EVERYONE KNOWS a company’s culture is vital to its success, but few know how to measure it. The annual employee performance review, retention rate, Glassdoor posts, engagement surveys, and cultural health assessments help, but these tools provide only a glimpse into the culture.
It’s hard to measure something when we don’t know how to define it. Most people see culture as separate from the business, and because of that culture cannot be assessed by business metrics. We define culture as “How things get done, fueled by vision, values, and behavior.” With this definition, culture becomes a tool to support the business, much like Six Sigma is for manufacturing, and culture can be assessed using tools like balanced scorecards, balance sheets, and profit margins.
Here are some other tools companies are using to measure the health of their cultures (with the help from the Wall Street Journal article by Peter Cappelli called “It’s Time to Get Rid of Employee Survey’s).
- Study exit interviews of employees who have resigned,
- To assess employee benefits, deploy a focus group process,
- Create chat rooms and monitor them to learn what employees think about policies,
- Study the language employees use in their electronic communications, such as emails, Slack messages and Glassdoor reviews (From the work of Amir Goldberg at Sandford University and Samer Srivanstava at the University of California, Berkeley),
- Deploy two or three question pulse surveys and require employees to complete before they can log into their workstation,
- Notice the words and phrases used by employees when they describe their work, coworkers, or the company. In the book Tribal Leadership, the authors describe the different language patterns used in different stages of culture, or what they refer to as tribes. For example, listen to “us versus them” statements and words to describe the company as “we”.
Because culture is as pervasive as the air we breathe and involves all aspects of the business, there is no one tool to measure its health. And as Sam Walton of Walmart once said: “People behave in the areas in which they are measured.” Thus, to assess culture, one needs many tools.