Doing a Corporate Culture Survey


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Most corporate culture surveys are not as effective as they could be. This article will help you to optimize your success and use the results to improve your corporate culture.

Start with Your Goals

When embarking upon a corporate culture survey project, you must start with the end in mind. What is your purpose in doing a corporate culture survey? Do you want to improve the corporate culture? If so, why? What are the main challenges that your company is facing? Do you have a good understanding of what corporate culture is? If not, I encourage you to read Understanding Corporate Culture.

I recommend that you narrow down your goals to three major goals that you would like to accomplish. Examples would include: 1) reduce employee turnover; 2) improve product delivery time; and 3) increase profitability. It is best to set quantitative goals. Even though you cannot quantify your corporate culture, it is the container for all of your results and has a direct and indirect impact on these results. By setting quantitative goals, you will be able to measure the results of your efforts by doing annual or bi-annual corporate culture surveys.

Be prepared to change your goals. While goal-setting up-front is extremely important, you may learn some things about your company and culture that lead you to re-prioritize your goals. This is fine. Be open and flexible. Try not to forecast the outcome of the survey before you get the results.

Designing a Good Corporate Culture Survey

Once you know what you are trying to accomplish in doing a survey, you can design questions around your goals. But, be careful! Quantum physics has demonstrated that the intentions of a scientist affect the outcome of her experiment. That is why I recommend that you use a survey that has been designed by an outside party. Her or she will not share your biases and the results will be less biased.

Below are the sections that we have included in the Culture Builders Corporate Culture Survey:

1. Company Mission
2. Leadership
3. Corporate Culture
4. Company Values
5. The Work Itself
6. Work Assignments
7. Work Fulfillment
8. Individual Career Development
9. Support, Training, and Coaching
10. Summary Questions

You see that the Culture Builders’ survey covers a broad range of areas. Corporate Culture is only one section. The reason for this is that culture is the container for actions, decisions, and results. You will be able to learn about your culture indirectly by querying the other areas.

Sections 1-9 are quantitative questions and section 10 has open-ended qualitative questions. The quantitative questions can be tracked by time period, which is important. You will be able to recognize trends and be proactive in avoiding a crisis. The qualitative questions will give you lots of insights and useful anecdotes.

In designing the survey, it is essential to obtain personal information from the survey participants that will help you to segment the data. For example, tenure and department are essential pieces of information. Position level may also be useful.

That said, it is critical to keep the survey confidential. People will be more willing to complete the survey and provide honest answers if they are confident that their answers cannot be traced back to them. Use design and technology to keep the answers confidential.

Implementing the Corporate Culture Survey

Make it as easy as possible for people to complete the survey. Use the technology that makes best sense for your company. I have helped companies set up surveys on their intranets and on Lotus Notes.

Set it up so that someone can begin the survey and the partial answers will be saved if they get interrupted. Make a tight timeframe for people to do the survey – one week or two weeks if people travel frequently. Send out 48 and 24 hour notices of the surveys deadline.

Getting Good Response to your Corporate Culture Survey

It is important to have the buy-in and support of the leadership team in doing this survey. Spend the time necessary to educate them about corporate culture and your goals for conducting a survey. The leadership team will then advocate for the survey and increase the response rate.

How you present the survey to potential participants is critical to the success of your project. Remember: the survey is confidential so participation is optional. If you only get 70% of people responding to the survey, you will not be able to find out who has not participated.

One of the best ways to ensure 100% participation is to clearly articulate the goals of the survey and share your plan for what you will do with the results. If I believe that you will do good things with the survey results and it will directly improve my life, I am more apt to take the time to do the survey.

What to Do with the Results of your Corporate Culture Survey

The worst thing you can do is to undertake a survey and then do nothing with the results. This is far worse than doing nothing at all. You will raise people’s expectations of life at the company improving and then the results disappear into a black hole. I guarantee that morale will deteriorate.

Set up a company-wide meeting to present and discuss results. Do this within a few weeks of the close of the survey. Use the momentum that you have built up to keep moving towards your goals.

Be as transparent as possible in presenting the results. Don’t skew or sugar-coat them. I helped a company do a survey and the internal person who presented the results focused only on the positive and glossed over the negative. People didn’t buy it. Be as objective as possible. Try to get someone who is respected and well-liked within the company to present the results. This is far better than having an outside consultant do this. Then the whole company will own the results – not an impassionate outside observer.

I recommend setting up three task forces to own the three goals that you have set forth. Try to get volunteers to sit on the task forces. Make the teams a hybrid of different departments and different levels. Set concrete goals and timelines. Make sure that the task forces have the support and resources they need.

What Next

I recommend doing an annual or bi-annual survey to keep your finger on the pulse of the company. Make minor changes to the survey or add questions, but don’t change anything significantly or you won’t be able to track your results and identify trends.

Find out how to successfully change your corporate culture. Debra Thorsen helps companies optimize their corporate cultures. Visit Culture Builders for a free white paper - Corporate Culture Change: Aligning People and Profits.


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