5 Hard Questions to Gauge the Health of Your Workplace Culture

gauge your workplace culture health

Here’s the truth: Workplace cultures define themselves, no matter how hard you try to rewrite the story. What’s more, problematic cultures stand out more than positive ones. For many of us, the culture our company aspires to likely doesn’t quite match the reality. 

It’s hard for organizations to fix broken cultures, and those internal fissures can take a toll.  First impressions count, and in today’s interconnected world, negative news travels fast. 

If your company is in need of a culture fix, now is the time to act. Here are five questions that will help you gauge the health of your workplace culture: 

1. Do we actually have a culture?

According to Deloitte, only 12% of workers actually understand their company culture. And a Gallup study finds that just 41% of employees know what makes their workplace unique. You can tell employees about the culture you aspire to — but if you want to know what it’s really like, ask your people. You may be surprised by the answers.

2. Have our core values made their way into our daily culture?

One key driver of culture is a company’s set of core values — that is, as long as they’re actually honored. Check to see whether your values are being reflected in the day-to-day work people do. 

For instance, if one of your core values is creative innovation, survey managers to learn how much collaboration and idea-sharing goes on and examine team and company workflows. If a core value is diversity, assess how diverse your workplace really is, looking at the current makeup and the past year’s hires. 

3. Do new hires walk into the same culture they signed up for?  

Too many new workers head back out the door when they face unexpected surprises, and culture is a common culprit. The best recruiting and hiring teams are careful not to oversell a company or overpromise to a candidate. This isn’t just a matter of ethics, it’s also about the return on investment: A hire is only good if it lasts. 

According to one study, a whopping 30% of new employees quit their jobs within the first three months. Their three main reasons for leaving are that their day-to-day role wasn’t what they thought it would be; they had a bad experience; or the workplace culture was problematic. I’d say all of these are fundamentally part of your culture. If you’re losing a lot of new hires quickly or getting an excess of negative reviews, conduct exit surveys and commit to finding out why workers are leaving.

4. Do our third-party providers represent our culture?

Whoever creates your materials, whether internal or external, should be checked twice to ensure they accurately reflect your culture. Are they reflecting your commitment to diversity and inclusion? Could they be inadvertently exposing you to legal risk through language that doesn’t fit precisely with your messaging on the issues that matter? 

When a lawsuit happens, it’s the firm, not the consultancy, that takes the heat and the negative exposure. So make sure you don’t have to spend time pivoting to damage control or missing out on a substantial segment of promising stars.

5. Are our people happy?

Can you provide happiness as an employer? To engage employees, your workplace culture must foster energy, inspiration, focus and a sense of meaning in their work. Many workers also want to take care of their own happiness by adopting flexible schedules: The Harvard Business Review notes that 96% of employees want flexibility, though only 47% have access to it. Consider providing the means for workers to feel better, whether that’s offering flexibility or something more tangible, such as mental health benefits. 

People don’t stay at their jobs for the vague, fuzzy feeling they’re supposed to get from the inspirational poster in the break room. They stay because they want to — and because the culture is going to foster their growth and wellbeing. 

After you ask these hard questions, be prepared to face the answers. Share the results across your organization; create the space for moving forward; and invite solutions from all tiers. Involving your people in your company’s progress is part of a great workplace culture, too.

Meghan M. Biro is a globally recognized analyst, author, speaker and brand strategist. The founder of TalentCulture, she hosts #WorkTrends, a popular weekly Twitter Chat and podcast. Her career spans across recruiting, talent management, digital media and brand strategy for hundreds of companies, from startups to global brands like Microsoft, IBM and Google. She also serves on advisory boards for leading HR technology brands. Meghan can be regularly found on Forbes, SHRM, and a variety of other outlets. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram.

The views and opinions expressed in this post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Indeed.

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