Changes to Company Culture Beyond an Unprecedented Year

According to a new report that examines company culture based on survey responses from 370,000 employees at over 400 companies, much has improved for company culture, but there’s still room to grow.

2020 was no ordinary year. From the changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic to reckonings with racial justice, many lessons continue to be learned in 2021. As employers responded to rapid changes that saw a considerable shift to remote work over the past year, company culture was tested considerably. According to a new report that examines company culture based on survey responses from 370,000 employees at over 400 companies, much has improved for company culture, but there’s still room to grow.

Improvements in Company Culture During 2020

Company culture, sometimes referred to as organizational culture or corporate culture, is the variety of elements that make up the culture of the workplace, which can be defined in many ways and take different shapes. Oftentimes, it’s the shared values, attributes and characteristics of an organization, from the leadership structure to the way people interact.

When it comes to developments in company culture over the past year, many were positive. An organization often strives to have a safe and respectful workplace for everyone, and according to the report, two-thirds of respondents said that they would intervene directly if they witnessed inappropriate behavior. In a year that had many facing unprecedented crises, empathy and communication were more important than ever, especially in the remote setting. More respondents indicated that those in their workplace exhibit empathy in an increase of 15.9% from 2019.

Crucial to the developments in empathy, understanding and communication is diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I). As we have seen, employees are more willing than ever to step in when witnessing inappropriate behavior. According to the report, 7% more employees acknowledge their awareness and understanding of their organizations’ DE&I goals than they did in 2019. Unraveling previously held notions about others and cultivating curiosity and understanding takes time, but employees are committed: 88% support a nuanced action to foster an inclusive workplace, such as committing to being more respectful or being an upstander.

Company Culture Still Has Room to Grow

While these are positive developments towards a more inclusive and understanding workplace, there’s still work to be done. The report found that power dynamics are still unbalanced in the workplace, with employees’ willingness to say “no” to unreasonable requests dropping 11%. There was an increase, also at 11%, in employees citing weak corporate culture as the greatest source of workplace conflict. At a slight but still significant 5% increase, more employees say they have minimized their personal identity in the workplace.

These results reveal that cultivating a positive company culture is a process that must cover all bases, especially belonging. According to research, there are major business implications when employees lack a sense of belonging. When employers and leaders focus on belonging, it has led to a 56% increase in job performance, a 50% drop in turnover, and a 75% reduction in sick days.

It’s just as important to adapt efforts to improve company culture to the remote setting. Research has shown us that remote work is here to stay, and senior HR leaders have had to thoroughly reevaluate their company policies to meet the needs of a distributed workforce. Common tips to boost company culture in the remote setting include increasing flexibility, developing a strong team mentality, and taking tangible steps to improve communication efforts while recognizing employees for their successes. After an unprecedented year, emphasizing these successes while investing in the employee experience will go a long way in cultivating an even stronger company culture no matter where work is going.

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