5 Culture Trends for 2023

This year presents an interesting state of affairs as organizations continue to compete for the hearts and loyalty of employees, who are still deciding how much of their lives to give to their jobs.

What does this mean for workplace cultures? Here are five workplace culture trends and how you can prepare for them.

Culture Trend #1: Employees want more from their work.

Quiet quitting is not just a symptom of post-pandemic burnout. It’s the result of people questioning their priorities and reevaluating the personal pros and cons of their employment.  

The pandemic has led two thirds of employees to reflect on the work they do, with 83% saying “finding meaning in day-to-day work” was a top priority for them. Nearly three fourths (69%) would even change jobs for more fulfillment.

Highly fulfilled employees plan on staying at their organizations 3 years longer than unfulfilled employees.
–2023 GLOBAL CULTURE REPORT, O.C. TANNER INSTITUTE                                    

Employees want more from work. More than a high salary or unique perks and benefits, they want the sense of fulfillment that comes from doing work that has a purpose and feeling that they belong to their workplace community.

Nearly 1 in 3 employees don’t feel fulfilled at work. And this makes them:

  • 399% more likely to actively look for another job
  • 340% more likely to leave the organization within a year
  • 47% less likely to put in a great deal of effort to help the organization succeed
  • 71% less likely to promote the organization as a great place to work

Fulfillment is bigger than engagement or job satisfaction. Four main factors strongly influence fulfillment:

A graphic showing the four factors of fulfillment

Organizations that meet employees’ needs in these four areas will help employees find fulfillment.


Communicate a meaningful purpose at work and demonstrate how employees’ work connects to that purpose. Recognize and reward people for contributing to your company’s purpose using tools like Culture Cloud. Support and encourage balance at work by establishing policies, practices, and expectations that give employees more autonomy and flexibility in their jobs and allow them to take time off without guilt or pressure. Provide opportunities for employees to connect with one another and leaders to build community. Offer growth and development opportunities beyond promotions and pay increases: provide mentorship, training, and special projects. And foster employee passions to show you care for their whole self and wellbeing. Fulfillment comes from finding belonging, meaning, and connection at work.

Culture Trend #2: Workplace community is increasingly important.

Employees thrive when they feel they belong to a strong workplace community.

Conversely, according to McKinsey, the top reasons people quit their jobs are they don’t feel valued (54%) and they don’t feel a sense of belonging at work (51%). After more than two years of social isolation, distancing, and uncertainty, employees crave connection and community in the workplace.

In fact, 72% of employees say it’s important for them to feel part of a community at work. Yet employees are having trouble connecting with their organizations.

Research from our 2023 Global Culture Report finds organizations who have a strong community share the following critical components:  

A graphic showing the essential elements of a workplace community

When companies score well on the community index, they are more likely to:

  • Have employees who feel like they belong (9X)
  • Have employees be promoters (10X)
  • See aspirational levels of great work (2X)
  • See higher levels of employee estimated tenure (62%)
  • Have a lower probability of employees actively looking for a new job (-58%)


Ensure connection activities like recognition are an integrated part of your culture. Hold community-building activities like company celebrations. Enhance the experiences of onboarding and events to build connection to company and purpose. Include symbolic awards in recognition to further connect people to company history and achievements. Peer-to-peer recognition can also significantly help employees feel they are part of the team.

Culture Trend #3: Leaders are burning out.

With increased responsibilities, turnover, and uncertainty, leaders are burning out—and need appreciation and support more than ever.

Gallup reports that while stress, anxiety, and diagnosed depression declined in 2021 for individual contributors and high-level leaders, it increased for managers. And managers are quietly quitting too:

Only 1 in 3 managers are emotionally engaged at work, and managers experienced the highest drop in engagement over the past year.

Companies expect a lot from their leaders. Currently, most companies expect leaders to do all of the following:

  • Administrative tasks—planning and budgeting, timecard approvals, etc.
  • Operational work—project management, attending meetings, hitting deadlines, etc.
  • Manage teams—performance reviews, one-to-one meetings, hiring, etc.
  • Be a leader—coaching and mentoring, developing, connecting, building culture, wellbeing, retention, etc.
  • Strategic planning—innovating, planning, etc.

More than half (61%) of leaders report having more general responsibilities at work since before the pandemic, including hiring and training new employees, adapting policies as pandemic rules changed, and assigning and scheduling work with employees in flux. This increase in responsibilities has led to higher likelihood of anxiety for leaders (+21%), which increases the chances of burnout (+520%) and worsens the odds of engagement by 51%.

Yet leaders don’t have the support from their employers to meet these increased challenges:  

A table showing that leaders don’t have the support from their employers to meet increased challenges


Give leaders the resources, support, and tools they need to meet their increased responsibilities. Monitor their wellbeing and burnout and show your genuine appreciation for their increased workload. Give them recognition and praise that is not tied to compensation. Include them in recognition initiatives and enable employees to recognize upward. Consult with leaders on change management plans so they feel included and part of decisions that affect their jobs and teams. Most importantly, remember that leaders are employees too, and need the same level of appreciation and support as their teams.

Culture Trend #4: The rise of generalists.

The post-pandemic workplace is uncertain, constantly changing, and ideal for workers with a breadth of knowledge and skills who thrive in ambiguity. These employees are widely known as generalists.

52% of employees consider themselves to be generalists. And there are certain skills and behaviors that make generalists well-equipped to handle this fluid workplace:

A graphic showing the skills and behaviors that make generalists an invaluable part of a thriving workplace community

Yet while generalists are needed in 2023 and bring a lot of value to the workplace, they don’t feel supported or appreciated at work:

A chart showing that generalists aren’t always supported or appreciated by their organizations


Define the role of generalists and publicly recognize them for their contributions. Set goals and highlight their achievements and provide them with opportunities to grow and develop. Ask generalist employees what their strengths are and give them projects that utilize those skills. Connect them with other departments or peers who can leverage their strengths of working across disciplines and finding new ways to tackle challenges. Be specific when showing appreciation for generalists and clearly communicate the skills and value they add.

Culture Trend #5: Symbolic awards build belonging.

As employees feel a loss of connection with their workplace and are eager for belonging, organizations have an opportunity to amplify appreciation and build community with tools like symbolic awards.

Symbolic awards, when done well, help strengthen an employee’s connection with their team, leader, and the organization. Meaningful symbols help communicate your company’s history and achievements and link them to your brand and purpose. In addition, employees are 3 times more likely to remember the celebration and recognition when it includes a symbolic award.

A table showing that symbolic awards help strengthen an employee’s connection with their team, leader, and the organization

Use symbolic recognition regularly, as early as onboarding. Onboarding is the perfect time to reinforce your workplace culture and community from day one, and a meaningful symbolic award can amplify that connection.

A photo of custom symbolic awards manufactured by O.C. Tanner


Go beyond generic plaques and pins and leverage meaningful, well-made symbolic awards like Numerals, Careerscapes, and custom awards for onboarding, career achievements, company milestones, and recognition for above-and-beyond work. Make them collectible to add meaning and value. Be sure your symbols are thoughtfully chosen, well made, and communicate the stories behind them. Above all, use symbolic awards to create personal, meaningful recognition experiences that employees will remember.

Read more about these trends and others for 2023 in our Global Culture Report.

*All research from the O.C. Tanner Institute’s 2023 Global Culture Report unless otherwise noted.