Employers are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of a positive workplace culture. A workplace culture which helps foster happy employees can increase productivity, reduce absenteeism and have a positive flow-on effect to customers.
But just how can senior management get staff, particularly junior staff, to open up about how they feel? One excellent and very popular method is by engaging in workplace culture surveys.
what is it?
A cultural survey is an important diagnostic tool to uncover the current health of an organisation, and is a way for management to determine strengths, weaknesses and important strategic areas of focus for the business.
Using surveys, employers can establish whether they are on the “same page” strategically as their employees, if there are any concerns regarding bullying or unsafe workplace practices, issues affecting health and wellbeing, and what the business is doing particularly well.
Cultural surveys are frequently administered externally, and participants are guaranteed anonymity. This is an essential part of the process, as it permits staff to feel as though their responses, whether positive or negative, can be provided without fear of reprisal or criticism.
They require a number of specific questions to be answered. The responses are then tallied and data is extracted and analysed in the form of a report which is generally presented to management or the board.
when to do a cultural survey?
The best time to introduce an initial cultural survey is when the senior leadership team has already begun implementing a process of cultural change, whether that involves becoming an employer of choice to potential new talent or retaining existing talent.
Once a cultural survey has already been completed in the business, it is a good idea to repeat them regularly, perhaps every two or three years, for management to be able to assess how the business is performing against previous years and whether a change in direction may be required.
what questions should not be included?
Part of focusing on improving a workplace culture also involves changing the way in which the business recognises and rewards exceptional performance. This mental shift should occur before the cultural survey is introduced – otherwise the business risks getting answers to the wrong sort of questions.
Those questions include ones that do not consider what truly makes employees happy, but instead focus on factors such as remuneration, perks (such as professional coffee machines) or flashy offices. While these can be an important component of making an employee feel valued or happy in their role, they are rarely a determining factor in whether an employee truly feels committed to a business.
so what are the right questions?
Instead, employers should ensure that cultural surveys focus on questions such as:
- Do you understand the company’s goals, and your role in achieving those goals?
- Do you feel as though your role is important in achieving the company’s objectives?
- Do you understand the company strategy and agree with it?
- Do you feel that your team is collaborative?
- Do you feel that you have the skills necessary to perform your role, and if not, why not?
- Is there anything in the workplace preventing you from performing your role?
Employers may also wish to ask staff what improvements they would make, given the chance. This can be a very useful tool in implementing a new strategic direction.
the benefits of a cultural survey
Perhaps the greatest benefit of a cultural survey is that when employees feel like they are connected to the “bigger picture”, they are more invested in the business and feel part of a team.
This in turn helps improve their reliability, performance, desire to participate and willingness to sacrifice (if necessary) for the good of the business. The sense of collaboration created by a cultural survey is an invaluable asset to the business.
A cultural survey may also bring up issues which have not previously been identified by management, such as endemic bullying or a toxic workplace.
how to get started
These few simple steps can help employers get started on conducting a survey.
- Be clear about the purpose of the survey
- Ensure you offer all team members the opportunity to participate
- Decide whether a face to face, paper or electronic survey is appropriate or even a combination of all three if you have high staff numbers
- Decide on the timeframe for responses
- Formulate the questions and keep it simple – for example avoid asking two things in the same question
- Analyse the results – don’t take the results on face value, for example a low response rate to a particular question may make the results meaningless
- Follow up on the survey insights and take appropriate action
WISE Workplace is here to support your organisation. If you have a concern about a toxic culture, or staff are making complaints, we are well placed to help you conduct a cultural survey.