Taking Your Pulse: You Need Data to Test How Company Culture Is Doing

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How’s your company culture doing?

Is it a powerful, positive impact for employees every day, reinforcing your core values in how the work gets done so everyone knows how they’re contributing to achieving your vision and mission?

In other words, do employees see and understand the meaningfulness of their work? Or is your culture more detrimental, a bit of a bully environment where people are brow-beaten into submission and work to the rule? Or is it somewhere in between?

You need more than a “gut reaction”

Regardless of your answer, how do you know? How do you quantify the status of your company culture? How do you measure and report on the impact of your culture on key goals and initiatives?

This shouldn’t be a “gut reaction.” If it is, then I can guarantee someone in another department or division (or even in the next cubicle) is going to have a different gut reaction answer to the question of “How is your company culture doing?” than you do.

S. Chris Edmonds makes this point well in a SmartBlog post comparing the reams of data we have on individual performance, but relatively none on organizational culture.

An opportunity for competitive advantage

This is precisely the argument we present (and tell you how to resolve) in Winning with a Culture of Recognition:

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If an investor asked, “What is your compensation strategy?” you’d drop on the desk a three-ring binder filled with everything having to do with compensation: base pay, salary bands, grades, bonuses, all of it. If the investor then asked, “Explain your benefits plan,” you’d have another three-ring binder stuffed with information about 401(k)s, health and education benefits, savings plans, profit-sharing, and stock options for employees. Next, the investor asks, “What’s your strategic plan?” You roll out sixty-slide decks filled with product plans, customer profiles, marketing plans, and financial performance data. This planning is good.

When we ask executives, “Tell me about your recognition strategy,” they have no binder, no deck of slides, no metrics, no execution plan. Compare this to all the practices named above. Recognition, for all its importance, is an outlier, not subject to the same rigorous planning and monitoring as other management practices. Why is this?

Done strategically, recognition can be planned and executed in a company like any other management practice, and therein lies the opportunity for competitive advantage.”

Know where you stand before proceeding

The competitive advantage lies in your ability to use the data generated by a truly strategic, social recognition program, based on the core values of your organization, to understand and direct your company culture. The information on the status of how your culture is doing is being fed into your reporting system daily by every employee in the organization in the form of recognition of their peers and colleagues. (You can tell just as much by what is not being recognized as what is.)

The bottom line:  You need the data. You wouldn’t begin any medical procedures without first testing your heart rate and pulse. Similarly, you shouldn’t begin any efforts at culture management without first taking the pulse of your organization and knowing where you stand.

How’s your company culture doing? How do you know?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


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