HR guide to strengthening workplace culture

Security is more than physical protection. Businesses need to create safe environments for communication that allow employees to express themselves.

In a study of 12 markets around the world, SHRM identified the state of workplace culture and the advances organizations have made in recent years. A sample of 9,464 employees (ie paid employees) were interviewed using a third-party online panel. Respondents came from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Egypt, India, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States.

HRO has summarized the key takeaways for building a strong workplace culture below.

1. Pandemic or not, make employees feel safe at work – physically and mentally

Safety cannot be taken for granted. Organizations must have critical elements in place for safety to become a reality, including management support, employee involvement, organizational communications, analysis of potential workplace hazards, procedures for preventing and controlling those hazards, and organization-wide training.

When employees feel safe at work, they evaluate their workplace culture more positively. Those who say they feel physically safe at work are more likely to describe their workplace culture as good or very good than those who do not feel physically safe at work (77% vs. 42%).

However, security is more than physical protection. Businesses need to create safe environments for communication that allow employees to express themselves. Globally, over four in five workers (82%) said they feel safe speaking their minds on work-related issues. Most workers also said they feel comfortable having honest conversations about work issues with their managers (82%) and colleagues (89%), and they often engage in open conversations with their managers (78%) and colleagues the work (85%).

Openness and transparency – in good faith – creates a strong workplace culture. Workers need to be comfortable with bosses, and bosses need to be able to have difficult conversations with their subordinates.


2. Poor work cultures contribute to workers considering leaving these organizations

The Great Resignation sweeps across the globe. People are leaving their jobs at record speed. Almost half of workers (45%) globally have considered leaving their current company, and 30% have actively looked for a new job in the past six months.

Most workers who have considered leaving their current organization work in organizations with a bad culture. Nine in 10 workers (90%) who rate their culture as poor have considered quitting, compared to 72% of workers who rate their culture as average and 32% as good. Despite the relatively small percentage of workers working in good organizational cultures who consider leaving, a third is still a notable amount.

Based on these statistics, average workplace culture is not good enough. A good culture is not even good enough. This leads to the question: What drives employees to leave?

One reason employees leave organizations with a good workplace culture is that employees may experience “COVID clarity”. Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, Chief Knowledge Officer for SHRM, explains that the pandemic is making many employees more aware of what they really want from a job and from their lives. For many workers, simply taking home a paycheck isn’t enough—they want to find meaning in their professional lives.

Personnel management also plays a role. Strong managers make their employees feel inspired and motivated at work, while weak managers contribute to irritation and dissatisfaction. Workers become disillusioned when they see their manager letting colleagues get away with bad behavior, and 62% of workers who are actively looking for a new job said they witnessed this behavior at work.

Worker Priorities Shrm


3. Incompetent supervisors: A leadership gap can quickly lead to turnover

One in five workers (20%) said they can’t always trust what their manager tells them. And there are significant differences based on how employees evaluate their workplace culture. Over 9 in 10 employees (91%) who rate their workplace culture as good say they can trust their manager. This drops to 59% of employees rating their workplace culture as average and less than one in four employees (24%) rating their culture as poor.

More than four in ten workers (42%) have experienced a co-worker being rudely treated by a manager in the past year. Inconsiderate behavior like bullying or gossip is destructive if left unaddressed. When supervisors are unreliable or insensitive to the needs of their employees, it doesn’t take long for the work environment to become toxic. Workers need to feel safe in their workplace and an integral part is ensuring that all workers are treated with respect.

It is important that managers apply rules fairly to all employees and do not play favourites.

However, 42% of workers have seen their manager allow other workers to get away with bad behavior, which may include excessive tardiness or poor performance. This seems to be common in organizations with poor workplace cultures, as 81% of employees who rated their culture as poor said their manager allows employees to get away with bad behavior. Letting employees get away with bad behavior is also a common occurrence, with employees rating the workplace culture as average (64% said this happens).

Only 32% of employees who rated their culture as good said their manager allows employees to get away with bad behavior. By remaining silent and ignoring the problem, managers are hurting their employees’ morale. Worse, if tolerated, bad behavior is unlikely to subside.

leadership bad behavior Shrm

Achal Khanna, CEO – SHRM India, APAC & MENAcommented, “When employees feel safe and heard at work, their productivity is bound to increase, which ultimately benefits the organization. Now is the best time to recognize the importance of communication and embrace an environment with a worker-first approach. “


All images / SHRM

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