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5 Culture Trends for 2022

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As the workplace continues to rapidly evolve and organizations struggle to find and keep talent, leaders must also focus on planning for an unknown future.

What will 2022 bring for workplace cultures? Here are five corporate culture trends and how you can prepare for them.

Culture Trend #1: Flexibility rules

 

Whether it’s returning to the office with precautions, going 100% remote, or adopting a hybrid work model, the reality is that companies must now offer more flexibility in the workplace.

But flexibility applies to more than just where, or even when, employees work. It also means letting employees have a voice in deciding which type of work they do at home vs. in the office. Research from the O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2022 Global Culture Report found tasks that require focus or creative thinking are easier to do at home, while tasks requiring collaboration and connection are easier and more productive in the office.

Chart: Employee perceptions of which types of work are harder or easier to do at home
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Moving forward, employees expect increased flexibility in many aspects of their work lives and will change jobs, if necessary, to get it. But when employees have flexibility in how they work, outcomes improve:

  • 41% higher likelihood of engagement
  • 77% higher likelihood of retention
  • 41% higher likelihood of being a Promoter on the eNPS scale

WHAT ORGANIZATIONS CAN DO:

To successfully incorporate flexibility, focus on three key areas:

  1. Give employees a say in where and when they work but set clear expectations of when and how they should be available. This ensures employees are reachable but also provides boundaries to prevent burnout. Give guidelines as to what work is best done in the office vs. at home, and why.
  2. Provide opportunities for connection. In the office, create physical space and allow time to collaborate and interact socially. For remote employees, be sure to check in often and use tools like Culture Cloud to help people stay connected to their teams and the organization.
  3. Have a solid career development strategy for remote and hybrid workers. It can be difficult for employees and leaders to identify growth opportunities from a distance. Ensure employees can practice new skills, work on special projects, and see their progress.

Culture Trend #2: Rebuilding connection

 

2022 brings a new opportunity for HR leaders: reconnecting their people. After almost two years of disruption and social fragmentation, employers have an urgent need to reestablish and strengthen the bonds employees feel between each other and the organization.

Social fragmentation occurs when employees feel a loss of connection with the organization. This leads to individuals and teams feeling isolated, unsupported, and excluded from others in the organization. One in three employees feel disconnected from their leader, 57% engage in fewer social activities than before the pandemic, and 45% of employees say the number of individuals they regularly interact with has decreased significantly over the past year.

Yet when employees feel a strong connection to team, leaders, and the organization, they are 30x more likely to do great work, 3x more likely to stay with the organization, and 96% less likely to burnout.

HR leaders can lead the charge to rebuild culture by strengthening employee connection to purpose, accomplishment, and one another.

WHAT ORGANIZATIONS CAN DO:

Rethink the role of HR in your organization. Are your HR leaders only responsible for recruiting and benefits? Or do they lead the way for building a strong, connected, resilient workplace culture? Elevate HR’s role in your company’s success:

  1. Empower HR leaders to build workplace culture. Give them a seat at the table, let them make real changes in the organization, and actively champion their initiatives to build culture and re-establish connection. Allow them to hold leaders accountable for culture-building activities, like one-to-one conversations or connecting employees to purpose.
  2. Ensure HR initiatives are company initiatives, not just HR programs. Consider strategies for inclusion, wellbeing, recognition, and any others that can build connections across the organization to be part of your overall company strategy.
  3. Use technology to make better decisions. Collect and look at real-time employee feedback, performance and recognition data, and create targeted strategies to improve the employee experience and help people feel connected to their teams, purpose, and success.

Culture Trend #3: Revisiting engagement

 

It’s time to reconsider if employee engagement is still a valuable metric in predicting business results. Engagement can be ambiguous and hard to measure, and organizations are moving towards a better, more specific, easier to define alternative: great work.

Measuring great work leads to more innovation, retention, and stronger workplace cultures. Research shows there are five types of behaviors that employees who consistently do great work demonstrate:

Chart: Five types of behavior that employees who consistently do great work demonstrate
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Every employee is capable of doing these five great work behaviors, no matter which employee persona they have. There are five main employee personas with different work styles, preferences, personalities, and motivators. Some personas are naturally more engaged than others, making engagement as a predictor of productivity difficult. But each persona demonstrates the five great work behaviors to varying degrees.

