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Topic: Engagement

4 New Culture Disruptors

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Workplace cultures are constantly being shaped by internal and external forces. And while company culture may always be changing, strong workplace cultures are able to withstand disruptions and still retain, engage, and attract talent.

4 recent culture disruptors that are challenging companies:

• Rise of the gig economy

• An increasingly diverse workforce

• Advancement of technology (specifically Artificial Intelligence)

• Disconnection in the workplace


Rise of the Gig economy

Executives are concerned that the rise of the “gig” economy will alter their talent pool and disrupt recruiting efforts. Many worry it’s going to be harder to attract and retain good talent, as workers are foregoing traditional roles and companies to maximise the value and reward of their jobs while protecting their lifestyles. They speculate this is contributing to the shrinking applicant pools for entry-level jobs.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2017 10% of American workers held “alternative work arrangements,” like freelancing, driving for Uber, and employment through temporary-help agencies. Freelancers contribute $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy. New technology will only enable more flexibility and increased earning potential of these gig jobs, which can potentially change the business models of traditional companies (as we’ve seen with Uber and Lyft taking down traditional taxi services).

Another question may be what is the impact of these contingent workers on workplace cultures? Will these types of workers give as much of their passion, creative energy, and discretionary effort to a job they consider a temporary or part-time gig? Can the same level of relationships and interpersonal connections be formed with contingent workers as they can with full-time workers?

Organisations should find innovative ways to engage employees, attract talent, and adapt to these new business models. The best companies are intentional about creating engaging workplace cultures that allow for work/life integration and flexibility, and provide a compelling environment of purpose, opportunity, and connection to draw great talent in.


An increasingly diverse workforce

The workforce is becoming increasingly diverse. Beyond racial and ethnic diversity, companies are also seeing the effects of 5 generations in the workplace. Millennials are becoming leaders who have their own expectations of their organisations, and the newest generation, Gen Z (or iGen) is quite different from previous generations.

Millennials, as leaders, want to make the world a better place, want a collaborative culture rather than a competitive one, need work/life integration (as opposed to work/life balance), and want leaders who are coaches and mentors rather than just managers . Gen Z employees are highly connected technologically, but feel lonelier than other generations and are more likely to misunderstand and misconstrue social interactions. They strive for a greater purpose and are more vocal when they sense inequality.

Increased diversity changes the culture of an organisation. It adds complexity to employee expectations, experiences, and can make social connections more difficult. Building an inclusive culture is crucial to creating a workplace where all employees can bring their best, authentic selves, regardless of background, age, or gender. Leaders must create a work environment that fosters a shared purpose and shared values that all employees can unite around, and build community and connections within their teams. And companies must create a workplace culture where all employees feel a sense of inclusion and belonging.

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Advancement of technology (specifically AI)

Technology is now integrated into all aspects of our lives—there’s an app for everything. The same is happening at work. There’s technology available for recruiting, talent management, leadership development, wellbeing, engagement, learning, etc.

Technology is more than just having information faster and using less paper. Advancements in technology, like Artificial Intelligence (AI), are impacting how we work and interact with one another. And while the worry is that AI will replace human jobs, the reality is that AI is changing the job skills companies need and providing opportunities to for companies and employees to be smarter and innovate more.

With HR departments using digital platforms for everything from employee self-onboarding to performance reviews to managing PTO, the bigger concern may be that companies are relying on technology to facilitate interactions, and losing too many opportunities for in-person communication and experiences. Which bring us to the biggest culture disruptor of all: a lack of connection in the workplace.


Disconnection in the workplace

People have an inherent need to connect with others. We want to be part of something bigger, feel part of a team. And while there is an increasing amount of technology to facilitate connection—conferencing tools, messaging tools, social media, etc.—we are actually more disconnected than ever.

Rather than picking up the phone to talk with a peer or walking over to a colleague’s desk, we email, text message, or use an app. At the same time, 46% of adults report feeling lonely, and only 53% of workers have meaningful in-person social interactions on a daily basis. This disconnection has an impact on employee engagement and productivity, but also employee mental health, absenteeism, healthcare costs, and turnover. The tools created for us to connect with each other are causing us to feel disconnected.

The 2018 Global Culture Study from the O.C. Tanner Institute shows only 66% of employees are engaged, and if offered a job at a different company with similar role, pay, and benefits, 55% of employees would take the job. If employees could feel connected to their organization—connected to a purpose, to accomplishment, and to each other, companies could improve engagement and reduce turnover.

Employees want to feel part of something bigger than themselves. They want to connect to a meaningful purpose. They thrive when they feel connected to a successful organization. By accomplishing great work with their teams and others, employees build bonds that last. Organizations that can build these connections well create workplaces where people thrive, but they also are more resilient and adaptable to external and internal culture disruptors. New leadership, struggling economies, changes in laws or regulations, and new business models don’t have the same negative effect on companies where people feel united and work together to withstand those challenges.


The best companies can still retain, engage, and attract top talent in the face of challenging culture disruptors. By building workplace cultures where employees feel connected to a shared purpose, accomplishment, and one another, companies can inspire great work from their people and overcome the toughest situations.

Want to learn more about these 4 culture disruptors and get powerful best practices on how to build connection in your workplace culture? Read our 2018 Global Culture Report.

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