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2021 Company Culture Predictions That Will Challenge You

2021 Company Culture Predictions That Will Challenge You

I know, it feels like tempting fate to talk about 2021, when we all had such high expectations for 2020. The campaigns declaring 2020 vision in January, were enough to make anyone believe this would be a successful year. But a global pandemic had other ideas.

Change is often a force for good, even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

Thanks to COVID-19 flexible working has moved forward drastically, our approach to diversity and inclusion has become a bigger conversation in the workplace; and we’ve seen that in order to truly thrive in a crisis, you need compassionate and empathetic people.

There have been some big culture lessons learned in this year, and now it’s time to embrace them and start to create a path forward.

The truth is, ringing in the new year does not mean no COVID. We could be living alongside this virus for at least another year, which means the changes we’ve seen in our workplaces, will need to be brought into 2021.

It might seem optimistic to plan ahead, considering how everyone’s plans were destroyed in 2020. But our workplaces have never been more exposed and in need of a radical shift as they have over the past twelve months.

So with the future firmly in sight, we’re going to delve into the company culture predictions that you need to prepare yourselves for and give you a few tips along the way to help you kick-off your new year with a new way of working. Because trust us, the wave of change has only just started.

Flexible & Agile Working Will Become the Norm

Let’s just take a moment to realise that it’s taken a global pandemic to make us rethink the 9-5. 

What have we all been waiting for? 

Two years ago, we wrote our eBook, 6 Flexible Working Models to Improve Your Company Culture. At the time of writing this in 2018, it wasn’t our most popular guide. Flexible working was still seen as some kind of utopian dream that only the Scandinavians could achieve. And then comes along coronavirus and now our flexible working guide is our most downloaded guide. 

Even that basic piece of information will reveal just how much everyone’s minds are shifting to creating more agile and flexible workplaces. 

According to one study, 71% of business leaders expect to create more flexible working practices post-COVID. And 48% of people expect home-working to continue in a post-pandemic world. 

It’s clear that flexible and remote working is going mainstream at last. 

Throughout 2020 we have seen reports of companies switching to 4-day weeks, 6-hour days, and even entire nations deciding to make a political stand about the benefits of shorter workweeks. 

New Zealand was the first to reveal that they are now considering a national 4-day week due to the impact on tourism during 2020, and now Spain is currently working on a shift to a 4-day week. 

While the 4-day week might not work for everyone, it’s clear that the 9-5 we have all been brought up with won’t be lasting in this decade.

What to do to prepare;

  • Discuss with your team about the possible flexible working options that are available.
  • Set a trial period so you can really understand if that model works for you. 
  • Don’t give up if one style doesn’t work. Try another one – or mix it up. 

Leaner Businesses Will Dominate

2020 will be known to many as the year they lost their jobs. 

Official data so far reveals that in total, 1.62 million people are currently unemployed and have lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, this is set to rise to 2.6 million by the middle of 2021. 

While we’re not quite over the chaos just yet, what is clear is that many businesses who have made the biggest redundancies were over-inflated organisations who were suffering from major culture indigestion. 

Essentially, these businesses had too many people in the first place and were in a stagnant episode with little innovation. 

It’s businesses like this that will start to dwindle in 2021, as we begin to see how much more agile and adaptable smaller businesses can be. 

Without a doubt, it’s been a rough ride for all businesses in 2020, but those who have fared the best, have been leaner businesses who could trim the fat and continue to support their people without making cut-throat decisions. 

Businesses with smaller teams, which are not in static roles, have thrived in an environment of constant turbulence, they have been able to adapt quickly and make decisions quicker – meaning their loss is far less than the mighty fall of the big corporations. 

What to do to prepare;

  • Think about how you currently hire and if you need to hire, or whether you can use experienced contractors / freelancers. 
  • Begin to nurture a more autonomous team who don’t need consensus to get things done.
  • Hire beyond a skillset, ensure your team members have a diverse set of skills that they can use across the business rather than in just one role.

Diversity & Inclusion Will Increase

The Black Lives Matter campaign saw diversity and inclusion thrust into the spotlight in 2020. 

While diversity and inclusion policies are nothing new, there were areas of the conversation which remained untouched, perhaps too uncomfortable for some businesses to consider. 

Shying away from the conversation was the approach for many businesses; the fear being – what if we say the wrong thing or get it wrong. 

However, thanks in part to the Black Lives Matter movement diversity became the conversation everyone had to have. Even if you didn’t understand it, or weren’t aware of it yourself, you had to take part in the conversation and begin to educate yourself on the actions and behaviours that were going on. 

