Building Organizational Culture in a Virtual World


As the world adjusts to a new normal post-COVID-19, there are a lot of intriguing ideas and concepts for employers to explore regarding employees’ work arrangements. One of the big question marks will undoubtedly be whether businesses can ensure their employees maintain the same level of productivity while operating in a virtual work environment. I’m sure the idea of downsizing in real estate and saving potentially tens of thousands of dollars per year (for some employers) is indeed an enticing possibility. However, another question that needs to be considered is “How can the organization maintain its culture in a virtual working environment?”

Culture needs to be top of mind for every organization, but it can get lost in the shuffle sometimes when there is an important business decision to be made, whether it’s a multibillion-dollar merger, a change in organizational structure, or a pros-and-cons evaluation of migrating to a remote work environment. How many times during these decision-making processes have profitability and productivity been the centre of attention? Not to downplay the importance of the bottom line, but culture is thankfully starting to enter the discussion about many of these important decisions. I’ve seen firsthand what happens when a business decision is made and the HR team is not engaged in the process, but is then relied on to handle the communication piece and the aftermath. (End of HR rant.)

Can a shift to remote work be a culture killer?

While many of us have already been working from home for over a year and it may seem that we’re none the worse for wear (generally speaking), I recommend we take a collective moment and analyze the situation from a few different perspectives. On the employee side of things, there are proponents and opponents of remote work. For myself, I initially thought, “This is great—no more dealing with construction at 8 o’clock in the morning, no more long commutes to get downtown…” However, I started to actually miss that time in the car after work when I could decompress a bit and listen to a podcast. On the employer side of it, some businesses are chomping at the bit to reduce their real estate and utilities expenses.

If you stop and think about your time back at the office, is there something missing from your daily routine now that you can’t quite put your finger on? The void you’re experiencing was likely previously filled by your company’s culture and identity. It’s easy for a company to say, “Our culture can survive in a remote work environment because we have a strong corporate vision and shared company values.” That is, no doubt, a great place to start. However, words on a wall (or an intranet page) are normally just that—words—if the people of the organization can’t come together to collectively deliver results. As much as we want to believe it can, this level of collaboration likely can’t happen on a virtual platform.

There’s something to be said for the importance of those impromptu conversations in the lunch or copier room, the team huddle at a workstation or in a conference room to solve a complex problem, or just the literal sound of things getting done. Culture forms and is established when like-minded people come together in a shared space and have a common goal (the “why”). People, place, and purpose are three major ingredients you need to fulfill a corporate vision and bring values and shared beliefs to life. Real culture is that unique “something” you can’t always articulate, but you know it’s there, you know it exists, and in a lot of cases, it’s usually what is driving you to do your best work.

While I won’t say outright that you can’t maintain your current culture in a remote work environment, an organization must deliberately plan to do so and consider new ways to engage, motivate, and communicate with employees. The many software solutions out there that enable a virtual work environment are great for a variety of reasons, but they are just tools. We need to figure out what is most important for employees and then deliver that in a virtual world. Otherwise, the culture will become transactional, not transformational.

Let’s consider the word transactional for a moment as it relates to culture. Think back to the earlier question of what is missing from a virtual environment that you can’t quite put your finger on, and then tie that to the pillars of culture. What happens to purpose in a remote environment? It almost seems like we lose a sense of the “why” and what drives us. Leaders can’t really rally the team and create a shared purpose in the same way they can in person. To create that sense of urgency, leadership must be visible. And it must feel a little strange not to see your manager walk by your desk or down the halls on a regular basis.

The same goes for having regular human connection with others in a shared space. It seems the more we work remotely, the more a name becomes just a name and we lose that connection to the person we know. When you start to feel like there’s less of an emotional attachment in the virtual workplace, that’s when you know the culture is starting to slip away and is becoming more transactional.

What can you do to maintain or build culture in a remote environment?

Well, that’s the million-dollar question. The secret lies in being able to replicate in a virtual environment what you had before at the office. I would argue that you can’t easily do so. But while there may be no magic-wand solution for continuity of culture in a virtual world, there are some best practices that will help businesses find some form of normalcy.

