As we began the 2020’s the direction of corporate culture change was focused on the digitalization of work and how organizations would adapt to this sure change. Then came the pandemic.
This global pandemic has affected everyone, especially within our corporate culture. How, when, and where we work are on the agendas of all leadership teams. Also, the discussion of digitalization of work changed from a nice-to-have within five years strategy, to we need a plan today.
Everyone is looking for stronger company culture. In LinkedIn Global Trends 2022 Survey, candidates put company culture as a top priority. It is in the Top 3 and the global average is 40%. “Work-life balance trumps even bank balance for job seekers.”.
The relationship between employers and employees has continued to evolve over the decades. Work-life balance, the very fabric of corporate culture has continued to change.
For example, in the 1950s companies were strict hierarchies. Large corner offices were reserved for bosses, and the rest were in the middle of the office in the bullpen. The women were a small portion of the workforce and were often regulated to low-level positions.
In the 1970s women began to rise in importance in the workplace. Many social issues such as anti-discrimination, the hippie culture, women wearing pants, and birth control. Also, increased management opportunities once closed to women were now starting to open.
Then, in the 1990s lifetime employment ended. Employee lay-offs also became commonplace. Job security for the individual became more important than loyalty to the company. Companies began to cut costs and move production overseas. For example, all of Nike’s production was overseas.
In the 2000s, startups in technology were the new trend. Google redefined the definition of the corporate culture. While lifetime employment is a thing of the past, employment where creativity, freedom of work schedule, and open office spaces were in style. It became okay to have fun at work.
Now, let’s jump ahead to today. Workers are now re-evaluating what matters most to them in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, prompting employers to focus on the well-being and personal satisfaction of their employees.
Thus, employers are adjusting their policies to ensure that employees feel cared about as human beings, not just as workers, making flexible work arrangements permanent, investing in wellness programs, and boosting their diversity and inclusion efforts. Employers and employees are building a new, more dynamic relationship based on trust and empathy.”
For 2022 and beyond there are three areas of the corporate culture that needs our attention. The first is “Flexibility.” The second is “Well-being.” The third is “The Great Reshuffle.”
As we enter our third year of the pandemic, flexibility in our approach to various problems has become routine. While HR used to follow a one-size-fits-all approach, that’s not so true now. Listening and developing programs around the needs of the individuals are the way forward.
Even the word flexibility is being reconsidered. For example, Jessica DeGroot, founder and president of the ThirdPath Institute, prefers the term "strategic flexibility." She views the issue holistically: Strategic flexibility is workplace flexibility for men and women, from entry-level to executive leadership positions, that takes into account whether they work better onsite or offsite. She also includes life stages, recognizing that employees' needs change.
Also, the employees of today not only need change, but they want to change. "People want more flexibility...we understand that is the new normal," said Vinita Clements, chief human resources officer at Nationwide. "We've had to balance the needs of our associates and their desires and also understand the needs of our customers and how do we deliver on the promise to protect people, businesses, and futures?" Governments are also looking at greater flexibility.
For example, New Zealand’s and Finland’s prime ministers have floated the idea of a four-day workweek. Also, Britain’s Labour Party in 2019 campaigned on the idea that workweeks would be shortened in the next decade. Last year, Japan's annual economic policy guidelines revealed the country would encourage employers to adopt four-day workweeks.
Panasonic is reportedly introducing an optional four-day workweek for employees, allowing its workers to spend less time working and more time enjoying being alive. They will offer its workers a third day off per week. Panasonic CEO Kusumi Yuki noted they may opt to further their studies, volunteer, or even work a side job. "We must support the wellbeing of our employees," said Kusumi, as reported by Nikkei Asia.
Three-quarters of UK workers now say work-life balance is more important to them than it was pre-pandemic, and employers are starting to respond to this. The number of jobs advertised as remote has increased by roughly 20% since 2020, as demand increases, and both companies and staff alike have begun to understand that wanting to work flexibly is not necessarily negative or due to a lack of commitment. For many workers, it’s become about how their career fits with their lifestyle – it’s a ‘want’ rather than a ‘need’ that can help increase their quality of life.
The future well-being of our employees is hinged on the flexibility of our corporate culture. This brings us to our second corporate culture point of focus area for 2022 and beyond, “well-being.
Many companies have already expanded the wellness support they provide to their employees in the wake of this pandemic. A Gartner 2020 survey of 52 HR executives found that:
These programs work for those that take advantage of them. Gartner's analysis shows that employees who utilize these benefits report 23% higher levels of mental health, 17% higher levels of physical health, and are 23% more likely to say they sleep well at night. These improvements in personal outcomes translate to higher levels of performance and retention.
Also, the shift to remote and hybrid work is impacting recruitment. For example, removing geographic constraints opens the talent pool and creates more access to talent and that’s having a positive impact on hiring.
Flexibility around how, where, and when people work is no longer a differentiator. Employers that don’t offer flexibility will see increased turnover as employees move to roles that offer a value proposition that better aligns with their desires. This translates to employees calculating the well-being factor associated with the job and organization.
The future well-being of employees is hinged on the flexibility of the corporate culture. This brings us to our third corporate culture point of focus area for 2022 and beyond, “The Great Reshuffle.”
During this pandemic, businesses have faced many challenges. Some have said that the new normal is actually "The Great Reset." Others have written at great length this past year (me included) about, "The Great Resignation." And now, Mohan Nair of Forbes says that soon we will be calling it, "The Great Reshuffle."
Whatever you call it — resetting, resigning, or reshuffling — people have been updating their priorities and to-do lists. Here is the list Mr. Nair compiled from interviews with many CEOs of the most common priorities.
1. Supply chain disruptions and delays.
2. Employees not interested in working full time and looking for flexible hours.
3. Employees resigning outright.
4. Possible wars caused among customers and employees.
5. Mental health issues among family members and others.
6. The impacts of inflation on the cost of service or product.
7. Just plain tired of "Zooming" all day without really capturing the imagination of customers and employees.
8. People are unable to keep up with increasing demands.
9. Partners selling off their businesses or leaving their business altogether due to downturn.
10. Customers demanding new, improved, and even transformative services and products with giant, established competitors already taking a big share.
We can't live in anticipatory anxiety of what’s coming at us next. I suggest that we consider The Top Three Corporate-Culture Focus Areas for 2022 and Beyond, that we have covered in this blog and make that our agenda. In conclusion, everyone is looking for stronger company culture. How are you redesigning or modifying your corporate culture? I would love to hear from you.