Wednesday, September 30, 2020
From the Trenches

Culture eats strategy for breakfast

Last week, I participated in a meeting where a business consultant stated that they advised their clients in late March to start furloughing or terminating employees. This has been the strategy employed by many large and small companies to preserve themselves during the pandemic.

I did not sleep well that night. I was having difficulty reconciling the importance of corporate culture with furloughing or termination.

I thought that many of these companies viewed employees as if they were “plug n’ play.” Whether they terminate or furlough, they expect that when these employees are given the opportunity to return that will do so with the same enthusiasm and dedication to their employer as they had before. I just do not see this happening.

Before we knew about COVID-19, most everyone was spouting the importance of company culture. The legendary management consultant and writer, Peter Drucker said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Drucker did not mean that strategy was unimportant, but that a powerful and empowering culture was a surer route to organization success.

Before terminating or furloughing employees, I have to wonder if there could be other productive tasks that they could do during this period to sustain morale and corporate culture? For those that make the decision to cut staff, did anyone calculate the cost, if possible, to revive the corporate culture once business returns to normal?

What many of these companies are not factoring in is that this extreme move will damage the morale of the employees that remain as well as any that return. When reviewed through this lens, keeping employees may be the most cost-beneficial option for short-term and long-term company health.

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