2020 Trends in Workplace Culture and Employee Engagement
Posted 01/28/2020 in Trends

2020 Trends in Workplace Culture


2020 Trends in Workplace Culture

When looking for meaningful trends that are being predicted for workplace culture they range from idealism, to legal trends, to technology and of course dealing with the millennials. Below, we have summarized the trends that are being predicted for workplace culture in 2020, along with who is making the predictions.

Trend 1: New approaches to workplace culture - SHRM

To resolve this in 2020 and beyond, HR will need to debunk some common misperceptions: 

  1. Workplace culture is something that develops organically, a “personality” of an organization that simply emerges over time; 
  2. Culture is primarily created by “plug-and-play” perks such as ping pong tables, snacks, pets at work, unlimited time off, or onsite yoga; and 
  3. Legal standards are the yardstick against which inappropriate behavior should be addressed. 

Look for HR leaders to pivot away from implementing on-trend benefits as the way to improve workplace culture, and to instead create a proactive, robust, and multifaceted culture strategy. This strategy will involve ensuring leaders demonstrate and reinforce key organizational values (“walking the talk”), holding all employees accountable for behaviors that fall short of those values (rather than addressing only egregious misconduct), equipping managers with critical skills such as conflict management and coaching, and training all employees in culture-building topics such as bystander intervention techniques and respect.  

Trend 2: Mission-driven organizations - CULTURE AMP

We’re seeing a shift away from just talking about corporate social responsibility and the triple bottom line.. But having a higher purpose and working towards an infinite game is much bigger, with CSR being only one component of this.

Employees don’t want to work for a company they don’t align with, value-wise. Take note leaders, just having a company vision doesn’t cut it. You still need to communicate that vision in a way that motivates your employees.

Leadership also plays a significant role in helping employees understand the mission that they are working towards. This all comes down to how they are communicating to employees. When answering the question, “Leaders at the company have communicated a vision that motivates me,” 67% of employees in our benchmark answered favorably with 23% responded with neutral. These scores might seem low, but a higher proportion of neutral responses indicates potential uncertainty or even mixed messages. The vision may be strong, but the communication might not be.

TREND 3: The growth of conscious companies - FASTCOMPANY

Today, we want more from work–and the companies we patronize. Whether you call it conscious capitalism like Whole Foods cofounder John Mackey or compassionate capitalism like Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, more organizations are beginning to stand for something–a trend that we predict will only keep growing.

TREND 4:  Mental health conversations in the workplace - FASTCOMPANY

Progress is already being made: In the UK, 30 of the UK’s most recognized businesses and organizations signed the Mental Health At Work Commitment.

But there’s still a stigma around talking about mental health issues, especially in the workplace. Almost two-thirds of those who have received hospital treatment for a mental health condition say they have experienced discrimination at work.

TREND 5. Create Compelling Employee Experiences - EFRONTLEARNING

Unlike previous generations, millennials look further than job stability, competitive salaries and benefits to be committed and loyal to a company. They are driven by a sense of shared purpose, which means that they need to have a strong sense of their part in the ‘bigger picture’ to bring their best results to the workplace.

And although until now businesses were mostly focused on satisfying key consumer needs, what becomes clear when examining the global workforce trends by 2020 is that employee experience is equally important for company success.

Currently, there is a significant gap between millennial workforce needs and what the workplace offers. If companies want to harness the massive potential of this future workforce, they need to start incorporating the tools and technologies that enable their productivity.

Trend 6: Retaliation in the Workplace - SHRM

We mention retaliation first because, quite simply, we believe that retaliation may be the next big #MeToo issue that takes the workplace by storm in the coming decade. And unless organizations put this issue on their radar now and take swift and meaningful steps to safeguard against it, the next hashtag may be just as devastating.

To prevent this looming crisis, organizations must do more in 2020 than simply point to a non-retaliation policy. They will need to train all employees–in particular, managers and executives–to understand how and why retaliation occurs, the legal–and more importantly, cultural damage it can cause, and what they can do to ensure non-retaliatory treatment. HR must put systems into place to proactively check-in with whistleblowers and monitor any changes to their working conditions and performance reviews. 

Trend 7: Whole employee mapping - CULTURE AMP 

This is a new term that I’ve been speaking with companies about and is an extension of the idea of what it actually means to bring the whole self to work.  Employees are bringing all of themselves to the workplace, whether you want them to or not.

If we can all agree this is happening, we need to have a clearer understanding of the ways in which we can help measure and understand the whole employee experience. A term that I’ve called Whole Employee Mapping. This looks at an individual’s engagement, performance, effectiveness and willingness to learn new skills to really understand the opportunities for recognition, reward, growth and commitment. By looking at all of these data sets together, coupled with the knowledge that they are being impacted due to your experience inside and outside of the workforce we are able to better understand the employee experience in a holistic way.

Ultimately, the more we understand about the entire experience we have at work, the more we can tailor the experience to ensure a higher retention rate.

TREND 8: Growth of inclusive family leave - FASTCOMPANY

Although the United States lags behind many countries in terms of family leave, there’s hope: Attitudes towards paternity leave are drastically changing in America.

More fathers are beginning to feel comfortable taking extended time off, a trend that we believe will grow in 2020. Men today are as likely as women to say they need to have time off work to care for babies, aging parents, or sick family members.

There is evidence that it’s good for organizations. Overwhelmingly, employers have reported that paternity leave had a “positive effect” or “no noticeable effect” on productivity, profitability/performance, turnover, and employee morale.

Trend 9: Remote organizations setting the standard for employee communications - CULTURE AMP

Employee communications is often overlooked in terms of importance and under-invested in terms of priorities. David Gergen, a widely expert on the subject of effectively communicating key messages once said, “History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.” For employees to internalize the messages that we want them to hear, we need to repeat the message so often that you might grow sick of hearing yourself say it. 

In my opinion, the best place for us to learn about how to get employee communications right, is remote organizations. 

One of my favorite examples is a resource on communicating effectively and responsibly through text, useful information for any company, remote or not. Many organizations rely on in person meetings to get work done which can lead to silos forming, a lack of documentation and needing to be in a HQ office to feel included. Helping your employees communicate more effectively via text can help reduce the meeting culture that companies can develop and create a culture that documents everything.

Trend 10: Harassment Prevention Training - SHRM

While organizations will continue to ensure that their harassment prevention training meets the content requirements of the ever-growing list of state and local mandates, they also will increase their focus on the effectiveness and impact of that training. To this end, organizations will look to incorporate training techniques and subjects that the EEOC and academic research have indicated are most promising for actually preventing harassment from occurring: bystander intervention skills and positive, professional, and respective behavior.

Trend 11: Agile learning organizations - CULTURE AMP

The way we are learning is changing and it’s time to use software at work that matches the experience we have with technology that we use in the rest of our lives. It also doesn’t make sense for us to only be recognized for the formal learning that we undertake. Agile learning organizations understand that employees can and should be learning in the following ways. Learning from on the job experience, learning from the skills of other employees and continuously upskilling the current skills you have. 

TREND 12: ‘Turning off’ from work by doing. . . NOTHING- FASTCOMPANY

Digital well-being has been on minds for a while now–especially in remote work, where “turning off” is a daily battle and the number one challenge.  But this year we got a simple coping strategy: do nothing.

Jenny Odell’s book How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy, offers a “field guide” for mitigating the daily online grab for your attention while also creating more meaningful relationships.


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