If you run a business, you likely already know that a strong company culture is essential. You need your organization’s culture to engage your workforce. This is key to maximizing productivity, efficiency, and retention.
That said, knowing you need a positive company culture isn’t the same as knowing whether your current culture is strong. You can’t improve your culture if you don’t understand its strengths and weaknesses.
Luckily, there are several ways to assess your company culture. The following are some noteworthy examples to keep in mind:
Look at the Numbers
Before exploring your organization’s culture in greater detail, it often helps to start by getting a basic sense of whether it could generally be considered strong or weak. A simple way to do this is to review a few important metrics. Specifically, you should research average turnover rates in your industry, then review your own turnover rates. Compare yours to the competition to see how it stacks up.
High turnover rates often indicate a weak company culture. If your culture isn’t engaging employees, they’ll be more likely to seek employment elsewhere.
You might also want to research the amount of time it should take a company of your size and in your field to fill open positions. In some instances, taking too long to fill jobs is a sign that job-seekers haven’t heard positive stories about your company culture from current or former employees. Although plenty of factors can influence how long it takes to hire people, your culture’s reputation is often a major one.
It’s worth noting that evaluating the current state of your company culture isn’t a research project you can accomplish solely on your own or delegate to just one person. You’ll get a much clear perspective on the topic if you engage with a broad segment of the company.
Anthropologists know that stories and folktales are a huge part of every human culture on the planet. The same is true within your company—the stories you tell each other matter. Ask people who’ve been with the organization for a long time to reflect on the stories and “legends” people continue to share throughout the company. When any organization has been around for a few years, employees will eventually begin retelling stories about memorable moments, their coworkers, parties, big projects, and major challenges. These stories can indicate what values are important within your organization—what matters and what’s worth celebrating.
Once again, it’s important that you emphasize honesty when considering which stories seem to have resonated with your workforce the most. For instance, perhaps many of your most memorable stories involve heated arguments and emotional conflicts. While it can be slightly embarrassing to admit this to yourself, reflecting on these stories can help you more clearly understand what aspects of your company culture (if any) need to change.
Distribute Anonymous Surveys
Executives at your company may be willing to be honest when discussing your company culture. Like you, they have a vested interest in making improvements if your culture is deficient in some way.
However, employees lower on the corporate ladder might not be so eager to share honest feedback. Employees often assume that saying anything negative about their boss or the company will come back to haunt them somehow.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t solicit feedback from your workforce. You simply want to do so anonymously. People are more inclined to tell the truth if you ask them to reflect on your company culture in the form of anonymous surveys.
In these surveys, ask employees to describe what aspects of working at the company spark their passion and engage them. If your company culture is strong, they’ll be able to answer this question relatively easily. More importantly, if your culture is positive, you’ll likely notice certain trends. You can also take a more direct approach and simply ask them to describe the company culture, in their own words.
Do Your Research
Do some observational research of your employees over a period of a few weeks. How do they interact with each other? Is there a lot of laughter and chitchat in the kitchen or break area? Do people seem tense and withdrawn? Do they eat lunch together? How do people resolve conflicts? Notice how your middle managers treat their employees—what’s that relationship like?
You can also research what people are saying about your company on platforms such as Glassdoor.com, which allows current and former workers to review their employers. These reviews will provide you with honest, specific feedback. It’s not uncommon for many Glassdoor reviews to cite the specific reasons a company’s culture is or isn’t engaging. These types of specific details offer actionable insights.
Of course, if you’re fortunate, you may eventually discover that your company culture is already strong. If it’s not, however, you need to make changes. Following these steps will help you determine what’s working, what isn’t, and where to start trying to make improvements.