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SHRM Research Discovers Disparities Between Employer and Employee Perspectives on Workplace Culture during the Pandemic

New data reveals gaps between executive opinions on organizational culture and workplace realities for employees working in remote, hybrid and in-person environments

Las Vegas — Today, SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) released findings from a series of surveys that shed light on the perceived condition of workplace culture and its impact on working Americans across varied industries and occupations since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While 72% of executives – vice president and above – surveyed by SHRM believe their overall organizational culture has improved since the beginning of the pandemic, few HR professionals (21%) and working Americans (14%) would agree. HR professionals and other employees indicate issues with communication, altered workloads and employees voluntarily leaving their companies as primary reasons for negative changes in workplace culture during the pandemic.

Survey results indicate that positive organizational culture keeps employees engaged while increasing business value and job performance, but more than half of the people managers (57%) and HR professionals (62%) surveyed agree that it has been difficult to maintain that culture during the pandemic.

"In the past year, we saw major shifts in organizational structures as employers sought to accommodate and support employees who were suddenly working in remote, hybrid or vastly different in-person environments," said Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP, SHRM's president and chief executive officer. "The pandemic has certainly changed where and how we work, leaving it up to business leaders and HR professionals to create more seamless threads of positive culture that boost employee satisfaction and productivity."

Other key findings from SHRM's research include:

  • Almost all HR professionals (99%) agree that they encourage a culture of open and transparent communication, but more than 1 in 4 working Americans (27%) do not think people managers encourage such transparency.
    • Over 1 in 3 working Americans (34%) indicated that their manager does not know how to lead a team and more than 1 in 4 people managers (26%) said their workplace does not provide leadership training.
    • More than half (53%) of working Americans who have left a job in the past 5 years due to workplace culture indicated that they left a job due to their relationship with their manager, while only 22% of working Americans who stayed at a job said they stayed at a job due to their relationship with their manager.
  • Working Americans (33%) indicated that their organization's culture makes it difficult to balance their work and home commitments.
    • Many employees (45%) put off important things in their personal life due to the demands of their work.
    • Nearly 3 in 5 employees (59%) leave work feeling exhausted.
    • Workplace culture makes 3 in 10 employees (30%) irritable at home.
    • 14% of employees do not feel engaged with their work tasks and 30% dread going to work.
  • Nearly half of all surveyed employees (44%) who worked remotely at least some of the time reported feeling isolated or disconnected; 43% indicated that they worry other people don't think they are working hard enough while being remote.
  • Women were more likely to indicate negative effects of poor workplace culture than men, overall.

Although it plays a big role in overall job satisfaction, workplace culture is not the only reason organizations experienced decreased morale and increased talent losses during the pandemic. According to HR professionals surveyed by SHRM, the top three reasons people voluntarily leave their jobs are: lack of career growth opportunities, negative relationships with managers and salary concerns.

Methodology for Working Americans: The 2021 SHRM Omnibus Survey was conduct from May 27 – June 2, 2021, using the AmeriSpeak panel®, NORC at the University of Chicago's nationally representative, probability-based panel. Online and telephone interviews using landlines and cellphone were conducted with 1,324 adults. Some questions in the survey were asked to all respondents and others were asked only to a subset of 771 adults who were either working as a paid employee or have been laid off or furloughed due the COVID-19 pandemic.
Methodology for People Managers: A sample of 1,000 employed Americans was surveyed using Lucid. The survey was administered June 2 to June 8, 2021. For the purpose of this survey, we refer to "employed Americans" as those who are either working as a paid employee or have been laid off or furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Participants self-identified as a People Manager of at least 1 employee.
Methodology for HR Professionals: The survey was fielded electronically to a random sample of active SHRM members from May 27 – June 29, 2021. In total, 875 members responded to the survey on behalf of their employers. Respondents were required to be employed as a paid employee or have been laid off or furloughed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Respondents represented organizations of all sizes—from two to more than 25,000 employees—in a wide variety of industries across the United States.
Methodology for Executives: The 2021 SHRM Executive Culture Survey was conducted from June 1 through June 7. Online surveys were conducted with 305 adults who self-identified as holding a vice-president or above role at a company of at least 50 employees. Respondents were sourced from Lucid.



About SHRM
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.


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