How to Measure Work Place Culture


Last week we talked about how workplace culture can be defined.

This week I would like to work through some ideas on the ways you can define and measure your workplace culture.
If culture is defined as a set of “commonly held and relatively stable beliefs, attitudes and values that exist within an organisation” then what is the best way to gather this information about those beliefs, attitudes and values.
It is key to remember that every culture is different – this is important to be top of mind when you start the planning of research into the information about your particular culture.
Culture can be broken into the following components:

culture measurment

We can then break each component down in order to start to define your individual culture. After each component is defined I have some suggestions on how you go about collecting information about that particular area of culture.

Symbols – this is the most basic unit of culture – these are the things you see – often first impressions. Examples of symbols include

  • Logo, values posters, vision posters etc
  • Office layout
  • Building
  • Dress code
  • Posters on noticeboards, Photos
  • Reception Area

To collect this information walk around your business with your symbols eyes on – what would a new staff member or customer see when they walk in the door, what would a new staff member see on their first day, what are on the walls of your organisation, are you open plan, is it noisy, do you have your logo and values on the walls anywhere, are they easy to see, how is everyone dressed – jeans, smart casual, formal, how do you want your customers to perceive how your company is dressed?

culture eyes

Language – Is the linguistic representation of culture –

  • How you talk to each other
  • Jargon
  • Slang/Swearing (tolerated or not)
  • Common sayings
  • Jokes etc.

Just as above – walk around your organisation with your language ears on – what is the tone of the conversation, do people talk with respect, are they having fun, do people actually listen to each other and do they hear what is said.

culture ears

Narratives – are another linguistic representation of culture – e.g.

  • Stories about your organisation
  • Myths or legends
  • Sagas

These types of narratives can be hard to find but are very powerful in terms of how your organisations culture has become what it is today.
Check out what is said on About Us on your website, ask new recruits what they had heard about the company before they started, any history you can find about the organisation – all help to define your unique culture

And then there is Practices – this is the most complex component e.g.

  • Behaviours – leadership styles, meetings (on time or not), phones on or off in meetings
  • Rituals – induction, performance appraisal processes, recruitment process, pay rounds, staff satisfaction surveys, redundancy processes
  • Rites – Who gets offices or open plan, promotions
  • Ceremonies – awards, Friday night drinks, leaving do’s, long service awards

One of the easiest ways to collect information about practices is using the IBM Kenexa survey. This is often seen as a Staff Satisfaction Survey but the tool can also be used to collect cultural information. This survey is able to be tailored to your specific company needs. You can get staff satisfaction figures but also critical cultural information.

But you do not have to spend big money to get your cultural information – it’s about awareness from the top all the way down. If you can, create a team to work on this – from all levels of your organisation. It’s a great project for people to be involved in.

Once you have gathered the information you require – ask yourself (and your team) is this where you want your organisations culture to be and if not what parts can you change to instil new behaviours.

It is also important to then use the information collected to make positive change. Communication back to staff about changes is critical.

The biggest way to decrease staff morale is to ask for feedback and then not use it (I have seen this happen in many organisations).

staff unhappy

Remember that cultures are constantly changing as all sorts of internal and external influences affect your company.

We look forward to hearing about techniques you may have used to define your culture.

 by Emma Worseldine

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