand employees have little issue with employers gathering feedback in this way in return for a better employee experience. A majority of employees (66%) were comfortable with employers using email data, while 63% were okay with employers using data from their work systems and processes.

However, they are less comfortable with social media being used as an insights tool. Only 31% were okay with their company using data from anonymous social media posts, compared to 37% who weren’t.

This opinion has been echoed by respondents globally, and principal behavioural scientist Cecelia Herbert says companies need to take note.

“Employees are very clearly saying: ‘Here is our boundary’,” Herbert says. “Organisations have to respect that.”

For more insights, read the full 2024 Employee Experience Trends Report here.

Recent articles & video

Abbott's EVP of HR: 'What do they need that we can help with?'

'HR leadership is a strategic enabler of a company's success'

MEPV support coming to an end in March

Ember Korowai Takitini's HR leader on how to be successful in HR

Most Read Articles

Westpac NZ rolls out sustainability training to all employees

Former ANZ bank employee to repay more than $200,000 in embezzled funds

New Zealand employees value flexibility over career progression: survey