Low unemployment combined with a persistent skills gap has led to a competitive hiring environment, where the most sought-after talent has plenty of opportunities to jump ship for a better offer. In fact, the number of open jobs has surpassed the number of unemployed people in the U.S. for several months straight, and the economy has continued to grow rapidly.

These developments mean that employers and employees have become more cognizant than ever of the “employee experience.” Employees now make decisions on whether to leave, stay, or join a new company based on their perceptions of its culture and readily share their opinions through internal channels like surveys as well as external forums like company review sites.

Employee experience is shaped by culture, learning, and managers

The overall workplace experience is primarily shaped by the company culture, the availability of learning and development opportunities, and how well managers and colleagues have mastered the soft skills that underlie effective leadership, communication, and productivity. Seeking to dig deeper into each of these topics, Udemy recently surveyed 1000 U.S. office workers and published the results of our study in our 2018 Udemy Employee Experience Report.

Overall, respondents expressed positive feelings about their workplaces and interactions with colleagues, but there were definitely cracks in the façade once we dug deeper into specific demographics, including gender, age, job level, and education level.

Here are a some highlights of our finding that we’ll cover below: Employees crave structured onboarding to help them ramp up in a new role, many managers are falling short when it comes to their competence and communication skills, and women face difficulties both in how they’re perceived and treated in the workplace.

A strong start makes a difference

In recent years, there’s been a growing awareness that new employees need extra support in the form of a formal onboarding program to help them ramp up and feel comfortable in their role—and this was reflected in the survey results. The vast majority of survey respondents (79%) believe onboarding training can accelerate their time to productivity in a new job. However, onboarding is much more than showing new hires around the office and having them fill out paperwork. Survey respondents told us they want substantive content around business processes, using productivity tools, and understanding each department’s place in the organizational structure.

Overall, 69% of survey respondents said they felt expected to show impact at a new job in less than three months, but that perception wasn’t consistent across demographic groups. Our research uncovered differences among women, older workers (Gen X/Boomers), non-management staff, and those without a college degree, all of whom felt pressure to ramp up more quickly and show measurable impact in less than a month. These groups seem to fear being unfairly judged and sense a heightened need to prove themselves.

Managers aren’t cutting it

A manager’s role in the employee experience is substantial. Not only do they have the ability to influence their direct reports’ experience at work on a day-to-day basis, but managers also impact their team’s opportunities for growth and advancement. According to our research, there’s a sense among employees that managers don’t have the skills they need to succeed in their roles. 60% of survey respondents believe there’s a need for more manager training, and 56% think people are promoted too fast. And, unfortunately, only 62% of survey respondents feel their managers take an interest in their career goals.

Millennials and Generation Z seem to be more demanding and are more likely to have quit because of a bad manager (51%) than their older coworkers (43%). They expect hands-on coaching to help them develop their careers, not just a manager that monitors performance in their current jobs.

Virtually all respondents (88%) value emotional intelligence in leaders, not surprising since they set the tone for the employee experience. This soft skill, closely tied to empathy, helps managers and other leaders motivate their teams, foster collaboration, handle interpersonal issues, and so on.

Women face strong headwinds in their career paths

Our research indicated some clear differences both in the way women are treated and perceived in the workplace. About a third (36%) of all employees say they meet with their manager at least once a week, but gender differences are significant here. 42% of men meet with their managers once a week, but only 30% of women do. Half of the women said they don’t even meet as often as once a month. We can’t know if men are more assertive in demanding frequent one-on-ones or if managers favor their male direct reports or if it’s something else entirely, but the net result is the same. Employees who get more manager face-time tend to perform better and be more engaged. A study by Leadership IQ found that employees who spend 6 hours a week with their direct manager are more engaged, inspired, innovative, and intrinsically motivated than those who only spend 1 hour a week with their managers.

Women also reported having managers less invested in their career goals. While 70% of men said their managers demonstrated an interest in their long-term career goals, only 55% of women could say the same.

When it comes to manager gender, the general population also shows a clear bias. While most say they have no preference (62%), only a limited percentage (11%) say they’d rather have a female manager, compared to 27% who’d rather work for a man.

We’ve covered a few of the highlights here, but you can gain even more insights from the full report, including data organized by gender and age group, as well as employees’ perceptions of team dynamics, working from home, and communication styles. Download your free copy of Udemy 2018 Employee Experience Report here.

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