5 People and Culture Trends to Watch in 2023

The pandemic ushered in so many changes to the workplace, it’s hard to ensure your people and culture strategies keep pace, especially when you factor in ever-evolving societal trends, new generations entering the workforce, and a host of new, exciting workplace technologies.

To help you plan for 2023, we sat down with our very own experts—Erin Campbell, VP, HR & People Strategy, and Pema Evaski-McLean, Human Resources Business Partner—to discuss trends to watch in the new year.

The number one trend they’re seeing across the board? Personalization.

With that in mind, here are the top five trends they’re seeing, along with some tips to help you embrace and adapt to each of them in your organization.

Trend 1: Making data-driven decisions

It’s hard to build teams that people want to be part of if you don’t know what they want. We use People Analytics to inform our decisions, gathering data through regular surveys framed around one simple question: “What do our teams want and need right now?” We use the data we collect to guide and inform our strategy, and so far, the end results point to a happier and more engaged team.

It’s not surprising. According to research done by Salesforce, employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

People Analytics can support decision-making in a range of areas, including team-building activities, assessing the wellbeing of your people, understanding how people are looking to grow at your company and so much more.

Our approach to data collection continues to evolve. Currently, we send quarterly wellbeing surveys and additional pulse checks throughout the year when it feels necessary. Most recently, we asked our team how they’d like to connect with their colleagues as we plan our approach to teambuilding.

Erin & Pema’s tips for collecting good data in 2023:

  • Build an annual schedule for surveying—we’ve found that a quarterly pulse check works well. Avoid over surveying.
  • Ask questions that tie into your overall HR strategy and then share the data and actions that come from each survey with your team. The actions you take based on the data will help team members see that their feedback is making a difference.
  • If you’re looking to understand issues and trends at a more granular level (I.e., teams or divisions), do pulse checks by individual groups.

Trend 2: People and culture starts before day one

Despite layoffs in some sectors, the labour market is still incredibly tight, and it will likely stay that way into 2023. With nearly 1 million open jobs in Canada and 3.4 million Canadians approaching retirement, hiring managers need to continue to cultivate an engaging employee experience to hire and retain talent—starting from your very first interaction with a candidate.

“Onboarding begins from the moment of the first interview,” Erin shares.

In this labour market, candidates are often interviewing with multiple organizations and it’s no surprise we’re seeing an increase in candidates ghosting companies after an offer is made (read tips on how to avoid ghosting here).

To keep candidates engaged during the hiring process, time is of the essence. Keep your interview process as tight as possible, and if you have a lot of space between interviews, the offer, or the start date, keep communicating to stay top of inbox and top of mind.

During the interview process, make sure your approach to people and culture comes through. You want to engage and inspire candidates and help them get a feel for what it would be like working with you. Try to embody your company’s key values throughout the interview process and be sure to boast about what makes your company a great place to work.

Then, once the candidate has accepted the offer, keep your foot on the gas and the momentum going throughout onboarding.

Erin & Pema’s tips for onboarding in 2023:

  • Start the onboarding experience before their start date with a personalized call from their leader welcoming them to the team and sharing key information on what to expect.
  • Tailor onboarding to the individual with different options for learning (hands-on, videos, job shadowing).
  • Onboard new team members in cohorts or pair them with a buddy to give them a support system from day one.

Trend 3: Fostering intentional connections between team members

In our remote-first workplace, building connections is top of mind for us and we’re always looking for ways to weave more fun into connections between team members, “not in a forced way,” says Pema, “but ingrained in the work itself.”

Whether you’re remote-first, hybrid or fully onsite, being intentional about team building can help build a sense of belonging and foster workplace friendships. When assessing how to be more intentional, we took our own advice and collected data, surveying our team to learn whether connections at work mattered to them, what types of events and activities they were interested in, and what they wanted us to bring to the table.

The results were telling. We discovered that our team members are looking for more intimate, personalized gatherings—and they wanted to get involved in planning them. 

