Company Culture Trends for 2020

At Emotive Brand, we’ve always been strong believers in the role that a company’s culture and people play in a business’ success. Yes, a sound strategy, a strong brand, and great execution matter, but ultimately, it’s a company’s people that make it happen—because without their efforts and belief in a company’s strategy and vision, even the best strategic plans will falter. Or as the saying goes: “Culture eats strategy for lunch.”

There are tried and true ways to build a strong culture: a compelling vision and mission; values that are co-created across the company vs. handed from the top down; metrics that align with and reinforce the behaviors that will lead to success; and lastly a commitment to supporting and living the culture from each and every leader.

But there are additional trends and forces at play that are impacting companies of all sizes. Some are a result of advances in technology and its impact on how work happens. Others are the result of sociological shifts in people’s expectations about what work is—and is not.

Here are a few of the key issues and trends we’re tracking for 2020.

1. Employee Happiness and Autonomy Matters

Research from the London School of Economics uncovered strong connections between employee happiness or satisfaction, and positive business outcomes and customer loyalty. “We find a significant, strong positive correlation between employees’ satisfaction with their company and employee productivity and customer loyalty, and a strong negative correlation with staff turnover,” Krekel, Ward, and De Neve wrote in their paper after analyzing the Gallup studies. “Ultimately, higher wellbeing at work is positively correlated with more business-unit level profitability.”

2. AI and ML Have Arrived

If the last few years of corporate transformation have been defined by the shift of essential business functions from on-premise IT to the cloud, the next wave of transformation will be in how AI and ML are integrated into the workplace. Forward-looking organizations are those who are not only using AI and ML to free employees to do meaningful work vs. repetitive tasks, but who are also using AI and ML to make work easier, by automating and streamlining aspects of the workday, from solving basic HR questions to resolving more complex IT requests. The result? Happier and more productive employees.

3. Work Is Wherever You Are

From large global enterprises to small organizations comprised of workers spread around the world, we’re continuing to see more geographically dispersed teams who may not be together for months at a time, but who must collaborate on a daily basis across time zones. The cultural implications of this way of working are significant—and when handled properly, advantageous. Developing collaboration and trust between team members, reduced hierarchical control, and more democratic governance is key to navigating this shift.

4. Enable Transparent and Honest Communication

This is about more than making employees feel heard—in many instances, it’s about getting mission-critical input and data that comes directly from customers, the factory floor, or the front lines of the sales force. And when the news isn’t good, it’s even more important to ensure that the people who have the bravery to raise the red flag aren’t penalized for their honesty. Cultures that embrace the values of honesty and transparency among employees find that those behaviors extend into the company’s dealings with customers and partners, and in turn, help to establish an external reputation as trustworthy.

In all, companies who invest in building a corporate culture that values employee happiness, promotes honest dialogue, and uses technology to enable employees to collaborate more effectively and efficiently will see those investments pay dividends over the long run.

Emotive Brand is a brand strategy and design agency in Oakland, California.

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