Corporate culture is the cornerstone of any business.  A 2012 study by Deloitte found that employees define a positive workplace culture as one that includes candid communication (50 percent) and employee recognition (49 percent.) (1)  However, at the end of 2019, a United Minds study found that 30 percent of workers were concerned about issues which contribute to a troubled or even toxic company culture.  (2)

As of May 2020, while still working within the confines of the COVID-19 pandemic, 54 percent of employees indicate their jobs are harder. (3)  A crisis lays bare the weaknesses at organizations by upending normal procedures and operations. In order to remain intact, the company culture must be constructed from a solid foundation of values and standards and shored up by action.

The actions and statements of a business make up its culture, which is driven by values and a sense of purpose. Crises put these elements to the test. Organizations that do well exhibit the following:

  • Accountability
  • Ambition
  • Integrity
  • Collaboration
  • Agility
  • Innovation

Changing Perceptions of Company Culture

Employees often experience culture differently during a crisis than they do during calm periods. These varying perceptions can lead employees to conclude that their company culture is deteriorating.

In the pre-COVID-19 world, 71 percent of employees were satisfied with their current workplace culture, 74 percent of employees were engaged, 73 percent of employees felt a sense of purpose, 65 percent of employees felt a sense of opportunity and 68 percent of employees felt a sense of success. (4)

In contrast, during the pandemic, the sense of engagement has decreased by eight percent, the sense of influence has dropped nine percent, perceived leader recognition has decreased five percent, consistent recognition has fallen eight percent and perceived favoritism has risen seven percent. (5)

Company culture is managing the health, vitality and longevity of a business.  Frequent “health checks” are an important aspect to agility as well as survival.  A healthy corporate culture is not something that can simply be repaired and then ignored, rather, it should be monitored, managed and maintained on a regular basis.


How to Unify Corporate Culture Experiences

Many businesses talk “at” their employees, almost as if it is a one-way broadcast instead of interacting with essential staff members. The massive uncertainty of the pandemic has highlighted the importance of treating employees like the emotional, vulnerable human beings they are.

Rather than targeting company culture to the perceived needs and desires of employees, organizations should involve employees in the process. Asking employees what they would like to see and what values are important to them is much more effective for creating incentives and processes that engage and motivate them.

Leadership should follow certain best practices when figuring out how to recognize employees for their accomplishments:

  • Follow up good work with recognition in a timely manner.
  • Give the recognition in person and in a public setting.
  • Recognize employees frequently.
  • Get specific about why each employee is being recognized.
  • Keep the tone of the recognition personal and genuine, never forced.
  • Draw a direct connection between the recognition and the company’s purpose.

Many employees have found themselves working remotely for the first time due to the pandemic. While working from home sounds like a dream come true for some people, it is not always easy. Dealing with children during the workday is challenging, leading some employees to work odd hours when their children are asleep. Going from working alongside co-workers to being at home alone all day can prove lonely for employees who live by themselves.

Overcoming these challenges involves making everyone on the team feel included and a valued member. A regular level of collaboration, even via video conferencing, can go a long way in making employees perceive they are still part of a unified team.


Giving each employee the tools and knowledge they need to transform their workspace into an office-like setting also helps. It helps mitigate the disruption of communication patterns and personal routine. Accomplishing this for employees requires providing them with the right equipment and access to help with the technical aspects of setting it up and using it.

The intersection of corporate culture and crisis can be challenging initially as businesses figure out how to navigate the new world. However, by analyzing and making positive changes to the culture, organizations can strengthen employee engagement and loyalty to come out ahead.

Uncertain times call for creative thinking.  Contact Gavel International to be inspired with solutions that connect and engage your people. 







Jim Bozzelli