Modern culture for a modern workforce: What your people want from you

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8 September 2022
Written by Speak First Linked-in icon

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This is the first article from our new series 'One small step for Management: The L&D guide to the giant leap in employee expectations.' We'll publish the rest over the next few weeks, if you don't want wait, you can read them all right now by downloading our brand new eBook.

In LinkedIn’s latest annual Workplace Learning Report, ‘Belonging’ and ‘Organisational Values’ were two of the most important aspects employees look for from an employer.1 Company culture is made up of the atmosphere and values of an organisation, and the people within it. It forms the foundation of workplace relationships, and the feeling of spending time there. A positive culture based on authentic values makes it more attractive to potential employees, increases retention, and gives people the freedom to innovate and perform at their best.

Since 2020, many organisations have been in reactionary mode, focusing on the repercussions of the pandemic. Now, Covid-19 hasn’t gone away, but that initial panic mostly has. National lockdowns and periods of quarantine have largely been replaced by active decisions on whether to continue working from home, adopt hybrid work or return full-time to offices.

Organisations can be forgiven if they ignored the importance of company culture in order to firefight, but now L&D leaders need to be part of the discussion to rebuild their culture even bigger and better than before. This is your moment to make sure you’re meeting (and exceeding) these expectations. 

 

Why does culture have to modernise? 

Employee engagement is shockingly low. It peaked in 2019, with just 22% of global employees saying they felt engaged. In 2021, this dropped to 21%.2 By calling for ‘belonging,’ people are asking employers to see them as real people, beyond just useful skills, who span the full spectrum of experiences, personalities, backgrounds and interests.

However, with 65% of workers around the world predicted to be working either fully remotely or hybrid by the end of 2022,3 there’s no longer a central hub for many organisations. Globally, 50% of workers want more flexibility,4 and, at the time of writing, the Dutch parliament is in the process of approving legislation forcing employers to consider requests for remote. On the other hand, 64% of workers in the United States are willing to pay for access to office space, saying increased focus and collaboration would be the main benefits.5

The future of company culture relies on finding ways to balance these needs. With ongoing and radical changes to work, company culture needs to create connections which treat remote teams as humans, without assuming everyone wants the same thing.

 

Make communication your priority

Communication methods need to adapt. Without this, remote or hybrid teams risk losing contact, people don’t know what’s going on and organisational culture starts breaking down.

A powerful first step is simply making everyone aware of this need. Basic things like so-called water cooler conversations might not be immediately missed, but without them, people can feel out the loop and socially isolated.

Even in person, it’s easy to only hear the loudest voices in the room. Now, it’s the loudest voices in the Zoom – where it’s even easier for quieter people to get overlooked. Studies show that in a typical six-person meeting, over 60% of talking comes from just two people.6 It’s vital to make sure everyone’s heard, especially when losing regular face-to-face interactions.

Creating regular opportunities for socialising, and even just a few minutes at the start of virtual calls for informal catch ups, makes a huge difference. Organisations can be big, but teams can become silos, so be aware of which people are unlikely to talk often, and even who might spend days without talking to any colleagues. When focusing on ‘belonging,’ make sure everyone feels genuinely part of the community.

 

Be new and exciting

If modern culture only focuses on plugging the gaps created by changing work habits, then it risks becoming a poor imitation of what came before. Instead, this is an exciting opportunity to create something new and meaningful.

Organisational culture experiences natural waves and shifts as employees come and go, but the core values that drive the business should be a foundation stone which outlasts any single person. These should be your guiding principles.

Over half the global workforce say they want the employers to have strong social and environmental values. For example, 65% of British workers would be more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies.8

Typical wisdom is to avoid political debates to avoid backlash or alienating anyone, but this is where those core values come in. They focus the conversation and make it clear what the organisation stands for.

Organisations have a legal and moral obligation to set clear standards and expectation for acceptable behaviour. L&D is a mechanism for ensuring everyone knows the rules. Consider your policies on inclusion, harassment, equality and bullying, so everyone understands what’s acceptable.

As the lines blur between what’s in and out of the workplace, it’s crucial to respond to the evolving ways people interact by regularly updating social media policies. L&D can also act as a safe space for people to share their experiences, and for discussing and implementing solutions.

 

The future of workplace culture begins by recognising a centralised workplace is becoming obsolete. As organisations continue embracing increasingly remote setups, a holistic view of your people is essential, with work-life balance and core values the new priority.

For more information about the future of work and new employee expectations, download the full eBook.

 

1 LinkedIn Learning (2022) 2022 Workplace Learning Report

2 Gallup (2022) The world's $7.8 trillion workplace problem

3 Statista (2022) Public opinion on the state of remote work worldwide in 2022

4 ADP (2022) People at work 2022: A global workforce view

5 WeWork (2021) The future of work is hybrid

6 Thompson, L. (2014) How brainstorming can neutralize the loudmouths

7 Gartner (2022) Why engaging with social and political issues is a non-negotiable for your employee value proposition

8 Unily (2021) Decade of  disruption: Future of the sustainable workplace