Is it Possible to do a Workplace Culture Assessment?
Many organizational leaders are interested in changing their workplace culture but are not too sure where to start the process. Do I start with my senior team? Should I begin at the coal-face, with front-line workers? What if I do it wrong? How long will it take? How will I know I am successful? These are the kinds of questions I receive from leaders all the time about creating a productive workplace culture.
My advice is always this: Begin by doing a workplace culture assessment. What exactly does that mean? is often the reply. Assessing a culture is an important first step to create the necessary set of benchmarks for leaders to determine any appreciable shift in culture. What do we benchmark?
My research has demonstrated that there are eight shared values of the employment relationship; that is, the relationship between managers and employees. These eight values are commonplace in successful organizations with a productive workplace culture.
The values are the lynch-pin that connects the employer and employee. I argue strongly that the health of the employment relationship is the most critical determinant of the quality of the workplace culture.
For instance, if the employment relationship is characterized by a ‘them and us’ type of relationship, then it would hardly be surprising that the workplace will feature authoritarian management, hierarchical power structures, and little or no evidence of employee empowerment.
On the other hand, it the relationship is characterized as harmonious and collaborative, it is likely that the culture will be characterized by a flatter, more organic organizational structure, employee autonomy and empowerment, and informal lines of communication.
These values include:
- Flexible deployment of employee skills
- Project-based work structures
- The merging of human spirit and work
- Commitment to the strategic direction
- Learning organization
- Open communication channels
The values of a traditional employment relationship are the opposite:
- Specialize employment structures
- Function-based work structures
- Evidence of human dispirit and work
- Valuing loyalty over commitment
- An emphasis on procedural learning
- Closed communication channels
So, step one is to complete a workplace culture assessment. This involves completing an on-line survey, consisting of 80-items. This survey is completed in approximately 15-minutes. The report is produced, and a project team is appointed to analyse the survey data.
This project team is representative of the organization-at-large. It is a small replica of the whole organization. The facilitator then works with the team to produce a second report. The key questions to be answered in the workshop are:
- Why are the results the way they are?
- What examples can you give from your perspective that validate these results?
- What steps can be taken to improve the culture of the workplace to better reflect the eight values of highly productive organizations?
From this workshop, the team present their recommendations to the senior executive team who decide which recommendations to implement. Implementation takes place.
For example, due to low skill levels of many new recruits, the project team recommends the implementation of an organizational-wide coaching and mentoring program to utilize the skills-set of many experienced workers. Or, it might be suggested that a newsletter be produced to improve communication across the various departments of the organization.
The recommendations are based on the project team’s collective response to the survey results.
Twelve months later, the workplace culture assessment is repeated. The idea here is to be able to compare the culture across a 12-month time frame.
- Have the interventions worked?
- Have they made a different?
- Where have they made a difference?
- What work is left to be done?
These questions can be confidently answered with an annual workplace culture assessment report. The assessment provides a train track to run on for every member of the organization.
This approach is applicable for private sector, public sector, and not-for-profits. It is applicable for any organization who wants to change their culture.
Workplace culture assessment is an integral part of changing a culture of an organization. Without this assessment, we will be hard pressed to be able to scientifically determine whether the management program to change the culture has been successful. The eight values of a productive organizational culture are characteristic of a cialis healthy working relationship between employer and employee.