Let’s take a deep dive into the latest workplace trends, as we prepare for the year ahead, and beyond.
The past few years have rocked us with a pandemic, presented us with volatile political and economic realities and revolutionized the way we think about work. And at this moment, during all this tumult, the only thing that seems certain is the uncertainty ahead. That’s a fragile place to be, and yet out of it all, something surprising has come about. In our response, there’s a strength and a unity that has unfolded in many of us. We think more deeply about what it means to belong to an organization, we question our larger purpose, and we reaffirm our intent to make workplaces better, for everyone. Let’s look at how this mix of events, and our reactions to them, have shaped the latest workplace trends, as we prepare for the year ahead, and beyond.
1. As uncertainty and change loom ahead, culture remains critical
The business outlook for the year ahead is mixed, and much depends on economic and political factors, and other realities that are largely out of our control. It’s possible that our organizations will be faced with some significant challenges—revenue drops and cost increases may result in tightened resources, potential layoffs and greater turnover. Our ability to remain resilient will be in the flexibility with which we can ride the tides of change and in our steadfast resolve to maintain a positive culture. There are some specific reasons why culture, especially in times of uncertainty, is more important than ever.
Missteps with culture are noticed long into the future—Long after the economic twists and turns of the moment have passed, your organizational culture will be noticed in reviews on forums such as Glassdoor—affecting how customers and prospective employees view your organization, impacting future talent retention and recruitment.
Culture affects employee engagement—In times of uncertainty, employee engagement, which is closely related to productivity and performance, becomes critical. Research shows that, “Companies with a robust culture have up to a 72 percent higher employee engagement than those whose cultures are misaligned or need improvement,” and “more than 74 percent of American workers believe culture influences their job performance on everything from efficiency to doing their best work, to serving customers to the best of their ability.”
Survival mode can affect culture and create risks—Survival mode and the stress it creates can have a negative effect on culture, creating reputational and legal risks for organizations and their employees. Consider research showing that organizational culture can contribute to whether sexual harassment occurs and is reported and among employees, stress can lead to increased instances of bad behavior and harassment in the workplace.
2. Heightened focus on employee experience (companies benefit too)
Post-pandemic, an increasing focus on employee experience has taken hold. Employees continue to reevaluate and reprioritize work/life balance, mental well-being and psychological safety. People want to be seen as individuals, each with a unique identity and set of needs that must be considered. The best news? Companies are increasingly seeing the organizational benefits that putting a focus on employee experience can create—such as greater productivity and higher performance. And the related data and expert guidance is compelling.
Work/life balance prompts employees to go above and beyond—A survey of 30,000 employees showed that when organizations support healthy work-life balance and flexibility, employees are willing and capable of making a greater commitment: 63 percent of those who rate their work-life balance highly are willing to go above and beyond for their organizations.
Mental health and psychological safety are a growing priority–Sounding the alarm and urging organizations to take action, a recent Surgeon General’s Framework for Mental Health & Well-Being in the Workplace asks organizations “to rethink how they protect workers from harm, foster a sense of connection among workers, show workers they matter, make space for their lives outside work, and support their growth. It will be worth it, because the benefits will accrue for workers and organizations alike.”
3. Leader and manager effectiveness are key
“Today’s work environment requires leaders to be more authentic, empathetic and adaptive. These three imperatives represent a new call for leadership: ‘human’ leadership.” So says Gartner, in a recent study which found that leader and manager effectiveness is a priority for 60 percent of HR leaders, yet 24 percent say their leadership development approach does not prepare leaders for the future of work.
The study makes the case that “as organizations and society evolve, so do the expectations for what leaders are responsible for, making their roles increasingly complex.” To address this challenge, leaders must take specific steps to increase their effectiveness in the year ahead.
Become adept with inclusive management practices—To be effective, managers must receive the tools and guidance they need to become adept with inclusive management practices, including managing diverse teams, recruiting and hiring, facilitating team meetings, resolving conflicts, evaluating internal candidates and creating equitable advancement.
Build trust through transparency—A recent study found that not only do employees value trust as part of their employee experience, trusted companies outperform their peers by 400 percent. Another critical takeaway—the survey also found that factors such as level of truthfulness, transparency and tolerance for toxic behavior can quickly sway trust in a negative direction.