Culture at Work in 2023

The focus factors for leaders who want a winning workplace culture

The world of business is facing challenging times right now. For many small, medium and growing business owners, the constant ebb and flow of risk management, change management and crisis resolution have certainly been heighted in recent years. 

Yet in the fact of these challenges, one thing remains as a crucial component to the success of organisations large and small. And that’s culture – The culture of an organisation can make or break the success, longevity and ability to bounce back from set-backs, failures and what can present as insurmountable challenges. 

Ultimately it is the leadership of the organisation that both creates and drives the organisational culture. Setting the tone for how employees within the wider community of the workplace, communicate, collaborate and engage with each other. In the good times and those that are more challenging. 

In 2023, a year that has followed the seismic issues of a global pandemic. The new year started out with yet more significant economic, political, social and workforce obstacles to tackle. Yet in the face of all these challenges, evidence suggests that by focusing on workplace culture initiatives and programmes. 

In recent years, both preceding the global pandemic and throughout, the focus on diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives held a prominent place in the cultural landscape. Whilst the focus on these areas must not reduce, the looming economic downturn and continued talent shortage woes, does mean that organisations can’t afford to ignore the need to become a great place to work. 

At Sage HR, we have taken the temperature on what the wider workplace cultural landscape trends include. Identifying several of the leading culture priorities to focus on this year.

1️⃣ Place trust building with employees front & centre

The behaviour and reputation of companies, will, in 2023 be a primary determinant of how that organisation is able to handle and bounce back from the challenges ahead in these times of recession and political unrest.

It’s the very pressures of these outside market forces that will drive organisations to place their attention on the trust they build with their employees. Through assessing and responding to any gaps in the foundations of the support offerings being provided to employees. The offer of longevity is available and one that can insulate organisations from the errors that so-called knee jerk decision making can have during times of change and crisis. 

People and culture are once again at the top of the agenda

The Pandemic provided a strong example of what short term, decision making can have on employee trust. Where many companies moved quickly to release employees almost immediately once the news of mandatory shutdowns came in.

Yet, with Government assistance following shortly after this mandate, protecting jobs through the furlough scheme. It became evident that the damage done to employee trust following a mis-step such as that, can be difficult to recover from. 

Great Place to Work, the global body advising and rewarding organisations on how to support and nurture their employees to become great places to work. Advises that in 2023, the way to build trust with employees can be done by the taking action on the following: 

  1. Invest in well-being
  2. Have a tangible and workable focus on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) 
  3. Remain dedicated to participating in and giving back to the community that your organisation is part of.

2️⃣ Invest in performance management and talent development

The predictions for the economic downturn in 2023 are different to what the world experienced in 2008. Notably this is, in large part due to the preceding events of the global pandemic. Where many organisations have already released people through layoffs, restructuring and downsizing. 

For business leaders, owners and people professionals during this time of change, the difference couldn’t be more contrasting. In 2008 people were desperately seeking employment. Yet despite the economic conditions, the labour market has remained buoyant and individuals are capitalising on the digital economy to create and identify opportunities for themselves. 

This combination means that employees understand their value to the wider labour market and are not prepared to accept roles or remain in those that don’t appreciate that value. 

Keeping and finding talent remains as one of the highest held priorities for business leaders in 2023, according to business consulting firm, Protiviti. With the outcomes from research they performed into this area, indicating that the demand on companies to focus on their culture initiatives. By heavily investing in performance management and talent development will continue to heighten. 

Executive perspectives on top risks | Source: Protivi
Executive perspectives on top risks | Source: Protivi

What this means for business owners is relatively straightforward. The employees who have remained with your business will need to be invested in, their talent and skills will need to be refined, nurtured and developed. Their performance and productivity will have a significant impact on the duration of success.

3️⃣ Culture must traverse the in real life (IRL) workplace and the virtual workplace

As the past few years have shown, many organisations have identified effective means of operating in a more hybrid way. Whilst this switch away from an office, for an all the time basis has ushered in some fantastic benefits for many. The gap, for many of those organisations has been in how best to traverse the challenge of culture, in the virtual workplace. 

