How can you Measure Organisational Culture?

 
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Before we look at the various ways you might measure organisational culture it’s important to first understand what organisational culture is. Organisational culture, has been widely debated and discussed over the years. One of the prevailing thoughts about what organisational culture is, is the one that you’re most likely to have heard, from Deal & Kennedy:

“It’s the way things are done around here”

But what people are unlikely to tell you is, is that it’s actually about the “unspoken” rules of how things get done. In effect you can think about it as the personality of a company seen through the eyes of the employees.

Daniel Coyle, on the other hand, has an alternative opinion about what organisational culture is. He focuses on the concept of living relationships, working towards a common goal. That's living relationships between the employees and the leaders which in effect is what makes the company.

 
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Ultimately, organisational culture is defined as the underlying beliefs, assumptions, values and ways of interacting, that contribute to the unique social and psychological environment of an organisation. In essence company culture has everything to do with how employees, prospective employees, customers, and the public perceive your organisation and what makes it unique.  

What is the difference between company culture and company climate?

Often when you hear the term organisational culture, it is quickly followed by the term “climate”. So, what is the difference between the two? Although they are interrelated, as we mentioned above, culture is much more firmly rooted in the values, the assumptions and the belief systems, that form and influence the set of standard behaviours within the organisation, which can often be harder to see. Whereas, climate is much more observable. Organisational climate is often defined as the recurring patterns of behaviour or habits, attitudes and feelings that characterise life in an organisation.

Whilst culture can be slow to change and often quite hard to change due to the fact that it's an accumulation of multiple climates, the climate of an organisation is more malleable. It is dependent on different situations and can change quite rapidly, which means you have more of an opportunity to be able to change it team by team, leader by leader.

So, when considering culture change in an organisation you’ll likely have more impact working at evolving the micro climates that exist within an organisation, opposed to attempting to tackle driving an entire culture change.

Daniel Goldman offers us some great insights about climate. He suggests that 33% of the financial performance at the business unit level is a result of an organisational climate. Which means you as the HR function have the opportunity to have a financial impact on the organisation through the people side of the business and working with your leaders to build a positive organisational climate and ultimately evolve the company culture.

How can you measure your company culture?

Now that we understand the difference between organisational culture and the micro climates that influence the culture, we begin to understand how powerful organisational culture can be. It can impact sales, profits, recruiting efforts and employee morale – whether that be positively or negatively. Having a good company culture can inspire employees to be more positive and productive at work while improving retention rates. The benefits of a good culture don’t just stop there, it can be your best recruiter attracting highly skilled, qualified candidates who are actively looking to work for your organisation.

So, how do you measure the culture within your organisation to ensure you’re reaping all of the benefits it has to offer?

 
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Some of the most common and easily actionable methods that can be implemented to help understand the culture of your organisation are: engagement surveys – to understand how engaged your employees are. Culture surveys – to review the unique beliefs, behaviours, and practices of your company against how they’re perceived by your employees. Climate surveys – to identify what makes that team tick and Pulse checks – which provide a snapshot in time, on the engagement within an organisation.

1.     Engagement Surveys

Engagement is not the same as what we used to measure in satisfaction. It goes way beyond that. Engagement is really measuring the discretionary effort that your employees are willing to give because they are so motivated by working for your company. The discretionary effort is “I'm willing to go that extra mile”. It doesn't have to mean individuals working longer hours it can mean actually upskilling themselves or working cross functionally to provide more value to the organisation. An engagement survey will allow you to measure that your employees are fully bought into the organisation and company values and are willing to go that extra mile. Which is great, given we know that an engaged employee is four times more likely to go the extra mile than a disengaged employee. However, with only 13% of employees across 142 countries are considered ‘engaged’ according to Dr. Amy Armstrong from Anchorage, driving engagement through organisational culture is a little more difficult than one might anticipate.

2.     Culture Surveys

In essence, a culture survey will enable you to review the unique beliefs, behaviours, and practices of your company against how they’re perceived by your employees of the organisation. They’re designed to help organisations define and diagnose their organisational culture to determine if it is healthy and well aligned with the organisation's strategy.

Culture surveys ask individuals questions that relate to their observations of collective patterns of behaviour within the business and are notably different to engagement surveys in that they don’t ask for an individual’s personal feelings but rather attempt to identify patterns of behaviour that they observe within the organisation and the potential sources of those patterns.

The findings of a culture survey can support the organisation to really tailor and fine tune their journey as they attempt to transition from the current patterns of behaviours to those that will underpin the strategic goals of the organisation.

3.     Climate Surveys

As we’ve discussed, culture is measuring at the organisational level and climate is measuring at the team level. Climate surveys provide leaders with an indication of the views, attitudes and sentiments of those who work in their teams and functions. Besides the benefits to the leadership teams in understanding employee sentiment, and what really makes a team or function tick, it provides employees with an opportunity to channel their opinions and thoughts via an official route, ultimately allowing them to feel heard. Climate surveys provide a baseline of data that supports the organisation better to understand the need of their employees and what is and isn’t working.

4.     Pulse Checks

Pulse surveys are becoming increasingly popular, while they’re considered to be quite similar to employee engagement surveys the core differences lay in the length and frequency of when they’re conducted and they always measure the same elements in order to provide you with a trending analysis. The employee pulse check provides leaders with a ‘pulse’ – a snapshot in time, on the engagement within their organisation or team. Given that data in a pulse check is collected on a monthly or quarterly basis it provides a new dimension to the analysis that can be carried out on the data and that is time. Pulse checks allow organisations to track items at a regular, frequent interval, so that they can plot trends over time, react when necessary and start to link improvements back to actions they’ve taken within the organisation. 

As we’ve seen, assessing organisational culture is a crucial step in driving organisational success. It is reported that 48% of employees will leave a job due to poor organisational culture and climate. Thus, measuring your companies organisational culture on a regular basis will provide you with important data on how to retain a positive work environment and help drive financial success.


Learn more about Organisational Culture…

Organisations are becoming increasingly interested in understanding their company culture and culture is becoming a top priority for CHROs. It is becoming increasingly important for HR leaders to manage the organisation's sense of purpose, and to engage the workforce in alignment with business needs. In our newest course “Culture and Mindset Change in a Digital Era” Sonia Allinson-Penny takes you through the importance of a growth mindset in supporting cultural change in a digital era and how to successfully bring your employees on a change journey.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Manpreet Randhawa is the Head of Digital Content for myHRfuture.com. In her previous role as the Change Management Lead for People Planning, Design & Analytics at Cisco Systems, she was responsible for defining and executing on the change management strategy to successfully implement and sustain the digital and cultural transformation across the enterprise. Manpreet is very passionate about change management and technology and how to use both to transform the employee experience and prepare companies for the Future of Work.