Erin & Pema’s Tips for teambuilding in 2023:

  • Personalize it. What works for our team may not work for yours. Consider the personality types on your team (introverts, extroverts, ambiverts) and what timing would work best for them (I.e., do they have caretaking responsibilities after hours?). And when in doubt, ask! We were blown away by the number of ideas we received just by asking our team.
  • Build team connections through work. This is an easy way to bring fun and connection directly into day-to-day work. Encourage coworking either in-person by hosting sessions in meeting rooms or at coffee shops, or virtually using Zoom or Teams. Coworking encourages team members to work independently, together, and offers the possibility of collaboration and brainstorming. At the heart of it, work is often more enjoyable (and productive) when you have company and connection.
  • Experiment with different events and activities to see what lands. This could mean hosting company-wide parties or smaller, more intimate get-togethers like hikes or coffee chats. And don’t forget to collect data! After each event, send out a survey to understand what people liked and didn’t about each event and apply the learnings moving forward. For more tips and inspiration check out this blog.

Trend 4: Leveraging talent from your own marketplace

From what we’re seeing, 2023 will be a big year for internal growth and hiring.

With the ongoing talent shortage, it makes sense to tap into the unique and diverse talents of existing team members. Bonus: Hiring from within can help boost retention, too, keeping your team members engaged and growing with you.

According to LinkedIn research, companies that excel at internal mobility retain employees for an average of 5.4 years, nearly twice as long as companies that struggle with it.

Erin and Pema’s tips for growing talent in your company:

  • Create flexible, individualized career pathing. Different people have different goals and priorities when it comes to growth. Make space for two-way conversations to understand how you can support those goals while supporting the needs of your business and team.
  • Find creative ways to foster learning and fill gaps. If you have gaps on your team, secondments and stretch assignments are a great place to start. According to a research study of 823 executives conducted by Harvard Business Review, 71% of respondents said stretch assignments had the biggest impact on unleashing their potential. These projects give team members a chance to grow their skills and try new roles from their own seat. If things go well, you know they have what it takes to handle those roles and responsibilities full-time.
  • Be mindful of burnout. When looking to your own team to take on new projects or move into new roles (whether permanently or temporarily) make sure you have a plan in place to keep the lines of communication open and ensure they still have a balanced workload. As their responsibilities shift and grow, it’s important to continue to prioritize employee wellness.

Trend 5: Designing strategies with a human-centred approach

Human-centred design, which involves creating solutions and systems based on the needs of the people you’re serving, is increasingly being used to develop people and culture experiences, strategies and practices that are more personalized and tailored to the individual.

For people and culture professionals, that means designing an employee experience that reduces friction, creates fulfilled teams and has empathy at its core.

Erin & Pema’s tips for human-centred design in 2023:

  • Identify pain points and solve them with team member insights. One of the most meaningful ways to do this is through stay interviews, which enable you to proactively identify pain points and find solutions before a team member leaves. Exit interviews are another useful tool for identifying issues that are leading to increased turnover.
  • Coach and hire leaders for emotional intelligence. Leaders play a key role in the employee experience so it’s important they have empathy—the key skill needed to participate in human-centred design. According to Gallup research, it takes more than a 20% pay raise to lure most employees away from a manager who engages them and next to nothing to poach most disengaged workers. By coaching and hiring for empathy at the leadership level, you’ll be reducing a point of friction that can exist across industries and teams. On our own team, we held a series of optional, short “conscious conversations” for our leaders, focused on developing skills such as delivering feedback, adjusting leadership style for introverts, ambiverts, extroverts, and holding effective meetings.
  • Customize feedback and recognition for your team members. There are many factors that influence how people prefer to receive feedback and recognition—sometimes it has to do with whether they’re an introvert or extrovert, other times these preferences stem from past experiences. Our tip is to encourage your leaders to learn how their team members like to receive feedback and be recognized, and then personalize accordingly. For feedback, some may prefer to receive it in writing ahead of a scheduled meeting to have time to take it in, while others may prefer to receive it in the moment. When it comes to recognition, it’s important to understand whether team members prefer to receive it publicly, anonymously, one-to-one etc.
  • Approach human-centred design with a growth mindset. You’ll try things that land and other things that won’t be as sticky. Remember to constantly adjust your strategies and get feedback from your team to find out what’s working and what isn’t.