Workplace Culture 2021

Workplace Culture 2021

As organisations evolve in the new times, there will be newer challenges, and more innovative practices will be required. For an organisation, culture is not a journey taken alone and will require people and leaders to come together.


We have spent a year in lockdown and now looking back at 2020, it all looks like a distant past. Time has changed and changed so fast, and though we know things will return to normal, it will not be the same again. The swanky offices and lounges, chai pe charcha, chats in the corridor, team huddles, and cafeteria meetings are registered in our memories. Enough and more has been written on what has changed so far, and a lot is being written on how things will continue to change.


As I reflect on all that we have gone through in the past one year, I think of all the years of building people relationships. I am still connected with people whom I have known for three decades of professional work. These relationships were built on emotions and trust and continue strong today. The workplace and people continue to be a family where we have spent most of our lives. The finest organisations have the best people practices, a culture which attracts people helping them build a great brand for themselves.


It is an undeniable fact that people together build organisations and their culture. With changing times and the evolving digital environment, the reshaping of the culture is a question that most HR practitioners are working upon. So what are the immediate priorities? How much time will it take? Putting in the new practices will be gradual as people and leaders will have to work together in these changing times. Undoubtedly, mature and established organisations will find the process of transition much easier than others.


What My Peers Had To Say


 As I started working on this writeup, I reached out to corporate and industry leaders, HR practitioners, and professional colleagues. I asked them to share their thoughts on the changing workplace culture and what they believed was important in the changing times. I also asked them how this will change the way we have worked so far. I also referred to the papers published by the consulting and knowledge firms, as well as articles written/ shared by corporate leaders on workplace culture.


As per Robert Ordever, Managing Director of O. C. Tanner, “Inclusive, connected and purposedriven workplaces must be prioritised, time to drive technological advancements to bring people together. 2021 needs to be a year of deliberate and positive transformation.” He further said, “Leaders will need to find ways to bring people back together, even if it means doing this remotely, and some leaders may even need to strip everything back and re-build a more positive, connected, and purpose-driven culture from the ground-up.”


Furthermore, as per a research published by O.C Tanner Institute, 77 per cent of employees say their workplace culture will never return to pre-COVID-19, suggesting that the way we work has changed forever. Many employees have proven that work that can be conducted from home is likely to remain in place for the foreseeable.


Employees are more concerned about social issues than any other generation. As such, businesses need to think about how best to attract these individuals and how the purpose is integrated into a business strategy. We will continue to see more technological developments this year, focus on bringing people together despite many employees still working apart as per O.C. Tanner.


One of the leading management firms stressed the changing digital landscape and the need for a digital mindset as one of the important changes that organisations will be required to do. They also mentioned that workplace insights and analytics, enabling technologies, new skills, new roles, and an outside-in model of approach will be needed for organisations to succeed. The employee experience will matter more than ever for the success of an organisation.


The following areas will impact the workplace culture-


1. A compelling company mission addressing a bigger cause and purpose will connect with talent and society. People will join more for the tangible purpose that they would drive for their personal and professional life. Company values will bind people together.


2. Leaders will become conflict-resolution champions. Their roles will focus more on bringing things together, and not being just functional champions. They have to be more transparent and empathetic. Workplace leaders now have greater responsibility and say in business sustainability.


3. New age technology and innovations are happening faster than was expected. This puts stress on the requirement of having a digital mindset and focus on transformation. We will need to troubleshoot our current and future needs and be agile. Innovation will either make or break organisations. The quick changer will continue to be ahead of others. Using evidencebased predictive analytics will be required more to validate decisions. Organisations will have to know how to use employee sentiment data to create a business case. Creating an adaptable and sustainable business model is possible only when all the above come together.


4. Hybrid workplace is the future. 2020 taught many organisations, who never had the practices of flexible work schedules, remote working. Building new processes and practices that can support the Hybrid workplace is the need of the hour. We will need a change of mindset of both people and leaders. Managers who believed one-on-one physical connect will have to change faster since work relationships will now be built on virtual mode. The design, look and feel of big corporate headquarters will have less attraction and the people will attract people.


5. Workforce gets decentralised. A global workforce and a larger talent footprint is now common. A binding culture is crucial, and we will have to find our own ways of building and connecting. Organisations will have leaner central resources and more feet on the ground. The talents being hired for locations will have to be sharper as they will need to create their own support systems. We are now in a time of culture with less or no offices


6. Communication will continue to be a crucial element of culture. Transparency and simplicity will be important. Reiterating the messages and regularity will bring more clarity. Communication champions will have to be identified who will check, cross-check and validate the messages. Technology will play an important role in designing various modes through which people connect in real-time.


7. Well-defined career opportunities and growth will be a source of attraction and retention. Long service and loyalty are passe. People will focus on training and upskilling that will define their market value and existence. Workplace capability and performance has to be the focus of every organisation.


8. Employee health and well-being are more important in the digitally connected workspace. Acknowledging the personal and professional time-space is so crucial now. Managing the new way of work and personal life puts pressure on people, the managers have to be more observant and need to respect this change. Thus, connecting at a deeper level will help both.


9. Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) is crucial in creating a successful workplace culture. With many changes, the focus on D&I will build the cohesiveness that will make organisations successful.


As organisations evolve in the new times, I am sure there will be newer challenges, and more innovative practices will be required. Culture is not an alone journey for an organisation and will require people and leaders to come together. Culture is represented by the values and practices that people imbibe in their day-to-day work. Organisations will attract more for their people experiences. Suddenly the focus has shifted on managers and leaders.


I am leaving you with a question – It is said that people leave managers. Has the time come that people will work for the Managers/ Leaders? Will manager and leader now be the source of attraction for people in the future? Has the Brand ‘Manager/ Leader’ finally arrived? It is said that Leaders are made – so what are you doing to build your next generation of leaders?


Here, I would like to share with you the thoughts shared by Rishad Premji, Chairman, Wipro, on culture. He said, “Changing culture and habits is like competing in marathons. Without forming the habits that build stamina, speed, and resilience, one can keep changing the strategy and tactics – but will never do well in these races. There is no doubt that any such effort required broad and consistent communications across the organisation. Far more critical is leadership demonstrating all this in its behavior. So, relevant leadership must live these habits and leadership starts at CEO-MD”.


Tapas Acharya has three decades of experience in HRM across domains such as Strategic & tactical planning, Organisation Design, Channel Management, Talent Management & PMS, Leadership Development, Change Management, Employer Branding, Talent Acquisition, Industrial Relations, and Team Management. He is the Founder of 'The Acharya'.


0/3000 Free Article Left >Subscribe