Global Culture Survey 2021

As leaders tackle a long list of business challenges post-pandemic, organizational culture can be a powerful ally

In the second edition of our Katzenbach Global Culture Survey, we have asked 3,200 employees from more than 50 countries about the role of corporate culture in their organization and how their culture was impacted by Covid-19. The overall results show that strong cultures drive better business outcomes, with the majority of senior leaders crediting much of their success, resilience, as well as competitive advantage during the pandemic to culture. During a challenging year that involved major transformational changes for companies around the world, 55% of survey respondents assessed culture as even more important than strategy or operations.

Additionally, our analysis revealed a widening gap between what senior leaders say about culture and what their employees experience. However, as rapid transformation can be achieved with a targeted focus on a few critical behaviors, it is possible to close this gap by putting organizational culture on a company’s list of business imperatives.

Key findings

In general, corporate culture tends to be stronger in the USA, China, or India in comparison with the global average and by an even more sizeable margin than in Europe or Japan. This can be seen across the following dimensions:

  • Reporting a strong sense of purpose, feeling a connection to the organization’s purpose, having the impression that one can be authentic self in organization
  • Having the corporate leadership “walk the talk”, feeling the organization supports relevant social and/or environmental issues
  • The need to change as a result of Covid-19 is not seen as much in Europe or the USA – as opposed to China, India, and Japan
  • European companies show a stronger support for a single point of authority and prefer incremental over revolutionary change
  • There is a strong global overlap on the areas of improvement in organizations, with the global top five being: talent recruiting and retention, digitization, innovation, collaboration, health and safety; whereas European companies do emphasize agility instead of health and safety
Key findings
Dr. Peter Gassmann

“The ongoing changes in supply and production chains should put agile planning and quick decision-making on the top of every CEO agenda. Companies who want to remain at the top have to draw the right lessons from the current crisis and consistently transform their organization to address external shocks and secure sustainable competitive advantages.”

Dr. Peter Gassmann, Global Leader of Strategy&, and Global ESG Leader of PwC

Switzerland and Germany have less distinctive culture and enable change less than rest of world

Europe as a whole is below average when it comes to enabling change. With regard to the busines impact of Covid-19, the global pandemic hit Switzerland hard, based on the reported drop in business volume, employee headcount, and employee satisfaction. Conversely, German respondents report a less drastic impact from Covid-19 in terms of profit and revenues, employee headcount and business volume.

Covid-19 is also seen to make quick decisions harder in Germany and Switzerland, compared to the European average. However, Germany and Switzerland see less of a need to change as a consequence of the pandemic, compared to the rest of Europe or the world.

The top areas perceived for improvement in Germany and Switzerland are in line with the global average, putting emphasis on talent recruiting and retention, collaboration, as well as digitization, while also considering quality as an area for improvement.

Net reporting on the impact of Covid-19
About the Katzenbach Center

For the past 25 years, the Katzenbach Center, the institute for culture, leadership and teaming at Strategy&, has been studying the influence of culture on business success. We define culture as “the self-sustaining pattern of behavior that determines how things are done.” This year, we asked workers to reflect on their experiences in the context of the Covid-19 crisis. The results show that, for some, organizational culture was the hero of their pandemic story. By reflecting on lessons learned during the pandemic, business leaders can glean insights that will carry them forward.

Find out more


The Global Culture Survey was conducted online March 1 - 26, 2021. A business panel was used across 15 countries (Australia, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Switzerland, the UK and the US). Participants from these and other territories were also invited to complete the survey through a registration process. In total, 3,243 surveys were completed from 43 countries.

Contact us

Dr. Peter Gassmann

Dr. Peter Gassmann

Global Strategy& Leader, Strategy&

Mahadeva Matt Mani

Mahadeva Matt Mani

Partner, Strategy& Netherlands