Culture Trends for 21

Consultancy O.C. Tanner have analysed and studied the Culture Trends for 2021 and produced a report on the top five culture trends that organisations need to get ready for to help their employees thrive.

Culture Trends

TREND # 1 – Emerging from crisis, companies focus on culture

as companies around the world return to the workplace after months of remote work or they adjust to a new normal mix of onsite and remote work. The workplace culture in significant instability and change.

Some organisations will need to restore the culture following layoffs, furloughs or site closures which have drastically changed and impacted the workforce.

Other organisations are changing work processes and methodologies to adapt to the new need for social distancing. The underlying fear of COVID19 continues to provide uncertainty on what else might change.

A recent CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce study found two out of three companies reported keeping employee morale up to be difficult during the pandemic, and one-third said maintaining company culture was a challenge.

The actions some organizations have taken have had a negative impact on their company culture. Pulse surveys conducted by the
O.C. Tanner Institute during the worst of the Covid-19 crisis found when an organization had a layoff or furlough, there was a(n):

  • 91% decline in employee Net Promoter Score
  • 57% increase in disengagement
  • 42% increase in a tense workplace atmosphere
  • 75% increase in feeling like the organization was underprepared

“We expect to see a greater and intentional focus on the human at the center of work. There is an awakening happening due to the pandemic and societal injustices that are inspiring more leaders and cultures to take a brand stand that puts humans first. People leaders that back up their brand stand with actions will result in creating better business outcomes and, at the same time, support overall well-being.”


Culture keeps employees connected, moving together and aligning towards a common purpose, this alignment and connection is critical during times
of crisis. page2image53431488


Culture Trends
Image Source: Pexels

TREND # 2 – The future of work looks very different

Remote work will still be commonplace in 2021 with many companies already committing that they will not be returning to the office before the middle of 2021. Many other firms have already started plans to change how offices work and who attends offices. A study by the New York Times found:

  • 77% of employees say their workplace culture will never return to pre-COVID19 normal
  • 86% of workers are satisfied working from home
  • 40% of workers said they were taking more walks and breaks during the day

New processes have been established already to hire people and onboard them virtually, and the changes have been made to how employee performance is assessed, how reward and recognition is managed as well as changes to employee benefits.

Organisations need to rapidly reset to the new normal for the workplace while still being able to quickly adapt to changing needs and situations. Leaders need to be proactive and considerate about how to build new employee experiences such as employee recognition.

TREND # 3 – Renewed emphasis on inclusive workplaces

A trend that has already gained significant traction in the US is a renewed emphasis on Diversity and Inclusion. Employees are expecting that their companies will be advocates for all issues of injustice an inequality.

“Companies should look past single categories like race, gender, or sexual orientation and see and nurture each individual.”

O.C. Tanner – 5 Culture Trends for 2021

Employees who feel “different” in some way in the workplace are:

  • 126% more likely to suffer from severe burnout
  • 38% less likely to feel a sense of belonging
  • 76% more likely to have experience a micro-aggresion from a leader
    • 144% more likely from a senior leader and
    • 95% more likely from a peer

O.C.Tanner suggest that organisations “Build inclusion into all elements of the everyday employee experience and take into consideration employee intersectionality. Identify areas of exclusion, bias, and microaggressions and address them. Enable and train managers to create inclusive cultures, since they directly affect employee interactions and everyday experiences. See employees as individual people with individual needs and work to create an environment where all employees are free to be their authentic selves.”

TREND # 4 – Gen Z enters an uncertain workplace

In the US, Gen Z is estimated to make up roughly 33% of the workforce and it is the most diverse generation, highly connected to social issues and purpose to make a difference over simply climbing the corporate ladder.

  • 30% of Gen Z employees would take. 10-20% pay cut to work on a cause they care about
  • Gen Z rate the importance of cultural aspects as 51% of workplace culture, income 24% and job security 11%
Culture Trends
Source: O.C.Tanner – 5 Culture Trends for 2021

TREND # 5 – Real digital transformation – but with a human element

The benefits of automation, artificial intelligence and technology more broadly has accelerated in 2020 as firms have rushed to make digital channels effective and digitise delivery and logistics processes.

  • 77% of employees are feeling new technology will improve their work experiences
  • 90% of C-suite executives say that their company considers the employees when considering technology changes
  • But only 53% of employees agree with them.

When organisations engage properly with staff and consider the people and culture when making technology decisions they are:

  • 6x higher likelihood of an aspirational engagement score
  • 7x higher likelihood of an aspirational purpose score
  • 4x higher likelihood of an aspirational success score
  • 3x higher likelihood of an aspirational opportunity, appreciation and leadership score

Key Takeaways

Synopsis of a report by O.C.Tanner
5 Culture Trends for 2021

and CNBC
How post-pandemic office spaces could change corporate culture
By Jen Geller and Riley de Leon

and New York Times
Out Of Office: A Survey of Our New Work Lives
By Anya Strzemien, Jessica Bennett, Tracy Ma and Eve Lyons
Published 20th August 2020

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