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Illustration by iStock, Security Management

Organizational Culture Drove Employee Resilience During COVID-19

Workforces that weathered the tumult of the COVID-19 pandemic so far might have their workplace culture to thank.

Strong organizational culture—the behavior of its leaders, how the organization treats employees, how it communicates, and whether it promotes leadership training or professional development—helped guide 74 percent of American employees through the pandemic, according to a September 2021 report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), The Culture Effect: Why a Positive Workplace Culture is the New Currency. Additionally, 94 percent of managers told SHRM that a positive workplace culture helps to create a more resilient team.

Working Americans who rated their work culture as good or very good were more likely to frequently engage in candid or honest conversations with their manager (83 percent), compared to workers with average-rated cultures (62 percent) or poor cultures (41 percent).

Sixty-two percent of HR professionals surveyed by SHRM said sustaining or improving organizational culture is a challenge. But some organizations used the pandemic as an opportunity to strengthen their commitment to their core values—nearly three-fourths of executive professionals said their overall culture improved. Some workers may disagree, however; only 14 percent of employees said workplace culture improved, along with 21 percent of HR professionals and 38 percent of managers.

Most HR professionals and workers said communication and transparency were the lynchpins to improved workplace culture. Among employees, HR professionals, and managers who said their organizational culture declined during the past two years, most cited a lack of communication and changes to their workload.

Although communication is a boon to culture, 26 percent of organizations declined manager requests for leadership training that could help them communicate more effectively.

Workers who say their workplace culture is poor or very poor were more likely to say they leave work exhausted—including 54 percent of managers—and dread going into work. This exhaustion—which could slip into burnout, SHRM warned—carries over into home life for 36 percent of female workers and 25 percent of male workers. Americans who work in person are more likely to say they leave work exhausted (65 percent), versus remote workers (53 percent) and hybrid workers (47 percent).

“Organizations must move past ‘just getting the work done’ and begin thinking long term, with their employees’ concerns top of mind,” the report said. “Crisis breeds opportunity for improvement within an organization and the way it embraces the needs of its employees.” 

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