Corporate Culture and Social Distancing: Myths and Realities

Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset
Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset
LOS ANGELES - June 12, 2020 - PRLog -- Two articles have appeared in the Wall Street Journal in the past week asserting that social distancing will either harm or prevent corporate culture from surviving.[1] Unfortunately, these views (while likely well intentioned) represent a misunderstanding the nature of corporate culture, how it is created, how it evolves, and how it is sustained.

Corporations with strong, positive cultures (i.e., Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, Marriott and many more) and have existed for decades with employees spread out remotely. These companies and many more like them have thousand or even hundreds of thousands of employees spread out globally who operate in different national culture with different languages and customs. Nevertheless, they all have what I have termed "positive-functional cultures."  A "positive functional culture" is one that is understood, embraced and practiced by at least 90% of employees.

There are established methods of culture management that are and can be used to achieve a culture that is well-understood, embraced, and practiced daily. Some of these methods of culture management include:
  • Developing a formal statement of core cultural values,
  • Frequent communication of values using various methods,
  • Recruitment and selection process design to hire people who will embrace the organizations' core values,
  • New employee orientation programs to help people understand the company's culture,
  • Performance management system and related reward/recognition practices that are designed to motivate people to embrace the organization's core values and reinforce their behavior to be consistent with those values.
  • Corporate Events either virtual or in person, including activities designed to communicate and reinforce core values.
    • Every event held at a company provides the opportunity to communicate and reinforce the company's culture,
  • Leadership Development Programs designed to communicate and reinforce core value as well as train leaders in methods of management and leadership appropriate to those values, and, most critically,
  • Annual monitoring of the culture by culture measurements designed to assess the extent to which people accept, embrace, and practice the core values of the organization.
These methods are described in our book Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset.[2]


Eric Flamholtz is Professor Emeritus in the Anderson School of Management, UCLA, and President of Management System Consulting.   For more information about effective culture management, see

[1] Chip Cutter, "The Office is Far Away. Can Its Culture survive"? Wall Street Journal, June 6-7, 2020, P. B4; Daniel Michaels, "Remote Work Forever? Not So Fast," Wall Street Journal, June 611, 2020, P. B6.

[2] See Eric Flamholtz, PhD.  and Yvonne Randle PhD, Corporate Culture: The Ultimate Strategic Asset, Stanford University Press, 2011.

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