Measuring corporate culture is more than surveying your people

September 7, 2018 4:54 pm

The importance of corporate culture for ensuring that people do the right thing was highlighted by the keynote speaker, Graham Bradley (AM FAICD) at the AICD Directors update today. It was evident from some of the questions asked that directors see the merits of measuring and shaping culture but are not necessarily sure how to do it well. Survey data can be misleading, as has been highlighted by findings of the Royal Commission, where ‘high performing’ companies with ‘great engagement scores’ and strong ‘customer service metrics’ were still found to have vulnerabilities in their culture that inadvertently encouraged people to do the wrong thing.

It is essential to get below the ‘numbers’ to gain insight into what is happening on the ground.  In our diagnostic work with organisations across a range of industries, we find that often a deeper dive is required. Our Change Forensic™ surfaces qualitative data that enables us to get beneath the ‘numbers’ and even the superficial comments typical of survey data. Is essential to uncover the perception of the business environment and leadership approach from the employee’s standpoint. This qualitative approach ensures we get a clear sense of the context including the ‘why’ versus just the ‘what’.  It necessary for leaders to clearly understand the impact of culture on people’s mindset and behaviour before they start trying to make changes.

Equally, leaders must recognise that culture is shaped much more by what they do and say every day than by the carefully crafted corporate ‘values’ that adorn the walls of the office.  Humans are highly social; we come to value, not just what we are rewarded for but also what we see ‘others who are important in our lives’ value. If there is ambiguity in the leaders’ behaviour related to things like fairness, transparency versus short-term financial outcomes, then employees will not be clear on what the ‘right thing’ is from the businesses perspective and they will at least some of the time, do the wrong thing’.


photo credit: Cristian Palmer on Unsplash

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