7 Workplace Trends That Shaped 2023

The last days of the year always bring with them a sense of both reflection and anticipation, looking back on the events and circumstances of the last 12 months, and considering what the next 12 have in store. Here at WorkHound, it’s been a year saturated with change, from expanding our platform features to launching customer-centric events to navigating the tumults of a volatile labor market alongside our clients. We’ve spent this year building strategies to help employers better connect with their teams, and we’ve witnessed the positive impacts first-hand.

As we head into 2024, we’re excited to continue helping more organizations foster stronger, more responsive, and engaging workplace cultures. Looking back on 2023, here are some of the topics and trends that shaped the workplace this year, along with some strategies for the year ahead.

1. Recruiting and Retaining Top Talent in Tough Labor Markets

In a year marked by a tightening labor market and a growing void in skilled workers, leaders need innovative strategies to bolster recruiting and retain top talent. WorkHound founder and CEO Max Farrell says 3 key factors can make all the difference.

1. Benefits packages that go beyond the basics like health insurance and retirement plans, to include bonuses, flexible hours, and more. This ‘benefits plus’ concept helps employers standout in a tough market.

2. Increasing wages. Believe it or not, increasing wages is more cost-effective than hiring new workers, and it boosts productivity, engagement, and morale. But, of course, pay isn’t everything

3. Building a ‘Culture of Curiosity’ through intentional listening and anonymous feedback. This approach allows for real-time problem solving, increases worker engagement, and leads to higher job satisfaction and productivity, ultimately reducing turnover and improving retention.

2. The Rise of the Deskless Worker & Addressing Their Unique Needs

2023 once again saw the reliance on so-called deskless workers: frontline employees who comprise a major segment of the workforce, including dock workers, truck drivers, warehouse employees and more. These employees often feel out of touch with the central office, leading to disconnected work experiences and job dissatisfaction.

Employers also often misjudge frontline workers’ needs, emphasizing job titles over growth and learning opportunities, and underestimating the importance of pay. Recognizing these parities and implementing effective two-way communication can help leaders have a better pulse on worker needs, emphasizing a growth mindset and creating a culture that values employees’ experiences.

3. From Quiet Quitting to Loud Leaving: The Dynamics of Employee Exits

The evolution of job resignations has shifted from traditional polite meetings to trends like “quiet quitting” during the pandemic, where workers do the bare minimum, and “loud leaving,” where resignations are broadcasted on social media, notably through trends like #QuitTok. This reflects younger generations’ open sharing culture and heightened concern for mental health amidst work stress.

In the throes of such trends, employers should lean into what employees have to say, soliciting feedback and acting on it whenever possible, demonstrating accountability, showing that the employee experience matters, and addressing concerns before they escalate to resignations, quiet, loud or otherwise.

4. Balancing Budgets With Employee Morale

With freight rates down, carriers across the globe spent 2023 looking to cut costs and mitigate the effects on their bottom line. But not all cuts are created equal — where you cut costs is an incredibly important consideration. Primarily because downturns are temporary. History proves that following a freight slowdown, there will be a subsequent rebound.

Cost-cutting measures during a freight downturn, like hiring freezes or route changes, can significantly impact drivers, leading to increased workloads and job dissatisfaction. This not only affects morale and productivity but also risks weakening the company’s brand, employee relations, and customer satisfaction, potentially resulting in talent and customer loss, further harming the company’s market position. By remaining invested in communication and workforce engagement during these downturns, employers create a resilient company culture, even in the face of market fluctuations.

5. Prioritizing Employee Listening for a More Engaged Workplace

It was a year where so many things were impacting business — market volatility, global conflict, oil prices, supply and demand — it was important for leaders to control what they could. One of those opportunities is company culture, and it all starts with effective communication.

Employee listening requires creating an environment where employees feel safe to express their views through various initiatives like surveys, focus groups, and feedback programs. But beyond just collecting feedback, it’s important for leaders to act on information shared. Organizations that excel in employee listening see benefits like increased employee engagement, motivation, and lower turnover rates. As employees feel heard and valued, they’re more willing to contribute to a positive work culture and the overall success of the company.

6. Shifting Away From Annual Surveys

Many employers leaned into their workplace culture in 2023, looking to learn more about their employees and how to drive engagement. Annual surveys are a traditional modality for engaging with the workforce, and at face value, they may seem to provide insightful information into business culture. While surveys provide a snapshot of sentiments, they often deliver too little context too late to help. In other words, by the time leaders compile and analyze survey data, the problems uncovered have either escalated or aren’t relevant — either way, employers are unable to address the problems. Exit interviews deliver the same good intentions with the same poor effects, providing the information employers needed, but too late to do anything with it.

Instead, employers should seek real-time communication and feedback tools, like WorkHound, which provides an anonymous way for workers to share opinions and experiences in a way that allows employers to respond immediately, with action if needed.

7. Adapting to 2023 NLRB Change & Navigating The Impact on The Workplace

2023 also saw the initiation of new labor rules surrounding union elections. This December, union election timelines dramatically shrink, allowing unions to demand recognition based on majority support claims, and overriding the need for formal NLRB election petitions. This rule change makes the path to unionization simpler and more accessible — making it more important than ever for employers to foster trust and build a resilient, engaged workforce.

By engaging directly with workers, employers can build stronger workplace relationships with dialogue, keeping a constant pulse on company culture and initiating change when possible to avoid the escalation of workplace issues.

As we wrap up 2023, today’s ever-evolving work environment demands a deep commitment to understanding and responding to the needs of all employees. At WorkHound, we’re proud to have been part of these crucial conversations and look forward to continuing to support businesses and their workforces in 2024 and beyond.

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