Lattice Insights

Lattice Data Reveals Lower Engagement, Stretched Managers, and More

May 9, 2024
May 9, 2024
Andy Przystanski
Lattice Team

Lattice is the #1 people platform that powers more than 5,000 workplaces. Our engagement, performance, goal-setting, growth, and compensation tools allow HR leaders and managers to build thriving company cultures.

That means we work with a lot of people data. With over a million employees using Lattice, we’re uniquely positioned to spot trends in HR strategy and work-life — in real time.

Earlier this year, we looked at anonymized engagement scores, career goals, team structures, and other telling data points across companies leveraging Lattice’s people platform. Here’s what we uncovered.

1. Engagement is down — and so is faith in leadership.

There’s no sugarcoating it: Employee engagement has dipped significantly. For starters, consider Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS), or how likely employees are to refer to their companies as a great place to work: Between 2022 and 2023, eNPS decreased from an already low 33.33 to 24.8 — a difference of almost nine points. For reference, the best and worst possible eNPS scores are 100 and -100, respectively. 

A bar graph representing the top five areas where engagement decreased from 2022 to 2023.
Employee survey scores decreased across virtually every dimension of engagement.

A closer look at engagement benchmarks might offer insight into the factors bringing engagement down. Over 80% of survey questions scored lower in 2023 compared to 2022. For instance, responses to “I feel confident about the future of this organization” dipped 9.4 points. Responses related to hybrid work, company values, growth opportunities, and faith in senior leadership shared similar decreases.

Only one question, “People at work know about what's going on in my life,” saw noteworthy improvement, increasing by a modest 3.64 points. 

2. Managers are leading larger teams.

We’ve all heard that managers are under pressure. For example, a 2023 survey of UK workers by Lattice and YouGov found that half of middle managers indicated they were burned out. That alone should cause alarm, considering managers' role in driving engagement and performance.

Lattice’s new benchmarking data might help explain some of that burnout. Managers’ average span of control (the number of direct reports they’re responsible for) has steadily increased over the last four years. Between 2020 and 2022, the average number of direct reports per manager rose from 4.3 to 5.2 — nearly a 23% increase. There was a negligible dip in 2023, with the figure settling at 5.1 per manager, but the overall trend remains clear.

Four bubbles representing manager span of control between 2020 and 2023.
On average, managers are leading larger teams since 2020.

What’s more, this increase in workload was present at companies of all sizes, with larger organizations experiencing even more pronounced changes. For instance, companies with 251-1000 employees saw a remarkable 35% increase, underscoring the mounting pressure on managers at all levels. 

3. Soft skills are in high demand.

The “skills gap” facing businesses is often thought of in terms of technical skills — like data analysis or writing code. But Lattice’s new benchmarks suggest that employees are pursuing a very particular set of skills instead: soft skills. These are referred to as “soft” because can be applied to most roles, regardless of responsibilities or scope. They also usually relate to how individuals work and collaborate with others. 

The top five leading growth areas across 1.1 million Lattice users are: 

  1. Communication
  2. Problem-solving
  3. Leadership
  4. Scope
  5. Collaboration

Communication was the first or second-ranked competency across companies of all sizes and industries. This consistency highlights the fundamental role that communication has in driving success in the workplace today. 

As artificial intelligence and other technologies streamline more technical work, it’s clear that soft skills will continue to be critical to employee (and business) success. Communication’s rise might also go hand-in-hand with the increase in asynchronous work, as many workplaces look to remain hybrid or distributed in 2024 and beyond.

4. Organizations are running more frequent performance reviews.

Each year, we survey HR leaders to understand their priorities for the years ahead. In the 2024 State of People Strategy Report, performance management ranked number one — a first in Lattice’s four years of producing the report. Our customer data corroborates that.

Across all headcount sizes, companies are running more frequent performance reviews.

We found that companies are running more frequent performance appraisals than ever, suggesting that the traditional “one and done” annual review cycle may be a relic of the past. The average number of review cycles increased from two per year in 2020 to 2.6 in 2023, nearly a 30% increase. As companies continue prioritizing efficiency, we expect to see these numbers increase.

What might that mean for employees and morale? The results here might be surprising: A separate 2021 Lattice study on review cadence found that companies with semi-annual reviews report higher engagement than those that do so annually. Companies with quarterly reviews saw even higher engagement.


5. New day, new boss. Manager changes are ramping up.

“Change is the only constant” might read like a meaningless platitude, but employees are certainly feeling it. Research from Gartner found that employees went through 10 planned business changes in 2023 alone. 

Our working lives are disproportionately influenced by our direct supervisors — so what could be more disruptive than a change in manager? Lattice product data shows the average number of employees with manager changes has doubled since 2020. Specifically, the average number of users with manager changes nearly increased from 34 in 2020 to 58 in 2021. It increased by nearly a third to 75 in 2022, and stayed more or less level in 2023.

A graph visualizing the number of manager changes across different size companies.
We found that manager changes are ramping up across all company sizes.

With each change comes a transition period — and if the new manager doesn’t address that quickly, employees may lack direction and role clarity. Employers will need to be particularly wary of change fatigue, or a state of physical and emotional exhaustion brought on by too much change. Learn how to spot and address the problem in our story, How to Help Your Team Overcome Change Fatigue

Data can tell you how employees are feeling and performing. It also empowers HR leaders to be more strategic and make better people decisions.

Lattice customers don’t only have access to insights like the above at the macro scale, but where it counts most: within their own organization. Lattice Analytics offers more than just baseline metrics like headcount and turnover, featuring dashboards for diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), people program adoption, team sentiment, and much more. 

Being a people scientist shouldn’t require a five-year degree. Schedule a demo to see how Lattice Analytics empowers you to uncover valuable data and leverage it to make work meaningful. 

More reviews ≠ more time writing reviews.

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