This article is the second in a series: About Concept Organization’s Cultural Consulting Process. You can read Part I: Examining Company Culture here.
Part II: Evaluating a Company’s Culture
Company culture isn’t a fixture (though when you consider your own impressions of sit-stand desks, nap pods, company gyms and motivational posters you can certainly see how culture can manifest loudly through fixtures).
Rather, culture is a living thing that develops over time. The best way to think about it is like a relationship. You may have met someone once, but it takes more than that to really get to know someone. Culture is similar: every new situation and challenge allows us to witness the culture and provides an opportunity for tuned-in leaders to reinforce cultural ideals.
Because culture is all-pervading it can be difficult for your top leaders, who may have worked at the company for decades (or even never worked elsewhere), to clearly understand the state of the culture they create every day.
For these reasons, a simple external perspective can be the most valuable tool you have to analyze your culture. And that’s where we come in.
While you could simply drop our flourishing-focused tools and events into your company and see some quick wins from a fresh perspective and new purposeful conversation topics, we aren’t big fans of the honeymoon effect. We also don’t believe in a one-size-fits-all approach to evolving culture. Rather, we focus on building shared understanding of your company’s unique cultural goals and challenges.
To get started on a solid foundation, we always offer to provide a cultural evaluation before we discuss specific action plans.
How Our Cultural Evaluation Works
The goal of our cultural evaluation is to inquire into and experience your culture to uncover insights.
While it would be reassuring to believe that someone could objectively and clinically diagnose a company’s culture without upsetting the status quo, this is not how the reality we all inhabit functions.
We humans are clever and observant, so every act we take in attempt to understand the system also creates impressions in employees that affect the system.
This may sound unnerving, but it can also work in our favor. Culture has a lot to do with opinions and perception, so taking the first step of bringing in a consultant with the stated goal of ‘improving staff satisfaction and wellbeing’ can communicate a message of care, winning hearts and minds from day one.
This being said – before we make our presence known to your organization, we begin with a 1-to 1 discussion with company leadership about your cultural goals and the boundaries you’d like to maintain throughout our activities. Before moving on, we make sure we have an agreed characterization of your initial cultural goals.
The specifics may change over time, but it’s helpful to have a direction so together we can weigh the risks and reward of various interventions and select a suitable approach for analysing and evolving your culture.
We almost always recommend beginning with some essential cultural probing exercises. They make your employees aware you’re thinking about their satisfaction and wellbeing, and without this baseline we risk misunderstanding the essential dynamics of the system.
Some techniques we regularly employ include:
- Anonymous Insight Surveys (we can use your own data if you conduct surveys already, or we have our own we can deploy)
- 1-to-1 Interviews (with select individuals)
- Shadowing / Walkthroughs
- Feedback Workshops
- Team-building Events
One thing to know is that we are always upfront and honest about our method. We don’t enjoy undercover boss shenanigans nor go out of our way to point fingers and label anyone or anything as “the problem.”
We have found that, compared with other forms of cultural intervention, our transparently stated goal of building “human flourishing” in the company can help ease fears and instill a perception that those who commissioned our work authentically care about employee wellbeing and growth and are doing the work to continuously improve.
The period of analysis can last for as long as you want to gather data. It can be as short as a single day for a light-touch survey approach or be a recurring exercise to see if your cultural programs are creating meaningful change.
Features of a Culture Report
During and after our evaluation, we report back on our findings. This read-out will cover some important aspects of company culture you may already be familiar with, including:
Employee engagement is about employees feeling like their work and ideas matter. They’re heard and their concerns are valued. It’s about having a company where they feel safe, respected, and included. A culture of safety and trust allows people to take risks, learn from mistakes, and move forward.
Consistency of Values and Expectations
Do your company tenets on the wall make a difference? Do your people know what their job description is?
Availability of Resources
Do people know where to go to get help for professional and personal challenges? Do they understand their work processes?
If your company is going through a culture change, it’s important to understand how this change will impact the people who work for you. How can you be sure that you’re giving employees the support they need and not inadvertently creating new mental health challenges? This is where the concept of “culture fit” becomes critical. Employees need to know what’s expected of them, and this is when your defined cultural goals from earlier become important. We advice inclusivity, but if your authentic values include “extreme performance” or “customer obsession” this should be weighed against whether your existing staff “fit” with these cultural goals.
“The Smell of the Place”
This can relate to the physical working conditions (yes, even the smell) or the prevailing attitude about the place of business. This speaks to the feeling of spending time at the company – would I want to come to work here?
So Now You Know – What’s next?
Armed with the outcome of our analysis and intervention mechanisms, you should have your own ideas of some helpful next steps. One obvious next step is to continue to iterate on our information gathering and intervention process until the desired changes manifest.
You can also help the process along or point it in a particular direction by mindfully implementing procedural changes or new programs. It can be a bit overwhelming to think about taking big culture-defining actions alongside your daily leadership commitments (although your every action may quickly become culture-defining as your cultural awareness increases).
For efficiency, it can be helpful to delegate explicit culture-building by finding volunteers or forming for a cultural committee of some sort, led by a trusted colleague worth emulating. Additionally, junior staff are often excited about making an impact, so including them in the creation and deployment of cultural programs can be a great way to get them engaged.
To support your company’s journey, Concept’s goal is to provide everything needed to build a flourishing culture. Though every culture is unique and we can’t claim to have all the answers in a box, we have collected our most impactful flourishing resources in our App and deliver many of them in the form of on-site and virtual workshops. You can learn more about our specific offerings on our About page.
Thanks for joining us for this exploration into understanding company culture. We’re always happy to have a call or come on-site to help you get started with revitalizing the hidden engine of your success: your flourishing people.
You can always contact us to learn how to bring a bit more flourishing into your operations.