There’s no doubt about it: 2021 was the year of employees demanding change. While some employers hoped vaccines would allow a “return to normal,” many employees across the country made it clear they had no intention of returning to the way things used to be. The world had changed dramatically since early 2020, and employees’ priorities had too.
As employees voted with their feet in 2021 for something new, pressure to reimagine working environments started to increase. In many ways, the Great Resignation was both a reaction to the prior status quo and a stark wake-up call for employers to do more, do better, or do differently going forward.
Focus on These Workplace Culture Trends
So what should you and other HR leaders focus on in 2023 in this high-stakes, rapidly-evolving environment? Here’s what I believe will be six top workplace culture trends and the actions you can take to address them:
- Attracting and retaining talent
- Deepening commitments to DEI
- Upgrading hybrid work environments
- Addressing online harassment
- Moving from vaccines to holistic workplace health
- Doubling down on data and analytics
1. Attracting and retaining talent
As millions of people continue to quit their jobs in record-high numbers, it’s not surprising recruiting and retaining talent is currently the number one concern for CEOs. The situation will likely get worse in 2023, with some predicting one in eight jobs will be vacant in 2023. Many employers will continue to increase wages in 2022 to attract and keep workers. But that’s a short-term fix. After all, the majority of employees say they’re quitting their jobs because they don’t feel valued by their organizations or managers, and don’t feel a sense of belonging at work.
Take action: Ramp up workplace culture efforts that demonstrate to employees they (and their contributions) are valued and respected. Employers that prioritize employee support, recognition (monetary and non-monetary), inclusion, and belonging will be employers of choice in a tough job market. Which brings us to our #2 workplace culture trend.
2. Deepening commitments to DEI
After many companies made verbal commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in 2020 and 2021, applicants and employees now want to see sustained action and tangible results. They’re looking for increased representation, continued conversations about diversity, equitable pay and promotion practices, and everyday actions that promote inclusion and belonging.
Take action: Include all employees—and especially leaders—in a long-term effort to create a diverse, inclusive working environment. DEI isn’t something HR or DEI professionals can (or should) do alone, so it’s critical to teach employees how to act as an ally and address disrespectful behavior. Train leaders on how to lead inclusively and how to support DEI across all facets of the employee experience, from hiring to coaching to promotion to termination.
3. Upgrading hybrid work environments
In 2021, many employers rolled out new plans to make hybrid workforces the status quo. This involved revising remote work policies, finding new ways to keep employees informed and connected, and supporting an inclusive culture across places and time zones. But now that the essential systems and protocols are in place, in 2023 employers will focus on assessing how well they’re working—and continuing to improve them for long-term success.
Take action: Create a plan to review your hybrid practices and take them to the next level to ensure positive, equitable experiences for all. Educate managers about documented performance-related biases held by managers against remote workers. Implement objective criteria for evaluations and advancement decisions to mitigate their effects. Adopt a checklist of new meeting norms to ensure hybrid interactions are productive and inclusive for everyone.
4. Addressing online harassment
One unfortunate workplace trend emerging from distributed workforces that will escalate in 2023 (absent intervention) is an uptick in workplace harassment, with more than 25% of employees reporting they have already experienced more frequent gender-based harassment when working remotely. This is likely caused by several factors, from the increased stress of working longer hours to the casualness and privacy of digital channels. In 2023, employers will need to reverse this trend by reinforcing that the same rules of behavior apply whether someone is working in person or online.
Take action: Consider adding online/remote work examples to your anti-harassment policies, like inappropriate text messages or comments about a person’s home. Verify policies and reporting channels are accessible by remote employees and deploy training that includes bystander intervention techniques to enable employees to speak up and take action when they see online harassment.
5. Moving from vaccines to holistic workplace health
In 2021, many employers had to make tough decisions on issues like mandatory vaccines and infection testing for the first time. Employers will continue to work through new policies—and getting employees on board with them—in early 2023. But with 40% of workers saying that their employers haven’t done enough to address employee mental health, and evidence that alcohol and substance misuse is on the rise, many employers will broaden their focus when it comes to workplace health.
Take action: Look holistically at issues that impact workforce well-being. Identify new areas of focus, including mental wellness, burnout, and drug and alcohol misuse. Consider addressing environmental stressors too, such as toxic managers or microaggressions, to support workplace-wide mental well-being. Provide resources and education to managers on how to support employees navigating mental health or substance use issues.
6. Doubling down on data and analytics
As we continue to hear about how data is HR’s most important asset, expect an increased focus in the C-suite on people analytics in the coming year. In a recent survey, more than 50% of organizations plan to invest in people analytics tools during the next 12 months. By using data and insights, employers can measure the impact of current workplace initiatives, identify future needs and risks, and create informed strategies that truly drive change.
Take action: Before implementing new HR programs, policies, or training, gather baseline data (from HRIS or ATS systems, climate surveys, exit interviews, hotline report statistics, and more) to identify needs and where to allocate time and resources. After a policy or program is deployed, gather and use data to evaluate its impact, inform needed adjustments, and guide future efforts. Consider sharing data about results with employees, Boards of Directors, or other stakeholders to demonstrate commitment and accountability.
Continue to Build a Positive Workplace Culture
A new year means new perspectives and possibilities. And while the tumultuous nature of the past few years may have brought a sense of uncertainty, one thing remains clear: employers need to build a workplace culture where employees truly feel valued, included, and that their well-being is a priority.