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US Employee Well-being on the Rise, but Perception Gap Remains Between HR and Employees, Reveals Leapsome Study

Leapsome, the all-in-one intelligent people enablement platform, today unveils a new study, Beyond the Cubicle: Leapsome’s Workforce Trends Report, conducted with YouGov. Findings include a reassuring boost in US employee mental health, a notable lack of employee engagement tracking by HR, and a general call for more feedback and fewer meetings.

The Perception Gap: HR Leaders vs. Employees

The study reveals a significant perception gap between HR leaders and employees on engagement, alignment, and performance. While half of HR leaders believe their employees are “completely engaged,” only one in three employees feel this way. This overestimation could be due to a lack of measurement – given only one-third of HR leaders track engagement, attrition, and turnover. This perception gap extends to views on internal alignment — 85% of employees feel they understand the company’s direction and their role in it. Still, HR leaders estimate only 61% have this understanding. Similarly, 80% of employees see themselves as top performers, defined by consistently going above and beyond what their role requires, whereas HR estimates only 65% of employees do so.

Jenny Podewils, co-CEO and co-founder of Leapsome remarked, “Understanding the nuances between HR leaders’ perceptions and employees’ experiences is crucial for any organization striving for excellence. Our research aims to highlight these disparities to help businesses align better and foster a more inclusive, effective workplace.”

Key Findings:

  • Employee well-being sees a boost due to better work-life balance: An encouraging 88% of US employees rate their mental health positively, and almost half saw an improvement over the past 12 months. Reassuringly, 83% of employees feel their managers genuinely care for their mental well-being. For those who don’t describe their mental health positively, three in five say this is due to job responsibilities and workload. A strong predictor for mental health, 87% of US employees describe their work-life balance positively. 86% say good work-life balance is important for overall job satisfaction, but only 77% say company leadership enables good work-life balance.
  • Less job-hopping mainly due to flexibility: 31% of US employees plan to change jobs within the next year, compared to 80% last year. Four in five employees who plan to change jobs are disengaged in their current roles. Those with no plans to change jobs say their primary reasons for staying are workplace flexibility with a hybrid or remote set-up (38%), good workplace culture and morale (36%), and a manageable workload that allows for good work-life balance (35%).
  • Feedback culture is strong, but more is wanted: While both HR leaders (97%) and employees (85%) believe their companies have a good feedback culture, three in four (73%) employees crave more constructive feedback and recognition from their managers. Most (71%) employees have a performance review at least twice a year. Only two-thirds are satisfied with the review process in their company, and half say reviews should happen more often.
  • Employee productivity is boosted by AI but hampered by meetings: One in four (24%) US employees use AI for work daily. Most (83%) workers using AI for work say it has improved their productivity. On the other side of the productivity spectrum, most consider half their weekly meetings a waste of time.
  • A strong sense of economic preparedness: Both employees (85%) and HR leaders (93%) feel their companies are prepared for economic challenges. However, three in four (76%) HR leaders believe better people enablement would further improve organizational resilience.

Leadership Learnings

The message for HR and business leaders is clear: continuous dialogue and insight into employee perceptions are critical for organizational success. Only 35% of US HR leaders track essential metrics like turnover and engagement rates; of those tracking engagement, only 31% use dedicated surveys. This lack of internal insights risks widening the perception gap between HR leaders and employees.

Recommended Actions

  • Close the Perception Gap: HR needs to invest in better understanding employee sentiment, which may involve more frequent and actionable performance reviews, more regular feedback mechanisms, and dedicated engagement surveys.
  • Foster an Open Feedback Culture: Encourage a feedback-rich culture with regular recognition and opportunities to share ideas and concerns. Employees not only appreciate it but also become more productive.
  • Track and Measure: Only one-third of HR leaders track crucial metrics like turnover, engagement, or promotion rates. Addressing this gap is essential for future planning and long-term success.

“It’s encouraging to see employee well-being and work-life balance rise — likely due to companies investing more into people processes. Still, the disparities between HR and employee perspectives point to the ongoing importance of an open dialogue to align these two groups on engagement, performance, and organizational direction,” explains Podewils.