BetterUp Insights Report, Fall 2021

A new kind of
inclusive leadership for a new world of work

For many organizations, 2020 was a tipping point.

Leaders committed to boosting diversity efforts and prioritizing company culture, but just 2% say their investments moved the needle.

Organizations are now at a crossroads. Pre-pandemic thinking can’t solve new business challenges or address shifting employee expectations and needs.

One in four employees still don’t feel a sense of belonging. Retaining talent and driving peak performance has never been more difficult. How, when, and where we work is still evolving.

Where do we go from here?

To navigate this new world of work, we need a new kind of inclusive leadership.

Insights from over

10,000 BetterUp Members

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve tracked over 10,000 BetterUp Members engaged in our 1:1 personalized coaching.

These members represent a cross-section of the workforce and provide a window into the unique differences, challenges, and needs of populations impacted by the pandemic.

Discover the insights powering the new world of work.

Your people are facing new challenges

The pandemic alone didn’t change our world; but it did accelerate some long-developing trends, forced broad adoption of new technologies and business models, and amplified areas where the status quo was already broken for your people.


More Equity & Action

Demands for more equity and action on racial issues across employee populations


Mental Stability

Mental health and well-being benefits are now “must have” for all employees


Support for Women & Parents

Women and working parents want and need more support from their employers


Meeting Expectations

Expectations are changing around how, when, and where we work

As a result, employees now expect more from employers

Against the backdrop of a “war for talent” and record-high quit rate, employees now demand flexibility, space, support, and trust from their organizations. And they want to work with a diverse, inclusive team where they can be their authentic selves.

Belonging Over Time

Leading into the mass exodus of talent in April 2021, the aggregate sense of belonging among workers recently dipped to its lowest levels since the pandemic began.

How should
you respond?

To succeed in the future, organizations must abandon pre-pandemic thinking. Balancing new and existing employee expectations, along with the pressures to innovate, be agile, and cultivate deep customer loyalty requires a new approach.

The new inclusive business imperatives


Take a holistic approach

D&I investments must go beyond recruitment to support new employee needs and expectations


Avoid silos

There’s now a shared responsibility across all employee groups, and leadership, in promoting and enacting systemic change.


Promote inclusive leadership

Frontline managers need to re-learn how to lead and manage in ways that promote belonging for all employees.

Managers face new challenges

No group can create a more sustained and immediate impact on inclusion for your employees than frontline managers. But, to now support their teams, managers need to re-learn how to lead people under new and evolving conditions.

What does inclusion look like if some people are in the office and some are working remotely?

How can leaders prevent inherent bias, like prioritizing the needs of working fathers over working mothers?

How can managers be better equipped to communicate to their teams about mental health issues?

When managers are viewed as inclusive, employees experience:

more job
increase in engagement
higher organizational commitment

Four insights our data

show help managers

lead more inclusively


Promote psychological safety for underrepresented groups

The pandemic has disproportionately affected underrepresented groups in a variety of ways, and managers must understand that the workplace is no exception. Our research found that URMs (underrepresented minorities) are 1.6X more likely to have low belonging than their peers in other groups, a leading indicator of intent to stay.

Impact of psychologically safe teams for racial and ethnic minorities


Provide more well-being support for women and parents

During the pandemic, women tended to have statistically significantly lower well-being — by 3%. But when women feel supported by their leaders? They see a 17% boost in well-being, and parents experience a 28% boost in well-being.

When parents feel their well-being is supported


Prioritize overall well-being for peak performance

An employee’s ability to perform their best work will be hampered if basic needs are not met. You can see the difference between those who are languishing and those who are thriving in what they discuss with their Coach.

When employees are thriving and experiencing well-being, they can open themselves up to focus on other areas, like communication, career development, and leading others. But when we’re struggling, getting back to well-being is a top priority.

Coaching topic trends for diverse populations


Empower employees to make hybrid and remote work work

With dynamic and hybrid forms of work on the rise, we found that there are both short- and long-term impacts to changing working arrangements. Those who are coming out of remote work and back into office full time appear to reap a resilience advantage, whereas hybrid workers have a well-being advantage.

The hybrid workforce introduces a new form of diversity for managers — work arrangement — that requires unique forms of support.

Impacts of different work arrangements


Degree of benefit after shifts into different work arrangements