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The world has never seen workplace cultures change faster than they did in 2020. The how, where, and when of work is now completely different for 4 out of every 10 employees. And that’s just the beginning.

This year’s report looks at the impact that crises, technology, recognition, inclusion, leadership, and a new generation of workers will have on cultures. Scroll down for highlights, or click into the details.

The current state of six essential elements that define thriving cultures.

So far, 2020 has delivered a series of cascading crises to our health, economic, and social systems that have exposed organizational strengths and weaknesses and even changed how organizations do business. However, those with thriving work cultures are weathering the storm much better.

Most organizations assume employees are afraid of artificial intelligence and other advanced technologies. Our research shows any fear is more nuanced and centers on how the organization implements new tools. It also indicates organizations do best when they weigh the impact technology will have on the employee experience and work culture.

At its best, recognition combines meaningful, personal experiences and the technology to make them frequent and easy. When organizations use programs and tools that elevate the role of recognition and enable authentic connection, cultural and business success follows. Embedding recognition into culture allows it to become the natural response to great work across the organization.

How do we measure embeddedness?

Diversity and inclusion efforts can no longer be limited to risk-mitigation tactics. Instead, organizations need cultures that embrace each individual and celebrate the intersections of their identities. The ingredients most often missing: daily interactions that make up the employee experience.


To best address the historical shortcomings of D&I initiatives, think of inclusion and exclusion as separate groups of behaviors that create their own employee experiences:

“D&I needs to be something that every single employee at the company has a stake in.”

—Bo Young Lee, Chief D&I Officer, Uber

Contrary to stereotypes, the four generations working today share many similarities. While there are nuances in how to lead each generation (which shouldn’t be ignored), everyone wants the same things from their work culture: a sense of purpose, connection, and appreciation. By focusing on commonalities rather than differences, organizations can accelerate experiential and cultural outcomes.

Modern leaders are mentors and advocates, focused on connecting employees to purpose, accomplishment, and one another. When this happens, employees are more likely to be and stay engaged. Over the next decade, successful organizations will take an inclusive approach to leadership development that makes it available to everyone and sets the expectation that each employee—regardless of whether they manage people—is a leader.

“Everyone is a leader because everyone influences someone.”

—John C. Maxwell, Author and Leadership Coach

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