When we talk about company culture, we often talk about that sense of belonging; but a culture cannot create a true sense of belonging if not everyone in the business feels that they belong. 

The same must also be said for those people with a disability. 

Disabled people and disability charities have for a long time campaigned for more flexible working, as flexible working arrangements can support more disabled people in the workplace. 

During 2020, many people have been outspoken about the unfairness that it is only now that more flexible working policies are being created, when they could have been created a long time ago and helped so many more people into employment. 

In 2021, many businesses will reflect on their own approach to diversity and inclusion, and think about how they are acting and behaving that may cause them to not appeal to a diverse range of people. 

What to do to prepare;

  • Review your current diversity and inclusion strategy.
  • Think about where you are hiring people from – is it always the same place? 
  • Does your brand come across as inclusive – for example do you include a diverse range of people on your website and in your marketing materials?

Wellbeing Will Be a Priority

According to mental health charity Mind, more than half of adults and over two-thirds of young people said that their mental health got worse during the period of lockdown. 

Loneliness, isolation and an increased sense of anxiety due to the fears around COVID-19 has meant 2020 has been a dark year for many people struggling with mental health. 

Businesses have all been acutely aware of the mental toll that the virus has taken on people, and during 2020 more businesses have adopted wellbeing initiatives in order to support their teams working from home. 

According to research by PwC, 90% of UK CEOs are now conducting more wellbeing initiatives, compared to only 61% globally. 

Alongside mental wellbeing, there will also be a shift to a more holistic approach to wellbeing; with businesses looking at financial wellbeing, physical wellbeing and mental wellbeing. 

COVID-19 has put a large amount of financial stress on people, and this will also need to be addressed in your company culture. 

An area we will begin to see more of is businesses adopting services and support for those wanting to better manage their money. 

What to do to prepare;

  • Begin to build a wellbeing strategy that takes a holistic approach. 
  • Get feedback from your team about what would truly help them. 
  • Collaborate with other businesses and leaders about what they’ve found useful. 

Social Impact Will Grow

After a rollercoaster 2020, one thing that has grown during this year is how much people want to get behind brands and businesses supporting the greater good. 

As consumers, we are no longer ignorant to our social, cultural and environmental impact, and we’re becoming acutely aware of those who are doing things right and those who are still trying to manipulate us. 

Trust is a key area that has been broken in 2020. With politicians lying, unfair dismissals on the rise, and businesses behaving badly; it’s no wonder that we’re all starting to make choices based on conscious decisions. 

According to research by Deloitte, 70% of millennials expect their employers to focus on societal or environmental issues. 

We can no longer hide behind our products or our services; we now have to take a stand and be culture activists in the way we act and behave. 

The expectation of being purpose-driven will increase in 2021, as people begin to desire roles in organisations that stand for great social impact. 

But words of warning here – don’t just ‘say’ your purpose-driven – you have to be willing to act and behave differently even when it feels uncomfortable. 

What to do to prepare;

  • Put some focus into your mission, purpose and values – are these relevant to the business you will have in 2021? 
  • Get to know what your team are collectively passionate about, and how they see the organisation helping others. 
  • Reconnect with your mission and purpose and ensure this is your guiding light in the actions and behaviours of your company culture.

Flatter Organisations Will Emerge

Hierarchy remains a default system for a business or organisation to follow; yet time and time again it is the very core of the culture that needs to be changed. 

During the COVID-19 crisis we have seen how organisations who are self-managed or adopt flatter structures have been more adaptable and resilient than overinflated hierarchies in major corporations. 

Self-managed businesses have more autonomy, more flexibility and a much deeper trust between team members than in traditional hierarchical structures. 

As the success of these new age structures begin to be seen, we will see a major growth in these systems emerging in new start-ups and being adopted by smaller organisations.

We predict this could be the slow decline of the corporate. 

Organisational design will change dramatically, and you may be operating a very different type of business in 2021 than what you had in 2020. 

The great news about this, is that the foundation of your structure will then strengthen your company culture, your brand reputation and your market performance. 

What to do to prepare;

  • Investigate how a self-managed or flat structure can help your business. 
  • Research other companies who have adopted self-management systems. 
  • Consider if you are truly happy with the strength of your business right now.
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    About The Author

    Lizzie Benton is a people and culture specialist who supports organisations in developing a unique company culture and building engaged teams. Lizzie has been recognised as a millennial changing the world of work, and has been featured in the Metro, HuffingtonPost and has spoken across the UK on employee engagement. When not consulting or running a workshop, Lizzie can be found in rural Lincolnshire enjoying afternoon tea and fresh air.