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Five Surefire Ways to Accurately Assess Your Organizational Culture

March 1, 2020

By: Wendy Sheaffer

Companies that actively manage their cultures tend to be more successful than companies that don’t. In fact, Deloitte’s research has found that organizations that develop and promote a strong sense of purpose among employees have 30 percent higher levels of innovation and 40 percent higher retention rates. They also rank among the top one or two firms in their respective markets.

So why is assessing organizational culture so important?

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

More importantly, knowing your organizational culture is key to effective business practices, such as hiring for cultural 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.

Five Surefire Ways to Assess Your Organizational Culture

1. Employee Surveys

Frequent and regular employee “pulse” surveys tell employers what people are thinking in real-time. The surveys typically contain between three and fifteen 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 at the moment. When done consistently, pulse surveys are a powerful tool for assessing your actual organizational culture rather than 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. They 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 results. You should always prepare and distribute the agenda in advance and have your list of questions ready. At the same time, stay 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 I also learned that employees felt the lack of a strategic plan left them unclear about how their work was impacting the current and future plans of leadership. After revamping performance evaluations, I was given the green light to create a strategic planning committee.

3. 360° Feedback

Distinct from a performance review, 360° feedback surveys allow team members to provide honest, anonymous feedback about their managers and coworkers. They offer employees a unique opportunity to learn how their performance and behavior is viewed by others, all without having to express their thoughts through a metric of some kind. That’s because the impact of many unproductive workplace behaviors can’t exactly be easily measured. For instance, how do you measure the workplace culture effects of a micromanaging leader who undercuts their 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. While incorporating measurables is definitely helpful, 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 Rate

Not all turnover is bad, but that doesn’t mean there’s no downside to people leaving your company before their time. If your organization has an unusually high level of voluntary turnover (the average turnover rate varies by industry), your workplace 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 indiscriminately due to a lack of cultural fit. Sometimes, your employees aren’t “making it” because the work environment is unreasonably demanding, cutthroat, or chaotic. 

5. Exit Interviews

Exit interviews often get a bad rap, and when poorly handled seem to serve no purpose other than checking a box on HR’s checklist. However, if they’re conducted properly, exit interviews can provide you with some much-needed information about what’s working and what’s not in your company. This is especially important if high-performing or long-tenured employees suddenly begin leaving the organization. While the exodus could be a coincidence, it could be a warning sign that something has gone wrong with your workplace culture. Exit interviews are the best way to diagnose the problem because they allow departing employees to speak honestly without fear of retribution.

Given the huge role that organizational culture plays in a successful company, it’s critical that companies have systems in place to accurately assess the way employees feel about their workplace. By implementing tools and processes to gather feedback from multiple directions, you can develop a comprehensive and detailed picture of what’s going on with your organizational culture and take steps to address any potential problems before they have a chance to impact your bottom line.

Wendy Sheaffer

Chief Product Officer at The Omnia Group, an employee assessment firm providing the power of behavioral insight to help organizations make successful hires and develop exceptional employees. Wendy joined Omnia as an analyst in 1998 and is a subject matter expert in using Omnia’s 8 columns as a tool to make more-informed hiring and development decisions and effectively engage staff. She works directly with clients and Omnia staff to provide a deeper understanding of how to use personality data to meet business goals. Wendy provides strategic direction on client requests, projects and product training sessions. For more information, email info@omniagroup.com or call 800.525.7117.

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