How The Pandemic Is Transforming Company Culture: Org culture has improved.

By Ginger Dhaliwal, Co-founder, Upflex

Companies that have gone remote during the pandemic are experiencing newfound challenges with their distributed workforce. When it comes to human resources (HR), the goal has always been to attract, retain and grow their talent, as well as help foster company culture. Covid-19 has impacted company culture significantly and has forced leadership to reevaluate their business — and quickly. This reassessment has been the catalyst for innovation, pivoting to stay operable, rethinking how we build our workplace and maintaining business culture online. 

study from Quartz and Qualtrics found that organizational culture had improved during the pandemic. It turns out that 37% of the 2,100 adults globally that took part in the study felt their company culture had improved since the pandemic. And 52% felt more purposeful in their work since the beginning of the Covid-19 crisis — which correlates with company culture and is why companies invest so much in its importance. 

Workplace culture transcends the office, and it isn’t about arbitrary rules either. It sounds abstract, but there is a science behind it. CultureX built an algorithm for measuring workplace culture in a variety of dimensions and created a framework that organizations can utilize for articulating these elements. The research was conducted with MIT Sloan Management Review, and the AI-powered approach was used to analyze culture using a dataset from 1.2 million employee reviews on Glassdoor. It provides a more comprehensive picture of organizational culture that goes beyond subjective observations from the world’s top companies. It determined 60 distinct values that organizations listed in their corporate mission statements and identified the “Big Nine” most frequently used: agility, collaboration, customer, diversity, execution, innovation, integrity, performance, and respect. Let’s look at the values that have been deeply impacted since the start of the pandemic through the lens of businesses that have prioritized these elements. 

1. Agility 

Companies needed to adopt flexible models quite literally overnight by adjusting their goals and resources to account for ever-changing constraints, opportunities and unpredictability. An article from McKinsey discusses developing an agile framework that looks like jumping on a videoconference quickly to tackle problems and empowering remote teams to have decision-making authority, as opposed to maintaining flat hierarchical structures. 

With travel restrictions, commercial airlines were allowed to cut some routes by as much as 90% (paywall) through September. As uncertainty looms for the travel industry, they had to find a solution to stay afloat. So Virgin Atlantic and others launched their first cargo-only flights, and some airlines are pivoting by converting their aircraft to make more cargo space. By doubling down on an existing market share, they’ve been able to generate new revenue sources while others have declined. 

2. Innovation

With agility also comes innovation. Sometimes we have to find better ways of doing things to meet customer demands and invent new technology that improves processes in the supply chain or even workplace conditions. Digi-Key, an electronic components distributor, built an ultraviolet sanitation tunnel that could reduce the likelihood of a potential virus outbreak and safeguard its employees. The tunnel can sanitize 8,000-plus totes that travel through it each day. The design didn’t exist previously, and it reportedly took the company three days to design it from scratch. 

The best part? The company isn’t keeping the technology secret. The president, Dave Doherty, is collaborating with other distributors on the Electronic Components Industry Association (ECIA) to share best practices and other ideas for ensuring the safety of their employees and customers. 

3. Respect 

As Gever Tulley said, “Persistence and resilience only come from having been given the chance to work through difficult problems.” 

The pandemic has turned our world upside-down and has evolved into a collective experience. To some degree, I’ve seen every employee become more sympathetic and lead with compassion during these turbulent times because we are all feeling the pain. This resilience and respect for one another is bringing a positive cultural change in the way we treat one another. However, the emotional trauma combined with mental health stressors could have long-lasting implications. October data from Total Brain revealed that “stress and anxiety levels are up 19% and 28% respectively over pre-Covid levels.”

Hewlett Packard Enterprise Co. gave employees access to HeadSpace Inc., a meditation and mindfulness company, back in April. More than 9,000 of its employees had tried it as of June, and they had accumulated more than 500,000 minutes on the application.

4. Customer 

U.S. online grocery sales have grown throughout the pandemic. In June, they hit a record-breaking $7.2 billion, according to a Brick Meets Click/Mercatus survey. As customer concerns about the novel coronavirus grew, retailers had to rethink how to utilize their spaces to meet the growing demand. 

Whole Foods turned some physical locations into “dark stores” where it essentially transformed the spaces into ones where only employees could package and pick up items. It converted its Bryant Park location to meet online demand and serve more customers, and other retailers are following suit — including Kroger in Cincinnati. Companies have had to make concessions, find new ways to operate by safely delivering food and put the customer first while also ensuring the health and safety of their employees. 

The Takeaway 

With any tragedy, we have to pick ourselves up and trudge on. In a business environment, threats or uncertainties are obstacles that require new ways to deliver goods and services to meet customer demand and execute against changing realities. The pandemic is having a major impact on company culture. The upside is that more companies have learned how agility should work, and respect, innovation and customer-centricity are becoming ever-important components of workplace culture. 

Ginger Dhaliwal is Upflex Co-Founder & CPO, the largest network of flexible workspaces with 5,000 locations across 70 countries.