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HR and Workplace Culture Trends to Watch Out for in 2020


December 18, 2019  |  Hassina Obaidy


In the last 5 years, toxic workplace cultures have cost U.S. businesses greater than $223 billion, according to SHRM. This year, some major companies faced their worst nightmare – negative headlines and bad publicity leading to a bad reputation and even, CEO’s are being pushed out of their own companies.

HR and workplace culture trendsReports of a Toxic Culture at Away and Misunderstanding InclusivityFortune

Victim Locked In Freezer: Chipotle Settles Sexual Harassment Case” Forbes

We don’t mean to spook you out during this holiday season, but there’s an upside to these treacherous headlines and it’s not due to any miracles. We’re seeing a growing trend of organizations that are invested in building healthier workplace cultures and will continue to do so in 2020. We’ve seen some of the following trends listed below beginning to take place.

Data-driven approach to measure people, behavior, and culture

Modern technology has become a benefit for HR professionals in the last few years, especially when it comes to automation and data. Data is arguably HR’s most valuable asset. Keep in mind, data is more than just a headcount of how many employees completed your compliance training or the number of culturally diverse employees in your workforce. Culture analytics should focus on measuring opinion, behavior, belonging, and sentiment.  

Other forms of data is employee feedback. We are still seeing companies gather employee feedback from formal and informal annual engagement surveys or shorter pulse surveys per quarter. In How to Read People Analytics to Measure Workplace Belonging, Laraine McKinnon explains the different ways of measurement that companies today can apply to their workplace culture strategy.

  • Measure in the right way: formal and informal surveys
  • Measure at the right time: embedding culture questions in a broader learning package
  • Measure with a 360-degree view: ask about a range of viewpoints – about their own experience, their team, their manager, company, etc
  • Measure with the right intentions: be authentic 

Without adequate data, companies will no longer be able to cure the tricky culture issues within their organization. To learn how culture analytics can positively impact your business, check out emtrain.ai!

Coaching and mentoring will become a business priority

Coaching and mentoring have become a crucial part of personal and professional development as part of building a healthy workplace culture. According to our client survey, coaching and mentoring is one of the top 3 priorities for workplace culture training in 2020. Coaching your employees goes beyond a “Congrats” on a job well done, or an end-of-the-week chat over a company-paid lunch. As a manager, you want to be the best resource for your employees. Effective coaching improves productivity, boosts morale, and complements team-building exercises as well. A manager’s ability to unify and inspire employees is reflected in workplace culture and profit margins, along with an individual employee’s happiness and motivation.  

Mentoring is also on the rise. Companies with impressive mentoring programs include GE (General Electric), Fidelity Investments, and Bain & Company. Mentoring programs thrive in diversity and inclusion training and are an excellent channel to instill workplace culture values, engage with underrepresented workplace groups, and ensure everyone feels they are included and belong in the organization. Modern mentoring has emerged from the millennial workforce (which is more than half the workforce) with nontraditional ways to mentor your employees. 

  • Group mentoring: Formal, structured group setting with multiple experts and multiple learners who are learning from each other.
  • Micro mentoring: Informal, smaller opportunities such as Linkedin, online resources. 
  • Reverse mentoring: Seasoned executives are mentored by younger employees on topics such as technology, social media, and current trends.

Continued investment in diversity and inclusion efforts

Diversity, equity, and inclusion is not just a hot topic that is spreading through the press, it’s an initiative that companies must include in their overall organizational strategy, without a doubt. As Janine Yancey put it, “you need more perspective from people with different experiences, backgrounds, and genders to address blind spots and make better, more informed decisions.”

For some companies, it’s a struggle to get it right for the business, but for other companies, they’ve already figured out how to do approach it and maintain the initiative. For example, Affirm, a FinTech company in San Francisco, has invested heavily in diversity and inclusion efforts. “People come first” is one of their core values and they’ve committed to making it a central priority. They even have a D&I report posted on their website. 

Like Affirm, many companies have also created ERG events and communities to create a sense of belonging for all diverse groups and backgrounds. In addition, they even make hiring diverse groups a priority. Take Asana, for example. The leading platform to manage all work is intentional about their culture and makes hiring people who are underrepresented in tech a priority. Just like their product to effortlessly bring projects and task management together, they intend to do the same in their workforce. 

With the help of Women on Boards in CA (SB 826), this will definitely bring more women in leadership. “More women in the C-Suite means business decisions reflecting more perspectives and experiences and less blind spots, to the benefit of the workforce and the communities in which the business operates,” says Janine. This will positively change the way businesses operate, how decisions are made, and the impact it will bring to younger women. 

More reliance on frequent check-ins with employees

Annual performance reviews will still be a thing. However, if you’re a manager that is looking to create a high-performing team, frequent check-ins and instant feedback are more effective. There will be less reliance on annual performance reviews because a one and done review during a long meeting will not give employees sufficient feedback and room to continue to grow. If you’re a manager that is looking to create a high-performing team, frequent check-ins and instant feedback are more effective. 

According to a survey by Gallup, “26% of employees say their performance is evaluated less than once a year, while 48% say they are reviewed annually.” This then leads to a higher turnover, unattainable goals, and negative business results. Frequent, informal check-ins with your employees are beneficial because, as a result, it leads to productivity, motivation to improve, and a sense of encouragement and belonging. 

Over time, these trends will turn into norms in every organization. While we still have more work to do, organizations like yours have made progress toward building healthier workplace cultures. To gain some best practices and tips on building healthier workplaces, check out our free resource center with tools, tips, and sheets to guide you on that journey. 


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