Culture is the DNA of your organisation: it’s the way you work, what you see, do, feel and hear. It’s why businesses all over the globe are throwing their weight behind it – spending their budgets, time and energy in an attempt to boost productivity, retention and belonging.
If you want to improve it, however, then you’re going to have to measure it. That can be tricky when discussing something as intangible as a company culture. To create a workplace your people want to be in – one where they feel empowered to be and do their best – then you’re going to have to quantify it.
To do that, you have to answer four questions.
Quantifying your culture
What’s your definition?
This is where I see most organisations fail; when we can’t define what we mean by culture, we can’t focus on it, pinpoint key activities and we can’t establish accountability or ownership. Without this definition, your attempts to sustain or evolve culture become aimless.
By defining the dimensions and component parts of your culture, you’ll know where the change is going to come from – plus what activities and what areas of the organisation are going to be essential to transforming your culture.
A standout culture can help you attract the talent you want and retain the experts you already have.
What’s your culture in service of?
Before you take action, you have to understand what your culture supports. What’s the much larger cause that it is in service of: is it customer-centricity, growth, retention, profit, or all of the above?
Defining this will help you understand how your culture fits into the bigger picture, and how it can drive success for your business. This is especially poignant as ESG becomes central to what colleagues want and how businesses operate.
Does it help you achieve an outcome?
This is the most challenging question: do those component parts of your culture enable you to achieve your goals? If the answer is no, then you’re going to need to dig a little deeper to find out why. Viewing your culture and goals as two separate entities is a big mistake: both are intertwined. Your culture must always support you in reaching your goals.
Where are you now?
Once you’ve established all of the above, you should have a good idea of where you are as an organisation, and how much work you’ll need to do to reach your ultimate destination. This is your foundation.
When I help organisations understand their culture, this is exactly the process we use. We use in-depth research to create a framework that outlines the above, helps us understand those component parts of a culture and establish where you are now. Then we go even further: working with leaders and colleagues from across the business to suggest how we can make meaningful change happen.
Why care about culture?
Simply put: it matters to present and prospective employees alike. For those looking to join the business, it’s one of their top priorities when it comes to choosing their next role. A standout culture can help you attract the talent you want and retain the experts you already have within your walls – but it’s not just about your people.
Be rigorous with your understanding of what your culture is and what it needs to do.
Companies that choose to focus their culture on certain areas – such as high performance, delivering social value or innovation – are more likely to become leaders in those areas. Businesses with a laser focus on improving and steering their culture are outperforming their competitors.
By understanding your strengths and weaknesses as an organisation, you can protect it, improve it and you can reap the rewards. Just like anything else, however, if you’re going to change your culture, you need to know where you are now and where you want to be. To do that you have to be above to quantify it, to map it out and measure it.
Start your culture transformation
Remember, if you’re going to transform your organisational culture for the better, you have to be able to answer these four questions:
- What’s your definition?
- What’s your culture in service of?
- Does it help you achieve an outcome?
- Where are you right now?
Once you have a clear answer to the above, you can harness the power that culture has to offer; all it takes is purpose, intent and a clear aim. Then when you have a clear understanding of it, ask yourself: what will you do with your culture?
That might seem like an impossible – even daunting – question to consider, but don’t let this put you off. Be rigorous with your understanding of what your culture is and what it needs to do.
If you enjoyed this, read: Who are the cultural influencers of your organisation?