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New Emtrain Workplace Culture Report Reveals Impact of Pandemic, Social Justice Movement on Employee Attitudes

In a year filled with pandemic chaos, social justice reckonings, and divisive elections, corporate cultures were stress-tested. Employees suffered hardships but some companies also took steps to build more respectful workplace culture in several key areas. That’s according to data released by Emtrain, which delivers workplace culture analytics through its online training to prevent bias, discrimination, harassment and ethical lapses in the workplace.

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In the 2021 Workplace Culture Insights Report on Respect, Emtrain analyzed 23 million data points on attitudes about workplace culture collected from 370,000 employees at more than 400 companies, comparing data insights from 2019 to those collected in 2020/21. The findings show some encouraging signs in how employees feel about their workplace experience, but that there is still room for improvement. Some key findings include:

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  • Organizational culture is under stress. 11% more employees in 2020/21 than in 2019 now cite “Weak Corporate Culture” as the greatest source of workplace conflict, indicating that many felt their culture was not resilient to help people adapt to the social change experienced in the last twelve months.
  • More employees than before say they have had to minimize their personal identity on the job. The shift here was slight but in a concerning direction: a 5% increase in the number of employees who have had to minimize their personal identity to fit into a job.
  • Power Dynamics are still at work, even while people are working from home.
    Emtrain found that employees were less likely — an 11% drop — to say “no” to unreasonable requests by their managers in 2020/21 than in 2019. This result is not surprising in a year where people feared getting put on the list for layoffs, among other concerns.
  • 2020 produced more workers willing to step in.
    One of the many positives of the Black Lives Matter movement and overall awareness of deeply embedded racism was a shift in people’s awareness and willingness to get involved when they see inappropriate behaviors, including in the workplace. In 2020/21, Emtrain saw an 18.5% increase in the number of people who said they would take proactive measures when they witnessed toxic situations.
  • 2020 brought increases in empathy and communication skills. The percentage of employees who said, “people in my workplace show empathy” jumped 15.9% from 2019. This is obviously an encouraging sign. The shared experience of the new work from home dynamic may have fostered a, “we’re all in this together” mindset that encouraged greater empathy among coworkers. And the greater attention paid to the ills of systematic racism may have led to an attempt at greater understanding and empathy in the workplace.
  • Diversity and Inclusion investments are starting to make an impact. In 2020/21, 7% more employees say they have a good understanding of their organizations’ Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion goals than they did in 2019.

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“COVID-19, the racial justice movement and political divisions brought unprecedented change to the workplace,” said Emtrain founder and CEO Janine Yancey. “But our data shows a silver lining. The shared experience of adapting to the pandemic may have fostered a ‘we’re all in this together’ mindset that encouraged greater empathy among coworkers. And the greater attention paid to the ills of systematic racism may have led to an attempt at greater understanding and empathy in the workplace. Obviously, the work is far from over and there are a few discouraging places where we may have slid backwards, but overall employees do look to be helping create a more respectful workplace culture.”

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