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Five Surefire Ways to Accurately Access Your Organizational Culture

January 9, 2018

By: Crystal Spraggins

Research has shown that companies that actively manage their cultures are more profitable than companies that don’t.

Why? What’s the big deal about managing culture?

Well, it turns out that managing culture is quite a BIG deal. Culture encompasses how and what employees do, and of course that effects everything else – including your capacity to outperform your competitors.

What’s more, knowing your culture is key to effective business practices, such as hiring for fit, resulting in happy and engaged employees. For example, a behavioral assessment such as Omnia's Profile Selection Report is most powerful when you have a true picture of the culture in which a new employee will be required to operate.

So what are five surefire ways to accurately assess your culture?

#1. Employee Surveys

Frequent and regular employee “pulse” surveys tell employers what workers are thinking in real time. The surveys typically contain between 3 and 15 questions and are distributed weekly, monthly, or quarterly. The purpose of the surveys is to provide a high-level overview of how employees are experiencing the company in the moment. Done consistently, pulse surveys are a powerful tool to assess your actual company culture – not the one you think you have or wish you had.

#2. Focus Groups

Focus groups are an excellent way to start and maintain a conversation with employees who otherwise might not feel empowered or inclined to talk. Focus groups should be small enough to be manageable, but large enough to yield actionable information. Comprise your groups of people of various tenures, seniority levels, and departments for the best effect. Prepare and distribute the agenda in advance, and have your list of questions ready. At the same time, be flexible enough to follow the conversation wherever it goes. For instance, I once facilitated a focus group for the purpose of reviewing the company’s performance evaluation process. We definitely covered that topic, but what I also learned is that employees felt the lack of a strategic plan that would have given them the confidence to know how their work was impacting the current and future plans of leadership. After revamping performance evaluation, I was given the green light to create a strategic planning committee.

#3. 360 Feedback

A former colleague of mine once said about 360 feedback: “… it has got to be handled very carefully as people sometimes use it as a way to complain. You must have a performance system that deals with specific measurable behaviors.”

Um … yeah. Well, I’d worked with this manager personally, and I’m sure people did complain about her. She was a terrible manager, and an even worse human being.

But I digress. The point is, many unskilled and even abusive managers shy away from 360 feedback for obvious reasons, but leaders who want to develop and use power responsibly won’t.

As for the “specific measurable behaviors” part, sure that sounds reasonable, but the impact of many unproductive workplace behaviors can’t exactly be measured. For instance, how do you measure the effects of a micromanaging leader who undercuts her subordinate’s confidence level while bottlenecking processes? Such managers will almost always find a way to blame someone else for the results of their own actions. So, while measurable is definitely good, you’ll also want to focus on comments that indicate a trend, even if you can’t measure the impact of those trends in hard numbers.

#4. Turnover

Not all turnover is bad, but that doesn’t mean there’s no downside to folks leaving your company before their time. If your organization has more than its fair share of voluntary turnover, your culture may be the culprit. However, don’t dismiss the “tell” of too many involuntary firings, either. Unless your company is going through a massive cultural shift, there’s no good reason to be firing people willy nilly. Sometimes, your employees aren’t “making it” because their work environment is unreasonably demanding, cutthroat, or chaotic. 

#5. Exit Interviews

Exit interviews get a bad rap, and I’ve certainly participated in interviews that seemed to serve no purpose other than checking a box on HR’s checklist. However, done correctly, exit interviews can provide you with some much needed information about what’s working and what’s not in your company.

Your company culture is key to your organization’s success. Follow our tips for assessing it accurately.

Crystal Spraggins

Freelance Writer, Editor, and HR Consultant in Philly. You can find more of Crystal's work at:

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