An organization’s culture consists of the values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors that employees share and use on a daily basis in their work. The organization culture determines how employees describe where they work, how they understand the business, and how they see themselves as part of the organization. Culture is also a driver of decisions, actions, and ultimately the overall performance of the organization.
How would employees describe the culture of your organization?
Some of the common positive responses we hear on employee surveys are:
- This is a fun place to work.
- We are focused on results.
- Everyone here cares about each other like we are family members.
- This is a great place to learn and grow.
Conversely, here are a few of the negative descriptions we hear from employees at some organizations:
- You can’t speak up without fear of retribution.
- I don’t feel trusted to do my job.
- Things have changed here. We are more corporate. It used to feel like we were all family.
- I don’t see how my work contributes to the overall goals of the company.
Cultures are either created organically or through deliberate and consistent planning and action. The best organizations understand their culture and take careful steps to manage and promote it effectively. One of the ways organizations begin to manage their culture is to gather feedback from employees to see how aligned they are with the current and/or desired culture. One way to do this is to define the desired cultural attributes and then measure them through an employee survey.
Here are 12 attributes to evaluate your organization culture:
- Respect/Fairness: Do employees feel like they are treated with fairness and respect regardless of their position, sexual identity, race, or tenure? Are policies implemented consistently across the organization? Do managers play favorites?
- Trust/Integrity: Do leaders live up to the values of the organization? Is there transparency in communication? Do employees feel trusted to do their jobs?
- Change/Adaptability: Do we promote change as a competitive advantage? Do we allow enough time for changes? Is there effective communication about change? Are employees allowed to speak up before changes are made that affect them?
- Results Orientation: Do we strive to achieve results as an organization? Are people held accountable to their commitments? Do we have incentives that encourage the right behaviors?
- Teamwork: Do we collaborate well across departments and functions? Are there clear expectations for how we do our work? Is there clear ownership for different processes in the system?
- Employee Engagement: Do we value the talents and contributions of our employees as the key factor for our success? Do we create an environment where people can engage?
- Responsibility/Accountability: Do we do what we say we will do? Do we encourage people to take risks and allow them to make mistakes? Do we have a “blame” culture?
- Learning Opportunities: Do we focus on providing growth opportunities for our employees? Are there clear learning objectives for every position in the organization? Do we encourage employees to take on new projects?
- Meaning/Purpose: Is our mission important to our employees? How does our organization contribute to better the world? Do employees understand how their job role contributes to the greater good?
- Communication: Do we communicate frequently and consistently about what’s going on? Are we transparent in our communications? Do we explain the why behind changes?
- Decision Making: Do we provide the appropriate decision-making authority to all employees in the organization? Do I know who to work with to get a decision made?
- Goals/Strategy: Are we aligned with the overall organization goals and strategy? Is the strategy meaningful to employees? Is everyone clear on how we will achieve our strategy?
Some of these attributes might match your organization values. Values are also important because they describe the way we achieve the overall mission of the organization. Values can be used to describe your culture. For example, “We have a performance-based culture that encourages open and honest discussion and challenges the status quo.”
Use your employee survey results to understand the current environment. Then decide what attributes you want to keep and develop a plan to eliminate those elements that are toxic. Make a plan to communicate the aspirational culture to employees and leaders. Measure again in six months to a year to see if employees are seeing a difference in their experience. Culture change takes time, so be consistent in creating experiences and stories that align with the desired culture.