Elizabeth Bille

In my workplace trends blog last year, I predicted that the 2022 workplace would be a “high-stakes, rapidly-evolving environment”— and that couldn’t have been more true. From addressing massive talent turnover, to operationalizing new ways of working for the long term, to implementing painful, economy-driven cuts, many organizations continued to navigate a gauntlet of workplace disruption.

And despite these challenges, employees today — not to mention lawmakers, shareholders, customers, and the public — continue to increase their expectations of employers, pushing them to do more, do better, and do differently vis-à-vis their workers and work environments. The good news is that implementing workplace culture initiatives that help employees feel appreciated and included can boost results across the board, from recruiting and retaining great talent to improving productivity. Indeed, data shows that DEI efforts in particular can help companies outperform others during tumultuous times and for years after.

Focus on These Workplace Culture and Compliance Trends

With this in mind, what should employers focus on in 2023? Here are what I believe will be seven top workplace culture and compliance trends for this year.

  • Navigating talent market disruption
  • Equipping managers to lead in new ways
  • Stemming the mental health crisis by addressing toxic workplaces
  • Examining and evolving DEI initiatives
  • Staying ahead of new challenges in harassment and discrimination
  • Addressing the surge in workplace violence
  • Enhancing internal ESG efforts

1. Navigating talent market disruption

Talent issues were a major focus in 2022 and there’s no sign of that changing in 2023. Many employers will focus on hiring while others may face the challenge of navigating reductions in force. But all companies, whether growing, maintaining, or downsizing, will be tasked with keeping their workforce engaged.

2. Equipping managers to lead in new ways

It’s no secret that many managers have been struggling to adapt their leadership practices to today’s rapidly-changing workplace. In 2023, employees will expect managers to do more to demonstrate empathy, proactively support employee safety and wellbeing, embrace DEI, and provide ongoing, meaningful coaching all year round. Employers will need managers to hire new talent, connect with their teams, and manage employee performance in new ways. Upskilling managers in these areas will be mission-critical for business success.

3. Stemming the mental health crisis by addressing toxic workplaces

The mental health crisis that came to light in 2020 unfortunately continues today, with 76% of U.S. employees reporting at least one symptom of a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression. In early 2022, we at EVERFI urged employers to address workplace conditions that make employees unwell, such as toxic environments, burnout, stress, and lack of inclusion and belonging. In October 2022, the U.S. Surgeon General declared that unhealthy, toxic workplace environments are hazardous to employees’ physical and mental health. And with 81% of employees saying they will look for companies that support worker mental health when they seek future job opportunities, employer action is imperative in 2023.

4. Examining and evolving DEI initiatives

Organizations continue to heed the calls of their employees, shareholders, and customers to ramp up internal DEI efforts to promote inclusion and drive business success. While 2020 was the year of public statements, 2021 and 2022 saw companies implementing new DEI initiatives, with 83% of U.S. companies reporting doing so in 2021 alone. In 2023, then, employers will be evaluating and improving upon these efforts. Companies will ensure that DEI initiatives are yielding positive results, shining a light on facets of diversity and inclusion that have not traditionally been featured in DEI programs (such as age and others), and educating employees and leaders on everyday skills that drive inclusion.

5. Staying ahead of new challenges in harassment and discrimination

Harassment and discrimination are certainly not new, but they pose new challenges for employers as they occur in new ways and take different forms. Online work environments continue to drive upticks in harassment by emails, gifs, texts, video meetings, and chat feeds. Antisemitism is an increasing concern, with one-third of employees saying that antisemitism is common at their company and 29% of employees reporting that it is “acceptable,” according to a 2022 survey. Disability discrimination will likely continue to top race discrimination as the #1 form of discrimination reported to the EEOC after retaliation. Meanwhile, city and state laws will continue to proliferate as they did in 2022, adding new protected characteristics (like the hair discrimination laws that passed in Illinois, Louisiana, and Massachusetts), and imposing new training requirements (such as Chicago’s new harassment and bystander intervention training law).

6. Addressing the surge in workplace violence

Workplace violence is increasing across industries, costing U.S. organizations $130 billion annually from lost productivity, medical costs, and associated lawsuits alone. At the end of 2022, I facilitated a conversation with a group of chief compliance and ethics officers who confirmed that workplace violence has truly become an urgent issue; unfortunately, experts predict this troubling trend will continue in 2023 and beyond. This is due to a “perfect storm” of factors today, including elevated stress levels, declines in civility in society and online discourse, and upticks in crime in many communities. And with domestic violence in the U.S. increasing by more than 8% over the past few years, many experts predict there will be an increase in workplace violence by abusers harassing their targets at worksites.

7. Enhancing internal ESG efforts

Company ESG (Environment, Social, and Governance) initiatives have exploded over the past few years due to intense interest from regulators, employees, and the public. In fact, ESG has become so important that 76% of consumers say they won’t do business with companies that mistreat the environment, their own employees, or the communities in which they operate–and employees don’t want to work for them either. In 2023, companies that have primarily focused on externally-facing efforts–such as environmental impact, sustainability, and global human rights, for example–will turn their focus inward as well, enhancing their employee-facing practices in support of the “S” and “G” aspects of this work.

Taking proactive steps

2023 will surely be another year of disruption and complex issues for organizational leaders to navigate. The good news is that all the trends addressed above are truly interconnected. Thus, taking proactive, meaningful steps to address one or more of these areas will not only have a positive impact on the other areas, but will help create a safe, inclusive, and positive workplace culture that can help weather the most turbulent times.