Workplace Culture 2021. Pushing the Reset Button

Workplace Culture 2021. Hitting the reset button.

The workplace as we knew it changed drastically and rapidly in 2020. For most people, 2021 is a welcome change in the calendar as 2020 was a challenging year in so many ways. We anticipate all the ways in which our world was transformed so rapidly will have long lasting impacts in our lives and workplaces well into this new year and beyond. 

The dawn of a new year is an invitation to pause, look back, and reflect on what has worked and what has not worked and press the reset button. Pressing reset is not a way to erase this past year, although I know many might want to! Instead, reset is a way to be reflective and intentional about taking forward what is working and leaving behind what is not working. 

As leaders we may want to ask ourselves and our teams, where are we now? What’s working? What’s not working? Where do we want to go and who do we need to be to get there?

5 Workplace Culture Trends for 2021 and Why Trends Matter in Considering our Reset

O.C Tanner, a global leader in engaging workplace cultures, released a PDF document entitled, “5 Culture Trends for 2021”. As we reflect on this past year in our own companies, it is also a good idea to step back and get a meta view on the ways work has changed and set our intentions to incorporate the ways in which workplaces have been transformed. You can read the document in full, but the following is the 5 top culture trends for 2021 in summary.

1) Companies focus on culture because culture is in flux. Keeping up employee morale and maintaining company culture during the pandemic has been difficult and thriving companies will design elements around the most important aspects of culture regardless of whether that is in person or remote.

2) The future of work looks very different as work processes have and are changing. Virtual interviews, hiring processes, and paid parental leaves have become more common. Some variation of working from home is desirable to more employees. What will your new normal processes and employee experiences be?

3) Renewed emphasis on inclusive workplace efforts that feel sincere and beyond percentage quotas. Companies can build inclusion elements into every element of the workplace.

4) Generation Z enters an uncertain workplace. This generation cares about social issues and wants to work for a cause they care about and desire connection and a sense of belonging. All things that are a part of workplace culture and should be considered as there are more and more Gen Z are in the workforce.

5) Real digital transformation – but with a human element. Technology cannot replace human interaction, but it needs to facilitate connection and personal interaction and improve and integrate into the employee experience.

Reflecting on the Need to Reset Culture 

Overall, the O.C. Tanner list points to the importance that culture has on engagement. If disengagement has been a common response to the kind of year that 2020 has been in your organization, building back or improving engagement is critical. Employees need to feel supported, and the O.C. Tanner trend list gives us a good place to start in how employees want to be supported. 

Resetting for 2021 might mean leaving behind the disengagement that happened (some of it at least because of the confusion, change, and upheaval of 2020) and choosing to take forward ways to build culture and engage your team or organization regardless of how or where employees are working. 


RELATED: Workplace Burnout, Engagement and Culture


Interestingly, employers and employees don’t always see the need for engagement in the same way. Take this Deloitte survey  as an example. In the survey of 1000+ adults employed full time in a company with 100+ employees, when asked what to focus on to have an exceptional culture, answers between executives and employees were different. Executives rank tangible elements to impact culture such as financial performance and competitive compensation highly. Among employees, intangible elements such as regular and candid communication, employee recognition, and access to management/leadership were the highest ranked elements to impact culture. 

The Employee/Employer Culture Gap and How to Bridge it

According to this Forbes article, culture is often built on shared experiences, fostering collaboration, and effective communication. But if perspectives on how culture is built is different between employers and employees, than it is important to build dialogue and gain understanding of differing perspectives. Leaders need to hear how working remotely affects the perceptions or needs of culture. Clear communication about how company values drive specific actions are important. So much has changed, which drives the need for effective communication and clarity to upmost importance.  

Communication Starts with Good Relationships

Good and effective communication is not only sharing information clearly, but also the reception of that information. Effective communication is built through a solid foundation of good working relationships and trust.  If relationships and trust are not established or have been negatively impacted by any variety of reasons, relationship building is where we need to start. Actively sharing informal communications and fun events and experiences together has been challenged in 2020. Virtual options such as Summits wildly popular 10 free zoom icebreakers  that leaders can do themselves at their next meetings have been growing in popularity. You can download it as our free gift to you! Relationship building (which should include some fun!) is an often overlooked and yet important agenda item of virtual (and face to face) meetings on a regular basis. 

How Will You Build and Nurture Relationships in 2021?  

If relationships are the foundation of how communication is received, and effective communication contributes to engagement and co-creating healthy culture, then we really can’t stress enough how critical relationships and trust are to each and every team and organization. Sometimes informal team building (such as using any of the 10 virtual icebreakers) is great. This can include the occasional shared morning coffee (virtually) or after work drink where work tasks are off the table. The important thing is that the focus is relational instead of task driven. 


RELATED: Strong Workplace Relationships in a Virtual Team


In addition to regularly doing informal and intentional relational team building, sometimes it is great for an outside professional to lead a high quality and targeted virtual team building  experiences that considers the specific goals and outcomes your team is working towards in resetting their culture. A virtual training workshop might contribute both to building relationships and setting clear culture or company goals. 

Pressing the reset button on healthy company culture should be at or near the top of priorities for leaders to deliberately budget and set time aside for in 2021. Maintaining or building back high engagement after a challenging year will look different for every team. We’d love to connect with you  to learn about where your team is, reflect with you on what worked and what didn’t, and create a plan to come alongside your team to support the changes your team wants to make. 

Here’s to pressing the reset button for 2021!