It comes down to being flexible and adaptable, promoting teamwork, communicating, more communicating, and promoting visibility. Maybe a 100% virtual work arrangement is not the answer for your organization. Perhaps a blended model (split time between office and remote work) will help you take some expenses off the books while allowing your people to establish and maintain the workplace culture (people, place, purpose). When there is regular visibility of leadership, consistent peer-to-peer interaction, constant communication across the organization (not just top down), and a proven ability of the company to evolve, there is a fighting chance of maintaining a culture and allowing it to evolve.

There are two established models I would encourage business leaders to consider as part of the planning process if they are moving to a virtual work environment: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Kotter’s eight-step change model. In a virtual environment, it’s easy for a person to lose that sense of belonging, to lose their ability to maintain esteem when there is a lack of communication or recognition, or to feel that their potential cannot be maximized due to limited growth opportunities. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a great reference point for keeping these things top of mind (whether in a virtual environment or not) and enabling an organization to achieve optimal engagement.

Kotter’s change model is a great process for leading transformational change and can come in handy for a critical project like establishing a virtual work environment. Key points in leading this type of change are creating and communicating a vision and removing obstacles for the team. Part of building a corporate culture (or leading a project) is engaging and enabling the members of the organization. They need to feel that they are part of the solution, their voices are heard, their concerns are taken seriously, and any roadblocks are removed.

The main takeaway here is not to take your people and culture for granted. I think everyone can agree that an engaged team of motivated people is what makes the engine run and a company successful. When considering whether to permanently establish a remote work arrangement, engage your people in the decision-making process and enable them to succeed.

About The Author

Greg Hussey is a human resources professional with over 11 years of progressive, diverse experience. He has a passion for helping organizations develop their people, working closely in building a culture of high-performance through the successful deployment of people and culture initiatives.

Greg is the president of Impact HR, your dedicated outsourcing solution for human resources. We are your “fractional” people-and-culture department and help ensure you have a strong foundation to support your business goals. Impact HR helps drive sustainable business success by leveraging and engaging the people of an organization, maximizing their contributions.

Keep an eye out for our future blog posts, where we’ll address relevant and current trends in the field of people and culture.


Kotter, J. P. (1996). Leading change. Boston, Mass: Harvard Business School Press.

Maslow, A. H. (1943). A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review, 50(4), 370–396.

Maslow, A. H., & Frager, R. (1987). Motivation and personality. 3rd ed. / New York: Harper and Row.


Training & Development


Over the years, we’ve developed many training modules that have helped the people of an organization succeed. We tailor our offerings to your exact needs and can focus on building the specific knowledge, skills, and abilities that your organization requires. 


Our instructors engage your learners to ensure they get the most out of training. We offer a diverse mix of in-depth training, lunch ‘n learns, and seminars. Listed below is our course offerings.

You can also access our course catalogue by clicking here.












You can access our course catalogue by clicking here. The course catalogue outlines the course duration, fee per learner, minimum class sizes, course description, and learning outcomes for each course.

 We also work with a network of certified coaches and experts who can support with MBTI and DiSC Assessments.


You may be eligible to receive funding for our courses under the Canada-Alberta Job Grant Program, which may cover two-thirds of the cost to a maximum of $10,000 per employee per year.

See the link below to learn more about the Canada-Alberta Job Grant Program or contact us for more information.

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We analyze your business and advise you on the organizational design and structure that will allow you to meet your strategic business goals. Our goal is to ensure you have an efficient operation and that the right people are deployed in the right positions.


Proactive planning and forecasting can help you become more productive and efficient. We help you plan for the future by implementing robust forecasting techniques that properly anticipate required headcount and potential organizational changes. 

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Our aim is to deliver solutions that will protect your business from risk, improve employee relations and engagement, and maximize the contributions of your workforce.

We offer clients diverse services aimed at supporting them in building a foundation for their human resources function. Our home is Edmonton, AB, but we support businesses throughout Alberta and across Canada. Please see our service offerings below.

