What to do when your company culture is put to the test

Find out how you can build on your current strengths and maintain a great company culture.

Company Culture
Work Environment

Christine Chartrand

VP Consulting Services

Thursday, June 18, 2020


With the war for talent that companies are facing today, culture has become the buzz word to attract and maintain competent employees that fit their organisation. The abundance of choices and the arrival of younger generation has made many employees take a closer look at what they want from the company they are about to join.

A culture can be stable and well founded, but when disaster like the pandemic strikes, how does your company react? Do we observe the best or the worst reactions to this new, destabilizing situation associated with the crisis? Depending on different factors, some businesses will come out of it better than others in the same industry and this has a lot to do with company’s culture.

Going back to the foundation

Let’s break it down to 2 pillars that must be aligned to take advantage of your strengths and to maintain a great company culture.

The Vision

This is all that incarnates the founder(s) or entrepreneur(s), those who built or took the company under their wing. Let’s call this, the foundation.

The underlying vision and characteristics of the leader is translated into a formal company culture (where characteristics of the culture are clearly identified and used to attract, select, manage and develop employees) or an informal company culture (where the characteristics of the culture exist, but have not been put into words or integrated as a tool in the HR process).

The vision is the root of the company, but an essential pillar of company culture is the way it is being implemented, the execution.

The Execution

What is actually going on within the company? In other words, the reality. This is basically what the culture looks like. This can take many shapes and forms. For example, the message that is being shared about your organization. What the company conveys to your clients, both internal and external. It can also be how you are attracting and selecting people to come work for you?

Being rigourous in maintaining company culture will allow you to make sure everyone moves in the same direction with the same expected attitude and behaviours. The extend to which vision and execution are interconnected will determine how coherent your company culture will be, but it doesn’t end there.

Empathy and the pleasure of working together are non-negotiable requirements at AtmanCo. This means that our corporate strategies consider customer experience and satisfaction as essential elements with the highest priority.

Marie-Christine Drolet
CEO of AtmanCo

6 questions to ask yourselves

  • Are the company’s culture and vision clearly shared with everyone?
  • Is the vision translated into behaviour that all employees can see? That implies that owners (and leaders) translate their vision by being an irreproachable example of the company’s culture for everyone to follow.
  • Are the behaviours of your management teams and employees coherent with the culture?
  • What are some of your non-negotiables when it comes to company culture and are you staying true to them?
  • More importantly, are all the employees and managers that do not behave according to the company’s culture being systematically and quickly addressed (and NOT being tolerated)?
  • Do you validate and re-assess your company’s culture through time?

How are you going to maintain an effective company culture?

Do you have tools in place to help you ask the right questions and look at the essential contributors to a successful company culture? Here are a few tips:

Include elements associated with company culture in your interview process

For example, personality, organizational preferences and values assessments that can help identity key characteristics, attitudes and behaviors that are directly related to successful integration and culture fit within your company.

Create a benchmark for culture fit

Conduct an in-depth analysis of culture, thus reviewing mission and vision statements, work conditions, as well as how the mission is translated into the field (concretely). With the right tools, you can also identify and analyse top employees whose behaviors/characteristics are aligned with your core principles and company culture. Their shared characteristics can help you not only shape your culture but also evaluate the culture fit of your incoming candidates.

Incorporate company culture criteria in your performance evaluations

This means having managers evaluate the culture fit of their employees along a bank of dimensions which can include attitude, as well as related competencies.

Revisit your data on a regular

Extensive platforms can offer you an easy way to not only identify your key players that embrace your company’s culture, but also the departure (voluntary or involuntary) of employees that just didn’t have what it took to embrace and thrive in your company culture. This also means learning from our mistakes.

Company culture types that we can learn from

Let’s get back to the crisis for a moment. Take advantage of your company’s culture to manage the crisis and know your blind spots. Let’s look at a few examples:

Innovation Culture

With an already established reflex to find new ways of doing things, this culture can quickly reinvent themselves during a crisis. Just look at PIXMOB, who is known for their LED wristband technology giving us an enhanced crowd experience during events. They took their technology to a whole new level by creating safe-watch wristbands for healthcare workers that flash colors as a reminder to wash their hands. They even went a step further by using their materials such as plastic and styrofoam to create face shields.

Agility Culture

With the mindset in place to move, adapt and decide quickly, this can be beneficial during a crisis. However, be careful not to deviate too far from the guidelines and stay on track!

Client Centric Culture

With a priority to take care of (and work closely with) their clients, collaborators, and employees, as well as stay close to their allies, this can create strong ties during a crisis. However, be careful of the potential grief (and guilt) that employees may feel if it’s not possible to maintain the same level of caring and support during trying times (for example, due to reduced resources).

Operational Efficiency Culture

They work together to become even more efficient in the new reality of a crisis. That being said, they must be careful not to lose track of the human side of things. A crisis can bring a lot of emotion, uncertainty and even insecurities among employees. Make sure productivity is not being done at the detriment of well-being. Understand employee limits and triggers.

Results Oriented Culture

They can use drive, willpower and energy to get through the crisis. With the focus on getting things done (and less on when and how), this can be a useful culture given the new reality where kids are at home during the day and managers are not working alongside their teams. Employees in this culture can set their own hours or power through the chaos to get it done. Yet it is important to set new and realistic goals that coincide with the new reality.

In the end, if the leader’s vision and the execution of culture, as well as the means to maintain, validate and re-assess it are present, and more importantly interconnected, you are on the right path for company success and business happiness. Otherwise, you now have some cues to help you get started!

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Get more fresh content delivered right to your inbox to help you hire smarter, lead stronger, and grow better.