Out of the ashes: the latest workplace trends in a changed environment

09 November 2022

Covid was the bushfire that burned away old work habits and attitudes and left bare and fertile ground for new ideas and practices to grow. A year on and the saplings of new behaviours have taken root, so grab your binoculars and let’s take a look at the new landscape.


At the 24-hour Inspiring Workplaces Inspirathon earlier this year, H&H agency presented some brilliant research they carried out across 1500 employees in different sectors and organisations to identify trends in employee engagement and behaviour. At 106, we’ve seen some of these trends reflected in our client work, so we wanted to take a deeper dive into some of their findings.


“The power of individualism is starting to break up collective culture” (H&H)

60% of people surveyed believe it’s better to celebrate diversity of personalities rather than organisational culture, and over 50% see company culture as overly homogenous.


This one probably won’t come as a surprise as it reflects the wider cultural movement in the West that focuses on granularity and individualism.  The way we see this, it doesn’t have to be a bad thing – organisational can develop the other way. Rather than drawing people into a singular, company directed identity, instead develop a unifying culture celebrating diversity with difference as a point of similarity.


There is a second part to this finding which is interesting. As internal comms professionals, we’re often working to break down silos, but H&H raised an insightful counterpoint to this. Robin Dunbar’s theory is that culture has a limit. We have 5 loved ones, 15 good friends, 50 friends and 150 meaningful contacts. After this limit groups start to break off and form their own communities. Each mini community develops its own mode of communication and rules of engagement, and for many people there is comfort in this familiarity and scope for more interpersonal relations. So, are silos so bad? As H&H say, there is no issue with these mini cultures as long as they are united by a wider purpose.


Which nicely leads us into…



According to the study the most trustworthy sources of information are:



Word of mouth from colleagues


The least trustworthy sources are:

  • The intranet
  • The comms team
  • Townhalls


Let’s be honest, corporate speak is corporate speak and colleagues want to be spoken to as equals.  If we take this idea of mini cultures, there is great opportunity for the comms team to create a grassroots strategy to share information using these trust networks. The first thing is to identify the tribes – the mini cultures – and profile how they prefer to communicate. Next, find your advocates. Make personal connections with ‘local influencers’ within the different tribes and bring them in on the journey so they can share the crucial information and embed key themes in their mini culture.


Speaking of trust…

Over 50% of people surveyed believe employee surveys are not anonymous and you need to watch what you say.


You don’t need me to tell you, this is bad. There are two parts to addressing this: the first is creating a psychologically safe environment and the second is transparency.


Psychological safety is the invaluable foundation for a positive work culture, but it’s also incredibly difficult to obtain. Creating a culture where people feel safe to give honest feedback and trust that it is received without threat of retribution, starts small. Psychological safety can begin between two colleagues, then grow to a team, then a department. This infectious culture supported by wider company action and conversation around psychological safety will help people be honest ultimately benefitting the organisation giving them the information they need to recognise and address institutional issues.


Finally, transparency. Demonstrate how the survey process works, what data is visible to the comms or HR team, how the data is synthesised. Another option is to roll up your sleeves, wave your hands in the air and bring in a third party to conduct the research. At 106, we carry out extensive quantitative research through surveys and qualitative research through one-to-one interviews and focus groups across organisations. Our experience in focus groups has shown how common initial suspicion is, but as a third party we can assure participants and discover those underwater currents of feeling and behaviour that would otherwise remain unseen.

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