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5 Culture Trends for 2021

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In 2020 the world changed dramatically. As companies enter 2021, what workplace transformations will the new year bring? Check out our 5 Culture Trends for 2021 and see how you can be prepared to help your employees thrive, no matter what new challenges may come their way.

1) Emerging from crisis, companies focus on culture.

As companies return from months of remote work or adjust to the new normal of remote work and social distancing, workplace culture is in flux. Some cultures need healing after layoffs, furloughs, or closures drastically changed their workforce. Others are adapting their work processes or physical environments to account for social distancing needs. Employees are adjusting as they return to the office after months of being apart. Underlying all of this is a fear of Covid-19 in the workplace and the continued uncertainty of how economies will perform, and which situations may change.

A SHRM study found two out of three companies reported keeping employee morale up to be difficult during the pandemic, and one-third said maintaining company culture was a challenge.

The actions some organizations have taken have had a negative impact on their company culture. Pulse surveys conducted by the O.C. Tanner Institute during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis found when an organization had a layoff or furlough, there was a(n):

• 91% decline in employee Net Promoter Score

• 57% increase in disengagement

• 42% increase in a tense workplace atmosphere

• 75% increase in feeling like the organization was underprepared

Trying to cut costs by scaling back employee recognition programs resulted in:

• 49% decrease in engagement

• 23% decrease in likelihood employees feel supported by the organization

• Twice as much fear about Covid-19

Culture keeps employees connected, moving together forward toward a common purpose, which is especially important during times of crisis. This next year provides organizations with an opportunity to improve their workplace cultures. In fact, 57% of companies anticipate “major” changes to their culture as a result of the pandemic. As companies emerge from the challenges of 2020, they have two choices: to enter 2021 bruised or poised to thrive. The determining factors will be their people and their workplace culture.

What to do: A strong workplace culture is what will get you through a crisis successfully. Non-thriving cultures are 10X more likely to be negatively impacted by crisis than thriving cultures. But as culture is often built on shared experiences and informal interactions at work, how do you maintain culture when no one is physically together? Start by improving the six most important elements of workplace culture: purpose, leadership, appreciation, wellbeing, opportunity, and success. 

Deliberately design the new employee experiences you’ll have to create around these areas as employees continue to work remotely or return to the workplace. Find ways to maintain connection with your people. Increase efforts to create modern leaders, who mentor and empower rather than gatekeep and control. If you need help, find a culture consultant who can aid in assessing what elements of your culture need fixing, and create a plan to get you to where you want to be.

We expect to see a greater and intentional focus on the human at the center of work. There is an awakening happening due to the pandemic and societal injustices that are inspiring more leaders and cultures to take a brand stand that puts humans first. People leaders that back up their brand stand with actions will result in creating better business outcomes and, at the same time, support overall well-being.
— Keri Higgins Bigelow, LivingHR, Inc.


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