Company Culture of the Past and Present

User Profile
By Hannah Sullivan

Account Executive

When choosing a new job, 40 percent of professionals consider company culture a top priority. Given this high number, today’s business leaders realize that a human-centric approach to organizational thinking is the best way to ensure they deliver a company culture that attracts and retains top talent. In fact, 66 percent of executives believe culture is more important than a company’s business strategy or operations model. However, that wasn’t always the case! The LinkedIn 2022 Global Talent Trends: The Reinvention of Company Culture Report explored just how far office culture has progressed from the 1950s to today.

The evolution of company culture

1950s-Corporate hierarchy and open floor plans: After World War II, organizational workplace design was reflected in strict hierarchies and was based on status and rank. Open floor plans—filled with cigarette-smoke-filled rooms—were common in an attempt to increase productivity while decreasing privacy. Women were uncommon in the workplace and mostly occupied low-level positions.

1970s-Relaxing of dress codes and an influx of women: Anti-discrimination laws drove women to enter the workforce and fill blue-collar to managerial roles positions typically held by men. Longer hairstyles were common for men and women traded in their skirts for pants.

1990s-Tensions between workers and bosses intensify: As companies tried to cut costs, downsizing and layoffs became frequent. Job security became a thing of the past and as a result, workers felt less loyalty to their employer. Employee morale decreased as employees worked in a maze of cubicles.

2000s-Tech startups change workplace culture: Google and other Silicon Valley tech startups redefined company culture and influenced organizations across multiple industries. Competition for talent intensified and employers began offering perks such as free food, workday massages, and nap pods. Open floor plans once again replaced cubicles and encouraged collaboration among workers. But even though the office became more fun, many employees worked longer hours than in the past.

2020s-The beginning of human-focused company culture: With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, employees started reevaluating what mattered most to them. This in turn caused employers to focus on employee well-being and satisfaction. Company policies were modified to ensure that workers felt cared about. Flexible work arrangements were adopted, wellness programs improved, and diversity and inclusion were fostered. A relationship built on trust and empathy is becoming the norm for companies and their employees.

Workplace culture today

The Great Resignation—also known as the Great Reshuffle or Big Quit—refers to the higher-than-usual number of employees that have voluntarily left their jobs since late 2020 and early 2021. It was spurred by employees realigning and reconfiguring what their career path looked like at a time when they could leverage the hiring crisis to find a position that paid more, better aligned with their values, and kept them engaged. The Great Resignation also significantly impacted employers causing them to rethink their cultures and values to be more human-centered and focused on flexibility, belonging, and well-being.

Related: What Organizations Can Do to Retain Talent and Reduce Turnover During the Great Resignation

Flexibility: Employees want flexibility in when, where, and how they work. When employees are satisfied with their organization’s time and location flexibility, they are 2.6 times more likely to report being happy and 2.1 times more likely to recommend working for the company. In turn, flexibility is becoming a key value proposition for employers:

LinkedIn 2022 Global Talent Trends report

A culture of workplace flexibility allows employees to meet the demands of their personal lives while still maintaining high levels of work performance. More important than compensation and benefits to employees when picking a new job, work-life balance rates as a top priority.

LinkedIn 2022 Global Talent Trends report

Related: Why Setting boundaries is Important in the Workplace

Belonging: Belonging is about feeling welcomed, respected, heard, and valued. 42 percent of employees believe that having an employer that is diverse and inclusive of all people is very important when considering their next job. When an organization has a culture of belonging, employees feel appreciated for what they bring to the group and everyone’s differences are celebrated.

Well-being: To nurture a healthy culture, organizations should be looking for ways to provide workers with care and compassion. 66 percent of Gen Z and 51 percent of Millenials want to see companies invest more in mental health and wellness as a way to improve company culture. If employees feel cared for at work, they are 3.2 times more likely to be happy at work and 3.7 times more likely to recommend working for the company. Well-being content is resonating, especially with women:

LinkedIn 2022 Global Talent Trends report

The TikTok trend, quiet quitting, has employees focused on setting boundaries to reduce stress and burnout. “It may be that employees wanting to find a better work-life balance will stop going above and beyond in their workplace, for instance, by not working outside of their allocated work times or no longer putting relentless productivity above their well-being,” says Maria Kordowicz, Ph.D. when discussing quiet quitting.

Related: Habits That Foster Work Productivity, Mental Health, and Employee Wellness

Company culture has continuously changed and evolved over the last 70+ years and the pandemic accelerated it dramatically. Experienced by employees through many aspects of an organization, culture impacts talent attraction, employee engagement, happiness and job satisfaction, performance, and retention. Organizations that prioritize a human-centered approach to organizational thinking are in a much better position to win the war for top talent.

This blog was written by Acara Account Executive Hannah Sullivan.