How to Get There From Here. Measuring Company Culture

Published February 15, 2023
Man in a winter scene standing in front of a bright red garage door.

Without a point of reference, it's unlikely you'll get where you want to go. Without Measuring Company Culture, the same is true.

Airplane pilots and business leaders know this to be true.

What do I mean? I'm so glad you asked 😉

In aviation, there's a phenomenon known as spatial disorientation. Pilots flying in cloud cover or at night time have no visual point of reference and depend completely on instruments to give them information about airspeed, altitude, and orientation. Without reliable instruments, a pilot can become disoriented and unwittingly fly a course that leads to disaster, sometimes even flying completely inverted without the sensation of being upside down.

As a founder or executive, you may have aspirations of a thriving company culture that fosters connection and collaboration across distance and time zones, but strategy without analysis may not take your business where you want it to go.

Getting Your Bearings

Let's talk for a moment about the current state of your company's culture. How does one go about measuring culture? Do you have a gut feeling about what it's like to experience working with your company? If so, do you have any data that supports your intuition? Without measurable insights, you may be on a collision course with a cultural cliff and have no idea. Your best intentions to elevate the experience may land short of the runway if not informed by a reliable point of reference.

Why Does This Matter?

In many of my conversations, I hear that people experience and culture initiatives are a low priority, and stabilizing cash flow is top of mind for founders and CEOs right now. I believe that the two goals are not mutually exclusive. People experience investments don't directly generate revenue, nor do they cut cost, but they do impact a third area: profitability. This includes things like:

  • Keeping valuable contributors in their seats longer
  • Increased productivity and output
  • Increased recruitment efficiency through strength of employer brand and referrals
  • Increased customer satisfaction and retention when working with skilled and experienced team members
  • More effective employee onboarding

A quick look at the list shows a clear connection between 'HR' and the bottom line.

Getting Ready for takeoff

Since you're a smart business leader and you see the clear value connected with people and culture investments (talent attraction, conversion, retention, productivity, and branding), now is a great time to set your flight up for success. There are two essential parts to your pre-flight check.

1. Ask

It's an ancient truth that we often, "have not, because we ask not." There is data between the ears of your team members that would significantly impact your organization's profitability. The good news is that you don't need an invasive procedure to extract it. There are a variety of painless ways to get to the most valuable insights, but it all boils down to asking for them. Common ways of asking for this data include:

The goal is for you as a leader to never experience that, "Why didn't anybody tell me!" moment, only to hear your colleagues say, "You never asked.".

2. Listen

It's not enough to hear, listening includes understanding and action. Unfortunately, data often lands in a spreadsheet and sits on a virtual shelf collecting dust. It's crucial to be informed by feedback, both qualitative and quantitative. If the information collected creates a puzzle with a few missing pieces, it's important to stay curious. Don't throw the data out with the bathwater if it doesn't give you clear answers right away.

Show your proactive listening skills by blocking time on a periodic basis to open up those spreadsheets and drink in the numbers. Look for trends or warning flags that your people are waving at you. And, of course, don't ignore the signs that there's a problem with your flight plan. Taking corrective action is the pinnacle of listening.

Trusting Your Instruments

Now that you've established a baseline of culture measurement, you can safely move ahead with projects and investments designed to strengthen the culture of your company. You won't be flying in the dark. You'll have reliable insights to guide your team as they work to enhance the experience of your organization's greatest asset, its people. Continue to ask questions and chart your team's responses as you continue on your journey.

A view from 30,000 feet

Taking a step away from the daily grind and surveying the scene from a different perspective can be an eye-opening experience. Many business leaders react to problems as they come. Don't wait until some of your best people start handing in their notices, or your best clients complain about the level of service. Taking a bird's eye view of employee experience now will pay dividends, as much as $520 per employee each year. What is that worth to your company? You do the math.

If you're looking for a guide to help navigate this course, I'd love to talk with you about starting an Employee Experience Audit.