SHRM workplace culture

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There’s more to safety than physical protection. Organisations need to foster safe environments for communication that empower employees to speak up.

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

HRO has distilled the key findings that relate to building a strong workplace culture below. 

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

Safety is not a foregone conclusion. Organisations must have critical elements in place for safety to become a reality, including buy-in from management, employee involvement, intra-organisational communication, analyses of potential hazards in the workplace, procedures to prevent and control those hazards, and organisation-wide training.

When workers feel safe at work, they rate their workplace culture more favourably. Those who say they feel physically safe at work are more likely to describe their workplace culture as good or very good, as compared with those who don’t feel physically safe at work (77% versus 42%).

However, there’s more to safety than physical protection. Organisations need to foster safe environments for communication that empower employees to speak up. Globally, over four out of five workers (82%) said they feel safe voicing their opinions about work-related issues. Most workers also said that they feel comfortable engaging in honest conversations about work topics with their managers (82%) and co-workers (89%), and they frequently have candid conversations about work with their managers (78%) and co-workers (85%).

Candidness and transparency—in good faith—breed a strong workplace culture. Workers need to feel comfortable with supervisors, and supervisors must be able to have tough conversations with their subordinates.

workplace safety shrm


2. Poor work cultures contribute to workers thinking about leaving those organisations

The Great Resignation is sweeping the globe. People are leaving their jobs at record rates. Almost half of workers (45%) globally have thought about leaving their current organisation, and 30% have actively searched for a new job in the past six months.

Most workers who have thought about leaving their current organisation work in organisations with poor cultures. Nine out of 10 workers (90%) who rate their culture as poor have thought about quitting, compared with 72% of workers who rate their organisational culture as average and 32% who rate their culture as good. Despite the relatively smaller percentage of workers considering quitting when they work in good organisational cultures, a third is still a notable amount.

Based on these statistics, an average workplace culture isn’t good enough. A good culture isn’t even good enough. This leads to the question: What is driving employees to leave?

One reason employees are leaving organisations with good workplace culture is that workers may be experiencing “COVID clarity.” Alexander Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP, chief knowledge officer for SHRM, explains that many employees are becoming more aware of what they really want out of a job and their life as a result of the pandemic. For many workers, simply bringing home a paycheck isn’t enough—they want to find purpose in their professional lives. 

People management also matters. Strong supervisors make their employees feel inspired and motivated at work, whereas weak supervisors contribute to irritation and dissatisfaction. Workers become disillusioned when they see their supervisor allowing co-workers to get away with poor behaviour, and 62% of workers who are actively looking for a new job said they see this behaviour at work.  

workers priorities shrm


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

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

More than four in 10 workers (42%) have witnessed inconsiderate treatment of a co-worker by a manager in the past year. Inconsiderate behaviors like bullying or gossiping are destructive when left unaddressed. When supervisors are untrustworthy or insensitive to the needs of their workers, it isn’t long before work environments become toxic. Workers need to feel safe in their workplace, and an integral component is ensuring all workers are treated with respect.

It’s important that supervisors apply rules fairly across all employees and don’t play favourites.

However, 42% of workers have witnessed their manager allowing other workers to get away with bad behaviour, which could include excessive tardiness or poor performance. This seems to be a common occurrence in organisations with poor workplace cultures, as 81% of employees who rated their culture as poor indicated that their manager allows employees to get away with bad behavior. Allowing employees to get away with bad behavior is also a common occurrence where employees rate the workplace culture as average (64% indicated it happens).

Only 32% of employees who rated their culture as good said their supervisor allows employees to get away with bad behaviour. By staying silent and ignoring the problem, supervisors are harming the morale of their workers. Worse yet, when tolerated, bad behaviour is unlikely to subside.

leadership bad behaviour shrm

Achal Khanna, CEO – SHRM India, APAC & MENA, commented: "When the employees feel safe and heard at work, their productivity is bound to increase, which will ultimately benefit the organisation. Now is the best time to acknowledge the significance of communication and embrace an environment with a worker-first approach."


All images / SHRM

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