Can a Company Culture Thrive—or Even Survive—During a Pandemic?

By Beth Nilssen

A strong company culture is more important than ever as employees are working remotely, away from the support and structure of a formal office setting. This franchise consultant says that’s why it’s more important than ever for companies to take culture-building seriously.

In an earlier blog post I introduced you to Scott Greenberg, a business consultant who has worked with a lot of franchise organizations, including Great Clips. Scott is a big believer in the power of having a strong organizational culture. He wrote an article in which he challenges executives who brag about all the fun things happening in their workplaces and refer to it as “culture-building.”

Scott begs to differ.

“Culture is much more than how a workplace feels,” says Scott. “Culture is a group’s identity characterized by three things: beliefs, rituals, and vocabulary…and the more members of a group who share these three things, the stronger their bonds.”

I’m pleased that Scott’s blog includes Great Clips as an example of a company that knows how to reinforce its brand culture, especially at local and national meetings: “ Clips regularly celebrates franchisees with more awards than I’ve ever seen at a franchise convention, and people love it. Acknowledgement isn’t just what they do; it’s who they are.” 

MORE: Building a Company Culture: It’s Not All Fun and Games

Here are some excerpts from a Q&A we had with Scott about how a strong company culture can make or break an organization during ever-changing times:

Scott, now that so many organizations have many of their employees working remotely because of the pandemic, what’s the impact of that on a company’s culture?

Scott Greenberg: Companies that have invested in building culture are reaping the rewards. Resilience, teamwork, innovation, commitment to the customer experience—these things are more important than ever now. At Great Clips, it’s already in your DNA. You can ride this out more easily externally because of what you’ve built internally. Companies with a lot of internal tension are really feeling the effects of that weakness and are struggling to hold it together.

So there’s no hope these days for companies who didn’t enter this new way of working with a well-defined culture?

Scott: Not necessarily. Difficult times have a way of bringing awareness to what’s working and what’s not. In that respect, this is an opportunity for many companies to take culture more seriously. They need to assess their employees’ level of engagement and reflect on how much they value their team’s input and contributions. Even if they have always appreciated their employees, they have to be more intentional about expressing it these days. For companies like Great Clips that already have the “people” elements in place, it’s simply a matter of asking how your culture can be expressed in current conditions.

What is Great Clips doing that reinforces employee engagement when we can’t all be working from the same space?

Scott: Great Clips has always communicated well with franchisees (not all franchisors do), but this year communication has been at a whole other level. Your corporate leaders can be found on emails, videos, and the internal website, sending the message, “You make a difference.” They’ve also been deliberate about engaging everyone in the network. Corporate employees and franchisees all feel they can be part of the solution.

Thanks, Scott, for your insights on how a strong brand culture can make a difference when employees are working remotely, and for recognizing what Great Clips is doing well, even during challenging times. We sometimes get blinded by our own insider perspective, so it’s valuable to hear someone else’s praise. Watch for Part 2 of this Q&A with Scott in a future blog post.

MORE: Fitting In: How well does your personality fit with a franchisor’s culture?

MORE: 3 Keys to a Successful Company Culture: Performance, Teamwork, Respect

What’s going on at your workplace these days? What have you learned about your company’s culture in the past seven months that you didn’t recognize before? Drop me a note or give me a call. I’d love to know more about your situation.


Beth Nilssen
Director of Franchise Development| Great Clips, Inc.

800-947-1143 | 
[email protected]