Company Culture in Uncertain Times

Economic turbulence has brought uncertainty to the workplace yet again, forcing organizations to adapt to new ways of working and communicating. And just as we witnessed during the pandemic, the most successful companies are doubling down on strengthening connections and giving employees a voice. 

As HR and leadership professionals, it is essential to understand the importance of culture and take proactive steps to cultivate and maintain a positive culture, even in times of uncertainty.

The importance of company culture in times of uncertainty

Prioritizing a people-first workplace culture during uncertain times provides the foundation for stability and security. Employees feel connected when there is a shared sense of purpose and direction, which directly impacts employee engagement, employee retention, and employee well-being

It is especially crucial for companies with dispersed or remote workforces. Not to mention companies need to be prepared to pivot quickly or adjust their strategies in response to changing circumstances. 

How to maintain company culture in uncertain times

Maintaining company culture in times of uncertainty boils down to knowing what matters most to employees and using those insights to make critical people decisions. Here, we highlight six best practices for maintaining culture during times of uncertainty.  

1. Lean on company direction 

A strong vision breaks down silos and clarifies decision making for what teams should prioritize and how they should achieve it. When employees support the company’s direction, they invest more in their work because it will make a difference.

A solid commitment to company direction begins with communication to ensure everyone is pulling toward the same goals. During times of uncertainty, here is how you can reinforce your company direction to improve company culture:

  • Get aligned: Schedule time with teams to communicate and align on company direction. Everyone throughout the organization should view it as the North Star.
  • Establish milestones: Identify and celebrate quick wins so employees can see progress along the way. 
  • Share examples of company direction: Discuss how the company direction influenced specific decisions. 

2. Reinforce company values

Company values are a powerful declaration of your intentions for your organization’s culture. And in an always-changing environment, they are the glue that holds a workplace together and keeps the organization moving forward. Use these tips to reinforce company values:

  • Live the values: Ensure the company’s values are reflected in day-to-day activities. 
  • Build a channel for values: Choose a communication channel to reinforce company values and celebrate them in action.
  • Hold people accountable: Create routes for employees to point out when they observe company values being represented.

3. Prioritize employee well-being

A recent Top Workplaces research study of more than 240,000 employees revealed that more than 1 in 3 employees feels overwhelmed at work. Now more than ever, it is essential to improve employee well-being to maintain company culture during times of uncertainty. Consider these ideas:

  • Cultivate a people-centric culture: Value employees as people, and then make decisions and create well-being policies through that lens. 
  • Recognize there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution: Find out what matters most to your employees. If you don’t know, ask! 
  • Do something, learn from it, and try again: The most successful organizations experiment to know what works and does not.

Read More: A Guide to Employee Well-Being

4. Recognize and appreciate employees 

Employee recognition and appreciation consistently rank as one of the strongest drivers of engagement. It’s also one of the simplest and least expensive ways to impact morale. Showing appreciation, especially during tough times, boosts motivation and productivity. 

  • Say thanks: Take every opportunity to give a sincere compliment or a simple “thank you.” It’s a simple — yet often overlooked — way for anyone to express appreciation.
  • Show appreciation during meetings:  Recognize recognizing employee, team, and company achievements, especially in an environment of uncertainty. 
  • Highlight positive customer reviews: Recognize specific employees for making the customer experience positive. 

Read More: 9 Employee Recognition Award Ideas

Read More: Importance & Benefits of Employee Recognition

5. Keep employees in the loop

When employees feel included in important decisions, they feel like true partners — and more connected as a result. During times of uncertainty, they’re more likely to align with your organization when change occurs, even if they disagree with the methods. 

Communicating about significant decisions throughout the organization lays the groundwork for effective communication and maintaining company culture when turbulence hits. Try these ideas to ensure employees are well-informed: 

  • Communicate quickly: Share company news with employees before it becomes stale – or worse, employees hear rumors before the real message is communicated.
  • Be transparent: Managers and leaders should strive to share what they can at a level that makes sense, particularly when making controversial or difficult decisions. 
  • Strive for clarity: Make communications as straightforward as possible, emphasizing the most critical pieces. Check-in by asking employees questions such as, “What can I clarify?”

6. Give employees a voice … and listen 

Top Workplaces research shows that leadership impacts organizational culture. Employees need to know that senior leaders understand what the day-to-day looks like, especially when uncertainty looms. Leaders can do a lot to maintain company culture by asking employees what matters most and then acting on what they hear. Consider these suggestions:

  • Emphasize employee connection: Ask for input and practice active listening. Focus on clear, consistent communication. 
  • Make employee feedback part of your culture: Don’t limit getting employee feedback to an annual event. Survey whenever it makes sense – following an organizational change, acquisition, etc. 
  • Act on issues that matter most: When employees don’t see leadership working on obvious issues, they believe leaders are uniformed. Focus on the most significant problems impacting employees and the company.

Read More: How to Interpret Employee Engagement Survey Results

Top Workplaces excel at maintaining company culture 

The nation’s Top Workplaces are intentional about maintaining company culture. It is what gives them a competitive advantage, especially during times of uncertainty. Explore Top Workplaces recipients to find companies with great cultures and people-first priorities. 



Based on employee feedback captured by a research-backed engagement survey, the Top Workplaces program offers regional and national employer recognition as well as industry and culture excellence awards. Start by nominating your company today!


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