Organizational culture matters. It affects employee engagement and an organization’s ability to differentiate, compete and attract purpose-driven talent. Businesses committed to shaping a healthy culture should start by evaluating the state of their current culture.
Evaluating organizational culture gives leaders a sense of where the culture stands today and provides insights on what steps to take to nurture and sustain a positive work environment.
Follow these practical steps on how to evaluate organizational culture:
1. Start with a values assessment
A values assessment helps companies determine if the organization is actively living its values. This assessment shouldn’t quiz employees on whether they know the values, but instead, evaluate whether employees and leadership are living them.
One way effective, values-aligned organizations review employee behavior against desired behavior is by incorporating values into annual reviews. An organization with a value of collaboration, for example, might add a question to its review about how effective employees are when working with colleagues.
Reviewing employees against values creates opportunities to positively reinforce value-aligned behavior and correct misaligned behavior. An organization can also assess whether it’s acting according to its values by surveying employees about how well they think leadership — and the organization as a whole — is living the values.
A values assessment is essential when evaluating culture because it encourages organizations to consider whether they’re behaving in the way they intended. If there is a mismatch between values and behavior, the organization either needs to re-evaluate its values or implement company-wide initiatives to reground and activate them consistently. Leadership should model values through both words and actions, and all internal communication should incorporate them.
2. Consider cross-functional metrics
Finance, operations and human resource departments often track metrics that are helpful when evaluating organizational culture. These include productivity metrics, like absenteeism, PTO and sick time usage, and realization reporting. Recruitment and retention metrics are also important because they give insight into whether the organization is a great place to work. Businesses that engage cross-functional teams when evaluating organizational culture can uncover data points that signal how the culture is performing.
Organizational culture is typically strong when productivity metrics are high, employee tenure length is stable or increasing, and the time it takes to fill a role is stable or decreasing. Regularly evaluating cross-functional data increases the chances of spotting concerning trends before they significantly impact the organization’s culture.
3. Gather employee input
Checking in with employees through surveys is one of the most effective ways to evaluate organizational culture. Common tools for gathering input include employee engagement, pulse and eNPS® surveys. Each survey type has its benefits, and using a balance of all three allows organizations to continually gauge culture.
Employee engagement surveys are a traditional, in-depth method used to assess things like employee satisfaction and well-being. Engagement studies are effective at tracking trends over time and informing strategic planning, human resources efforts and organizational initiatives. However, they can take months to evaluate and should not be the only tool used.
Shorter surveys, like eNPS and pulse surveys, are a strong complement to employee engagement studies. These surveys are easy for employees to complete, which reduces survey fatigue and can quickly uncover how employees are feeling. The quick insights gained enable organizations to take action more quickly if needed.
Establishing a survey strategy and cadence helps organizations evaluate their culture on an ongoing basis. Businesses must prioritize evaluating survey input with urgency to effectively activate employee input in a timely manner.
4. Review external indicators
There are also external sources to explore when evaluating organizational culture. These sources include employee review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, and company awards and accolades.
External, third-party feedback is essential to evaluating organizational culture because it’s another temperature check on how employees feel about the culture. These anonymous forums empower employees to provide honest feedback about organizations. Negative themes in external forums can surface issues that require attention. These negative, public reviews can affect recruitment and retention if left unchecked.
The journey to a sustainable, healthy and happy culture starts by learning how to evaluate organizational culture effectively. When a business understands its culture, it can make the necessary investments to nurture and grow that culture in support of its employees and purpose.