Strategic Human Resources Management

We offer a number of services that can support your business in achieving its strategic goals. Please click on the image beside to find out more information on our strategic planning, HRIS implementation, business efficiency improvements, or organizational planning/design services.

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A business can become stagnant and fail to maximize the potential of its people if its HR and corporate strategy is not aligned.

Business Efficiency​

Process efficiency improvements can be a game changer, especially for a company in an industry where margins are tight. Adopting lean methodologies and a continuous improvement mindset can help your company with cost reductions and minimizing waste.

Human Resource Info Systems (HRIS)​

What drives change in a business? It can come from just about anywhere. Effectively dealing with change puts a company in a better position to compete long-term.

Organizational Design

Alignment of all your HR practices is critical in allowing your company to achieve its strategic goals. If a company does not properly deploy its resources, it may not be able to capitalize on opportunities that would allow it to grow and prosper.

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Navigating employee relations issues can be time consuming and complex. The employee-employer relationship is very dynamic and is impacted by several pieces of legislation, such as human rights law, employment standards, and Occupational Health & Safety. Employers must take precautions to ensure they do not expose the organization to risk that could result in hefty lawsuits and long-term damage to their reputation. We offer many solutions to help you manage your relationship with employees and minimize legal exposure from changing legislation.

Please click on the images below to find out more information on our policy and employee handbook, employee terminations, and outplacement services.

Policy and Employee Handbooks

We can support your business with policies and procedures that will protect your business from legislative and reputation risk

Employee Terminations

We can help alleviate the stress and ensure employee terminations are done smoothly and respectfully

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When your organization is going through a transition process and is faced with layoffs or organizational restructuring, we provide outplacement services so management are prepared to deal with the aftermath of layoffs and employees don’t miss a beat in the workforce.

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Performance Management is a complex area in human resources and can be administered in a variety of ways.

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We can support you business with a variety of HR projects that will help you build your human resources foundation. We have experience in planning and executing projects in the areas of performance management, employee engagement, compensation & benefits, succession planning, performance management, and health & safety

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Employee Engagement

Finding new ways to engage your employees can substantially increase productivity. Employees who are engaged have a greater desire to remain with the organization, advocate for the organization, and exert extra effort above & beyond the call of duty.

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Succession Planning allows you to proactively identify the skills you need to be competitive long-term, develop the bench strength of your organization, and plan for changes in leadership.

Strategic Planning

We help you gain a clear understanding of the strategic goals of your company and the strategy in place to achieve those goals. We will also help ensure your HR priorities are aligned with the long-term direction of your company.

Not only are we equipped to develop strategic HR initiatives, but we can also help you formulate your mission, vision, and values. We work with you to analyze your internal and external environments and translate that data first into strategic goals and then into people solutions that make sense for your unique business.

We use a thorough planning model to help ensure you consider all your options and craft a business plan that will optimize your business results and maximize the contributions of your people.

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Our change management process allows you to be proactive, engage the right stakeholders, and enable the people of your organization to lead the change effort.

People instinctively don’t like change and can sometimes throw a wrench into your change effort. We have led many change initiatives over the years, many of which have resulted in improved business performance and increased engagement across the organization.

How can a Human Resources Information System (HRIS) help your business?

It can automate many processes within your HR function and relieve the burden of paper filing and manual data management for your HR team and management. Vacation, benefits, hiring, onboarding, and performance management are some areas of your HR function that can be streamlined and save your company in administrative and non-valued-added time.

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At Impact HR, we have several years of manufacturing experience to draw on to help you lead your lean initiatives. We’ve studied world leading lean manufacturing systems and we use a proven approach in helping you become more efficient.

We’ve led many lean initiatives over the years that have allowed various companies to thrive in cost competitive industries. We’ve also applied the same thinking to the field of human resources. Through process mapping and HR program design, we maximize the efficiency of the HR department and allow you to earn a higher return on your people practices.