Chart: Employee personas
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Achievers work hard but they may not push to make improvements. Taskers find asking the right question and going to see challenging. Despite an appreciation for the big picture, Builders aren’t as likely to talk to an outer circle. These insights make great work a more practical metric than engagement, as companies can tailor strategies to maximize employee performance.

For example, if companies help Achievers improve the mix in their work, there is a 133% increase in aspirational great work frequency. If they can deliver the difference, there is a 201% increase. And if both behaviors improve, the likelihood of great work soars 577%.

WHAT ORGANIZATIONS CAN DO:

Focus on the behaviors that actually lead to great work rather than just a single measure of engagement. Understand the employee personas and their strengths and weaknesses and create tailored strategies for recognition, modern leadership, and inclusion to help each employee practice the great work behaviors. Support with a culture that actively encourages great work and provide purpose, opportunity, success, appreciation, and wellbeing.

Culture Trend #4: More personalized recognition

 

Personalized employee experiences, like employee recognition, help every employee feel more connected and inspired to do great work. When recognition is a personalized experience and not a generic transaction, there is a 19x higher probability of great work for Coasters, a 4.5x higher probability of great work for Taskers, and a 4X higher probability of great work for Socializers.

Employees have different needs and are motivated in different ways. Public praise can have a negative effect on employees who are quieter (Taskers), but positively impacts employees who are driven and high-energy (Socializers). Achievers and Builders would like to have senior leaders as part of their recognition experience, while the low-touch Coasters often prefer one-on-one recognition moments.

Chart: Recognition preferences and impact by employee persona
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WHAT ORGANIZATIONS CAN DO:

Encourage leaders to get to know their people as individuals and what they want their work experiences to look like. When it comes to employee recognition, leaders might ask how employees prefer to be recognized, what types of awards are meaningful to them, and who they want to be involved in recognition moments. Organizations should provide flexible tools that offer a variety of ways to give recognition. Social tools, integrations, and custom awards can help recognition be even more personal. Provide training for employees and leaders on which elements to personalize and how to create customized, meaningful recognition moments for your people.

Culture Trend #5: Technology’s exploding role in building culture

 

With the workplace in flux for the second year in a row, the role of technology in building and keeping culture has become paramount. As some organizations move to hybrid or completely remote workforces, it will take more than Zoom or Google Meets to keep employees connected and culture strong.

The technology and apps we use for work must be as innovative and user friendly as the apps employees use every day at home. Slow, cumbersome technology that requires its own separate login will no longer cut it. Workplace flexibility and personalization is growing exponentially—and the technology employers use to build culture should reflect it.

Is your workplace technology up to snuff? Consider these table-stakes when it comes to your culture-building tech at work:

  • Fun and intuitive user experiences
  • Flexible and personalized
  • Easy to use (with single sign on and mobile capabilities that work whether employees are in the office or at home)
  • Integrated with existing technology (like Outlook, Workday, your intranet, etc.)
  • Advanced reporting that can predict things like flight risk, great work, and measure culture
  • Connects employees to the organization, purpose, and one another

When technology is well-integrated with an organization’s culture, there is a 5x higher likelihood of employee engagement, 4x higher likelihood of an eNPS promoter, 47% lower likelihood of attrition, and a 35% decrease in moderate to severe burnout (2021 Global Culture Report).

WHAT ORGANIZATIONS CAN DO:

Take another look at the technology you provide employees. Does it improve the employee experience and make work easier for your people? Does it include insights and metrics that can help you build targeted strategies to enable great work? Does it strengthen your culture and connect your people?

Ensure your culture-building tech is accessible to employees in the office, offline, and remote, and that they are easy to use, integrated, and purposeful. Be proactive in providing tools and apps that help employees feel more connected to your organization’s purpose, their accomplishments, and one another. Solutions like Culture Cloud have multiple culture-building tools incorporated into one, so leaders and employees can feel connected as they appreciate great work and celebrate each other.

For more of the latest trends and new insights into workplace culture, check out our 2022 Global Culture Report.

 

*All research from the O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2022 Global Culture Report unless otherwise noted.

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