This conundrum impacts further for organisations who operate a globally distributed model, where the complexity of cultural nuances by territory, coupled with the gap in virtual workplace culture. 

Hybrid work is happening. Your culture will need to catch up – fast

When it comes to people leaders and business leaders thinking about how to approach culture in the workplace, there is the risk of focusing on in-person culture only. Furthermore for many organisations, the switch to hybrid and remote working has been such a new initiative that consideration on how to affect and implement virtual culture has not yet been considered. 

2023 will require business leaders to create employee experiences that can traverse the complexities and nuances of these two areas. Addressing how to create great experiences that succeed in the virtual workplace and physical workplace will be the next stage of the hybrid working cultural evolution. 

The place to start is for business leaders to think about the following questions before embarking on a series of activities to tackle the intended outcomes.

  • How can the organisation connect the virtual and in-person experience, whilst retaining a sense of organisational culture, connection and belonging?
  • What works well in the physical work environment and how can this be replicated in the virtual one? 
  • How will we include virtual working and location distributed employees to physical work engagements they may not have physical access to? 
  • What didn’t work in the old physical workplace environment that we must now avoid in the new and virtual? 

The workplace be it virtual or in person, will continue to be a hub of activity and hive of collaboration, innovation and productivity. In 2023, business leaders are being called to identify the ways the organisation can move its culture forward across all realms. 

4️⃣ Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging remaining in focus

The fear of recession on the horizon has led to many organisations commencing with restructuring and redundancy activities. From large corporations such as EY, who have taken steps to separate their consultancy and audit arms of their business. 

Through to the John Lewis Partnership who are changing the structure of their partnership for model for the first time since the organisation’s inception. Change is afoot in companies large and small, and with those changes can come the risk of dialling back initiatives that focus on addressing diversity, equity, inclusion & belonging (DEIB).

While 84% of CHROs say their organizations are increasing investment in DEIB, only 31% of employees say their organization is committed to improving racial justice or equity in their workplace

While the decisions made in business must serve the needs of financial sense, without due consideration, these changes can also have a real impact on how DEIB is prioritised in the workplace and with that the cultural dynamics of the organisation are also at risk of being compromised. 

Two prime examples of changes being made to inclusion initiatives have seen a pull back on some remote working offerings. In addition, amongst some technology organisations, the lay-offs of HR professionals, with particular impact being felt in the DEI practitioner space. 

Whilst the obstacles that lay ahead, are naturally likely to impact business decision making. The aim of the organisation must be, irrespective of any forthcoming reorganisation efforts, to retain a focus on DEIB initiatives, realising the benefits of these for the organisation and the culture. 

5️⃣ Community & culture deeply connected

The connection between community and culture are both strong and interdependent. Without the culture of the organisation being honed and developed, the community focus can lack direction and deeper meaning. 

The premise of this goes far beyond simply adding ping pong tables to the communal areas of the workplace. But it does suggest a greater focus on the cohesion between what the organisational culture is, what values it stands for, what behaviours it encourages and how these factors align with the community of the organisation as a whole. 

It is vital that when it comes to the concept of culture, business owners and leaders  are prepared to move beyond words to bring culture focus to life. 

Concluding Thoughts

Sage HR has long been committed to helping its customers achieve their organisational culture and wider HR goals, with their effortless employee management software, its simple to engage, recruit and retain the leading talent who will help you to take your organisation’s vision and culture forward to the next level.

Schedule a complimentary demo of the software, or sign up for a free trial today.



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Written By

Jade Taryn Graham

Jade is the founder & CEO of Inspired a people & talent consultancy working with the most innovative early stage companies worldwide. Founder & CCO of Inspired Talent Media Ltd and contributing writer for Sage HR where Jade writes about people, leadership, work/life balance and change.