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Dear Workforce How Do We Reliably Assess Our Corporate Culture

Dear Overwhelmed:


There are many software products available to help you build the technical part of the solution to your question, and there are many turnkey services to assist you with creating the survey or using a survey template to administer online. The range of options for third-party products runs from low end to high end. In between are many consultants with their preferred tools, which are provided through the consulting contract.

Corporate culture can mean so many things. Developing the questionnaire requires defining what you want to know. I see corporate culture to be a much more effective information gathering strategy, rather than a tool for boosting employee satisfaction. Perhaps an efficient way to think about it is this: Ask what you want to do with the information (increase profits, reduce turnover, create more bandwidth to accomplish more with fewer resources, etc.). As a consultant, I prefer to approach it from a practical business orientation by focusing on those areas that are critical to the success of an organization. I like to see questions that focus on processes, relationships, work management and leadership. Examples of questions I use include:

Processes: Team members all participate appropriately. People are not suppressed or ignored, nor do individuals dominate the rest of the group.

Relationships: Our work together as a team gives me a personal sense of satisfaction and belonging.

Work management: The necessary blend of skills to accomplish the team’s mission and objectives is present in the team.

Leadership: The leader helps the team focus on what can be learned from all its efforts, both successes and failures.

The tool I use includes a total of 72 questions across the four areas mentioned above. Custom-developed client-centric questions are occasionally added. Respondents are asked to rate the statement based on how strongly they agree or disagree. The results can be sorted based on the categories that were captured such as employee, management, sector/location or department responses. Most survey tools will be able to do this.

If creating your own questions, to create reliability you will need to craft each question carefully, ensuring the response is not influenced based on the way the statement is worded. I recommend presenting the questions to a small group of employees to identify any bias. Once you administer the survey, the results can be useful in addressing the issues that surface.

But the more powerful application is the ability to introduce organizational change after the survey, and then administer the same survey again after an appropriate amount of time has passed (six months). The second snapshot is invaluable in comparing—and then justifying the continuation, termination or change in the initiatives that have been implemented. If senior management hasn’t indicated openness to initiating changes based on the results of the initial survey, then I caution you to set employee expectations upfront that the survey is intended only for information gathering.

SOURCE: Carl Nielson, principal, The Nielson Group, Dallas, October 5, 2007

LEARN MORE: Please read a previously published Dear Workforce that addresses how to diplomatically change a corporation’s culture.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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