Workplace culture matters. It affects employee engagement, productivity and profitability, and an organization’s ability to differentiate and compete. Organizations committed to shaping a healthy workplace culture should start by evaluating the state of their current culture.
Evaluating workplace 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 workplace.
Follow these practical steps on how to evaluate workplace culture:
Start with a values assessment
Review your organizational values. Do an honest assessment to 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 — matches the values.
A values assessment is essential when evaluating workplace culture because it encourages organizations to consider whether they’re behaving in the way they intended. If there is a mismatch between organizational values and behavior, the organization either needs to re-evaluate its values or implement organization-wide initiatives to reground and activate them consistently. Leadership should model values through both words and actions, and all internal communication should incorporate them.
Finance, operations and human resource departments often track metrics that are helpful when evaluating workplace 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 an appealing place to work. Organizations that engage cross-functional teams when evaluating workplace culture can uncover data points that signal how the culture is performing.
Workplace 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 workplace culture.
Gather employee input
Checking in with employees through surveys is one of the most effective ways to evaluate workplace culture. Common tools include employee engagement, pulse and eNPS® surveys. Each survey type has its benefits, and using a balance of all three allows organizations to gauge workplace culture continually.
Employee engagement surveys are a traditional, in-depth method used to gauge things like employee happiness and wellness. Engagement studies are effective at tracking trends over time and informing strategic planning and organizational initiatives, but they aren’t always actionable. Often, by the time organizations identify insights from employee engagement surveys, the culture has already shifted. Organizations must prioritize evaluating survey input with urgency to effectively activate employee input in a timely manner.
Shorter surveys, like eNPS and pulse surveys, complement employee engagement studies well. These surveys are easy for employees to complete, which reduces survey fatigue and can quickly uncover how employees are feeling. These quick insights enable organizations to take action if needed. Establishing a survey strategy and cadence help organizations evaluate workplace culture on an ongoing basis.
Evaluate external indicators
There are also external sources to turn to when evaluating workplace culture. These sources include employee review sites like Glassdoor and Indeed, and workplace awards and accolades.
External feedback is essential to evaluating workplace culture because it’s a 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 an organization’s attention. These negative, public reviews can affect recruitment and retention if left unchecked.
Use SWOT analysis for planning
A SWOT analysis, which summarizes strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, is helpful when determining next steps after evaluating the existing workplace culture. It challenges leaders to identify where the organization excels and where it needs to improve. An organization can leverage its strengths to build an authentic culture while also addressing the weaknesses that prevent it from reaching its greatest workplace culture potential.
The journey to a sustainable, healthy and happy culture starts by learning how to evaluate workplace culture effectively. When an organization understands its culture, it can make the necessary investments to nurture and grow that culture to support its employees and its purpose.
About Ayme Zemke, SVP, Client Services
Ayme Zemke leads Beehive Client Service. She has nearly twenty-four years of strategic communication experience at Twin Cities PR agencies. Ayme has led many client organizations through culture transformations with an employee-focused strategy that empowers growth from the inside out. She has the unique gift of seeing and understanding people’s needs and making meaningful connections that build trust. But that’s just part of what makes her a master of client service. Ayme’s clients and teams quickly learn that her insights get to the heart of what really matters to move businesses forward with purpose.