Culture: An organizational antidote for COVID-19

By Claudia Saran

As businesses continue to navigate the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing is clear—companies with a strong organizational culture will be best positioned to rally employees and motivate them to meet the challenges of this crisis, and beyond.

In a poll of more than 300 business executives, more than half (53%) said culture is one of the most important factors impacting their ability to successfully “reemerge or restart” their respective business following the COVID-19 health and economic crises.


We think of culture as a set of predominant beliefs and mindsets that drive how things get done in an organization. Below are three actions leaders can take to ensure culture lies at the heart of everything they do not just today, but as they plan for a bright future.

  • Create a culture vision. Leaders should answer the question: What do we want employees to say about our organization, during and after this crisis? What actions will they remember? What stories will they tell? Also consider what you want other key stakeholders, such as your customers, suppliers and/or the local community to say about your organization. The output from this exercise provides an aspirational vision for culture that leaders can use to energize and enlist the broader organization.
  • Engage both leaders and employees in defining your path. Do not rely solely on leaders to drive and affect the culture of your organization. The importance of both a top-down and a bottom-up approach to sustainable culture change is critical. Top-down is best demonstrated via leaders role modeling the desired behaviors, and bottom-up via proactive involvement of employees, allowing them to have their voices heard.  
  • Learn from organizational behavior during COVID-19. Use this time to learn what practices and behaviors adopted during the crisis should continue after the COVID-19 pandemic. In our poll, respondents said they hoped remote working (37%), use of enhanced collaboration tools (27%) and more transparent communications (24%) would remain in their organizations. Conversely, identify those things that were being done before that are now not so culturally important or necessary for success going forward.

At some point, this crisis will ease and businesses will begin the process of “restarting,” taking into account a variety of ethical, cultural and strategic considerations.   Those with a strong culture in place will not only survive, but also thrive in this new reality.

Claudia Saran is the chief culture officer for KPMG in the U.S. For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact Kristen Morgan.  


Media contact

Kristen Morgan

Kristen Morgan

Director, Corporate Communications, KPMG US

+1 410-949-2668



Claudia Saran

Claudia Saran

Partner, National Sector Leader, Industrial Manufacturing, KPMG US

+1 312-665-3088

Related content