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Performance Management


Performance Management is a complex area in human resources and can be administered in a variety of ways. We have worked with several organizations in creating and administering complex performance management mechanisms, conducting 360-degree evaluations, and providing training and coaching for supervisors and management.

While performance management can be administered in many shapes and sizes, our focus is building a culture of accountability. This involves supporting you in establishing goals for your direct reports, gaining acceptance of those goals, objectively measuring performance, and providing timely and ongoing feedback.

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We offer a few methods to help diagnose your engagement issues. Hiring a 3rd party can be advantageous as employees may feel safer providing feedback due to the independent relationship. We can support in the following ways:

We have many years of experience in organizing various initiatives to solicit employee feedback. From survey design to facilitating focus groups, we know how to dig deep into engagement issues and develop effective solutions to increase engagement.

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We will help you design pay bands that are based on valid market research, fit your competitive position in the market, and ensure pay equity. 

We also have considerable experience in designing incentive plans. We can design a new plan aimed at driving behaviours that will elevate the performance of your organization. 


Our process for designing your benefits plan focuses on getting the most value out of the plan for your employees while managing the cost structure to a level that is sustainable for your business. We’ll work with you to determine the right mix of benefits offerings and coverage levels. We can also be an important liaison with your benefits consultants and carrier, ensuring your best interests are kept front and center.


Succession Planning


Through many years of experience in leading succession planning programs, we offer a simple step-by-step process that will elevate the overall talent level of your company. We’ll help you figure out who your future leaders are and recommend development plans that will put them over the top.

Our process for identifying and assessing talent, and building development plans is straightforward and involves the following:

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Are you struggling to keep up with changing OHS laws or not sure where to start? We offer a comprehensive set of services to help you navigate your requirements under OHS and implement solutions that will protect your employees and company stakeholders.


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We can support your business with policies and procedures that will protect your business from legislative and reputation risk. Our consultants have many years of experience in developing policies, communicating to employees, and providing policy training.

Having workplace policies in place can benefit you in many ways. They outline rules and standard behaviours expected from employees, set guidelines for dealing with routine situations, promote fairness and consistency, and provide a mechanism for communicating to employees.

Listed below is a sample list of the policies we can support your business with:

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Employee Terminations

Terminating an employee, whether for cause, without cause, or during a workforce reduction can be extremely difficult. Terminations can present a large degree of risk to a business if not handled properly, whether it is legal and financial risk or physical risk during a termination meeting. We can help alleviate the stress and ensure employee terminations are done smoothly and respectfully. Our services for terminations are listed below:

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Outplacement Services


Outplacement Services are intended to support both management and employees through the transition process of layoffs, restructuring, or terminations. For employees, they are intended to not only help navigate the job market but also transition to a new position and organization.


Workplace Investigations

Workplace investigations can be extremely difficult and complex, and if not handled properly, lead to extremely negative consequences for an organization. Our firm takes the pressure off by following a methodical process in conducting workplace investigations, and will ensure it is backed up with credible documentation and recommendations.


We offer investigation services primarily in the following areas:

Not only have we investigated complaints against front line employees, but we have investigated incidents where senior managers and executives have been named as Respondents.


Our investigation process is very methodical, following a very specific investigation framework. This is to ensure the investigation is viewed as objective and credible. Once we have an understanding of the complaint, we will conduct interviews with relevant parties. After all interviews are complete, we summarize the data and provide analysis, findings, and recommendations in a formal independent investigation report. As a last step, we will schedule a debrief meeting to review the report, findings, and recommendations.


Investigations are different based on complexity and how many parties are involved. Each investigation requires time to review the complaint, prepare for meetings, conduct the interviews, prepare a report, and conduct a debrief meeting. Our investigation work is fee based at an hourly rate of $130 per hour.

impactHR is your dedicated outsourcing solution for human resources. Think of us as your fractional HR department. Whether you need us on an ongoing basis, for a one-time consulting project, or just need an occasional resource to ask questions when you’re dealing with an employee issue, we help ensure you have a strong HR foundation that will support your business. We work with any type and size of business, from startups, to small and medium enterprise, to multinational corporations.