Refocusing on culture and employee engagement

Board considerations for sustaining culture and engagement in a postpandemic environment.

The prolonged strains on companies and their employees from the impact of COVID-19 on how and where people work, and ongoing social unrest, have put even the sturdiest of corporate cultures to the test. Understanding how these stressors have impacted culture (i.e., “how we do things around here”1) and employee engagement (i.e., are employees highly involved, enthusiastic, and committed to their work, workplace, and company’s values?2)—and how culture and engagement will be sustained in a postpandemic operating environment—are moving to the forefront of boardroom agendas.

To be sure, corporate culture has been on the radar throughout the pandemic: Nearly half of CEOs surveyed in the 2021 KPMG U.S. CEO Outlook indicated they increased the visibility of their leaders with employees (49 percent), increased communications with employees (46 percent), and provided additional resources for employees to collaborate (44 percent).3

In another KPMG poll, a majority of executives identified culture as one of the most important factors impacting their ability to successfully “reemerge or restart” their businesses following COVID-19.4 Yet, other research suggests that efforts around corporate culture and keeping employees engaged may be coming up short.

Download PDF

Refocusing on culture and employee engagement
Questions for boards to consider as they refocus on culture and engagement.

According to a survey by Prudential Financial, a quarter of workers plan to seek employment with a different employer once the pandemic has subsided due to concerns about their career growth (80 percent), rethinking their skill sets because of the pandemic (72 percent), and a desire to work remotely (34 percent). And nearly half of the workers planning to switch jobs ranked their current employer’s efforts to maintain culture during the pandemic as a “C or lower.”5

To assist directors as they refocus on culture and engagement, this article includes:

  • Questions for directors to ask management about changes to culture and engagement since the pandemic, as well as ongoing considerations
  • Internal and external culture and engagement metrics to collect and analyze
  • Ways to prioritize culture and engagement through the board’s own processes
  • How to ensure the board has the skills and expertise necessary to oversee human capital management.



1 Jake Herway and Adam Hickman, “Remote Work: Is It a Virtual Threat to Your Culture?,” Gallup, Inc., August 25, 2020.

2 Jim Harter, “U.S. Employee Engagement Reverts Back to Pre-COVID-19 Levels,” Gallup, Inc., October 16, 2020.

3 KPMG LLP, 2021 KPMG U.S. CEO Outlook: Pulse Survey, 2021, p. 3.

4 Claudia Saran, Culture: An organizational antidote for COVID-19, KPMG LLP.

5 Prudential Financial, Inc., Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Fact Survey, March 2021, p. 2.

Contact us

Board Leadership Center

Board Leadership Center

Partners, senior advisors and professionals, KPMG LLP