Did Covid Kill Culture?


Did Covid kill culture? Some think it 100% did, while others believe it did not. The answer to this question is more complex than a simple yes or no. However, it’s safe to say Covid definitely changed culture for multiple reasons. Taking a step back from everything that has transpired over the last few years, it’s clear that the only constant has been change. With so many organizations having to navigate differently, shift talent strategy, create new goals and objectives, and pivot business strategies just to name a few, it’s not uncommon for priorities to shift too. Sometimes these shifts are intentional, sometimes they’re not. More often than not, the changes that aren’t intentional can actually have a longer lasting impact in our environments. In this blog, we’ll dive into the recent struggles organizations have been facing especially when it comes to their employees and how culture has and will continue to be affected.

 What We Know

Culture is a perfect example of something that can be negatively impacted if it’s not prioritized when change occurs or quite frankly, if it’s not at the center of everything that makes up your organization. This is where being intentional comes in. No one tries to create an unsuccessful or bad culture (at least we hope not!), yet without being intentional and aware about how you continue to build and maintain it, negative impacts are inevitable.

Taking a step back from the impact of Covid for a minute, the topic of culture and facing change is nothing new and it likely won’t ever go away. What we choose to do about it however is the conversation that needs to be had. For example, how have expectations shifted for employees and what does that mean for the organization? What does a high-performing culture even look like anymore for your employees? The good news is there’s no definitive rulebook to follow on culture and it’s our job to get creative with it.

Employees are at the center

The Great Resignation, Quiet Quitting, The Great reshuffle. Do any of those phrases sound familiar? There’s been several new buzzwords relating to the different choices employees have been making about their jobs. Regardless of what we call it, one truth remains: employees are at the center of it all. And, while Covid has definitely played a big role in speeding up the process for employees resigning or switching careers, this is another example of something we have been seeing long before the pandemic. The graph below proves this further by showing how the percentage of employees who are quitting jobs has only continued to increase (due to the pandemic uncertainty, the year 2020 is slightly different).

By understanding that Covid was not the only reason why employees were quitting, it reiterates the importance of organizations having a strong culture where employees not only want to be working at, but thriving in. Although the Great Resignation is often referred to as another “trend,” it’s clear that it is, and will continue to be, ongoing.

Where you can start

When facing unfamiliar change, sometimes the most difficult part is knowing where to start. Similar to how no two cultures are alike, figuring out the best strategies to build and maintain culture will look different for every organization. In this section, we will discuss some areas that are important to consider at a high level when it comes to creating a successful culture.

Evaluate areas of concern

The word “evaluate” is key here. While you may have a list of top concerns to address, this isn’t always the first place to start. In fact, most of the time nothing will change (or not successfully at least) until the processes are reassessed as a whole. Instead of looking through the lens of a specific problem that needs fixing, think about the bigger picture by asking the right questions to lead you in the right direction. For example, how are people empowered to make decisions, if at all? What tools do employees need to be successful and thrive at work? How does your organization define a high-performing culture? These questions may seem broad, but they allow us to take a step back and really evaluate the “why” to then help guide the decisions that are made. Using the last question as an example, if the answer was something along the lines of “we define a high-performing culture by how quickly work gets done, not necessarily where it gets done,” then this now turns into an opportunity to evaluate whether a fully in-person work environment is critical for your continued success or if you can allow for some flexibility and move to hybrid or even fully remote.

Partner with an external coach or consultant

In an environment where change is more prevalent than ever, it can be difficult to solve the challenges of why, when and how to adjust and maintain a strong culture. Seeing things from an outside perspective also falls into this bucket. This being true, we also now live in a world where there is access to endless resources; and by resources, we mean people who are experts in their craft working in the gig economy.

Partnering with independent consultants and/or leadership coaches is a fantastic way to get that outside perspective while helping create a forward-looking organization that stays ahead of the workforce trends and easily adapts to external factors to achieve growing internal goals. Some other benefits of hiring gig talent include:

  • Saving time and money by not having to hire full time employees
  • Creating a high-performing work environment by addressing organizational goals and objectives that in turn, helps build a successful culture
  • Maintaining happier, more productive, and efficient employees that will grow with the company
  • Supporting leadership growth and advancement to help navigate through changing times

So, did Covid kill culture or was culture already shifting long before Covid? However you might feel about your own culture, we can conclude that culture was already shifting and likely always will. While nothing can completely “kill culture” it’s important to see how it can be impacted by a shifting environment. Collectively, figuring out how to not only build, but also maintain a successful and stable culture will always take time. It’s not enough to just recognize the shifts happening all around us. Instead, we all have to work to demonstrate a commitment to improving our cultures in a way that addresses the changing needs of employees and businesses. Take this time as an invitation to reimagine your workplaces and move forward to build a more human and supportive approach to structures, strategies and of course, organizational culture.

Gig Talent is a modern talent collective that helps organizations level up their culture, their leadership, and their talent by connecting vetted high-caliber HR consultants and leadership coaches with forward-thinking organizations seeking a competitive advantage. For us at Gig Talent, we believe that having a strong culture and the right leaders in place is critical to the success of any organization, especially in today’s world.