Culture clash: has the pandemic really damaged company cohesion?

As leaders argue for employees to return to the office to boost company culture, this WORKTECH Wednesday Briefing highlights research which suggests that employees think culture is thriving

The swing away from employees attending the office everyday has sparked debates about social cohesion and culture within organisations. Many leaders believe that hybrid working poses a threat to building successful organisational cultures which have been traditionally built on workplace experience and social interaction with colleagues in the office.

However, EY’s latest Work Reimagined Survey suggests that more than six in ten employees believe their organisational culture has improved since the pandemic started in 2020. This is compared with just 40 per cent of bosses who believe their culture has improved. This dichotomy is the latest in a series of mismatched expectations and perspectives between employees and employers.

‘Differences over culture represent the latest mismatch between employees and employers…’

The survey reveals insights from more than 17,000 employees and 1,575 employers across 22 countries and 26 industries. The data highlights three distinct segments of employers based on their perception of business productivity and organisational culture: ‘optimists’, ‘pessimists’ and the ‘massive middle’.

The optimists represent around a third of leaders (32 per cent) who have been proactive in their approach to flexible work, real estate and technology, and who are therefore more likely to agree that they have seen positive outcomes.

The pessimists are in the minority, representing just 11 per cent of employers who feel disempowered by the movement to new ways of working. This group is characterised by less investment in clear actions toward improving technology, onsite amenities and flexibility for the workforce.

The majority of employers sit in the massive middle (57 per cent). These leaders are largely undecided about what the future holds and they lack a distinct perspective on productivity and culture outcomes. Within this segment, there is an opportunity for the employer to build a leading strategy and win the race for talent, according to EY’s Work Reimagined Survey…but only if they act now.

What’s in a name?

The improved perception of organisational culture identified by EY’s survey could have something to do with new job titles cropping up which are specifically focused on improving culture, flexibility and wellbeing. According to LinkedIn data, there has been a 13 per cent growth in existing job titles that reference culture or wellbeing compared to 2019.

Companies such as Aon, Barclays and the National Health Foundation have appointed roles such as Chief Culture Officer and Head of Culture. Other companies such as Coca-Cola and Siemens Energy have recruited roles such as Chief Health and Wellbeing Officer. Perhaps this shift to intentional reinforcement of culture and wellbeing is the future for driving successful organisational culture.

Berlin leads by example

Join us on 25 May 2022 at the WORKTECH22 Berlin conference as Scout24, one of Germany’s leading digital companies, presents its case study entitled ‘Creating Authentic Company Culture that Transcends the Office Walls’. As we evolve our workstyles post pandemic to remote and hybrid working, amid the confluence of cloud, collaboration and connectivity, a new set of challenges has emerged for today’s HR, IT and CRE leaders. How can business leaders create an authentic company culture that transcends the office walls? Please see more information on WEORKTECH’s Berlin conference here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional conference series continues through our in-person, virtual and hybrid platforms. This edition is posted 18 May 2022.
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