What does ‘culture’ mean in your workplace?

The other day, I went to meet an HR Director who commented: ‘Don’t mention the word ‘culture’ around here, everyone’s sick of it!’

I totally understood how she felt, because there has been so much hype around ‘culture’ and so much money has been wasted on consultants who have promised to change the culture but have ultimately failed.

But culture still exists in every organisation, and sometimes it needs to be modified or transformed in order to reach higher performance levels, or to reduce a high staff turnover, for instance.

So how do we go from here? How do we talk about culture in a non-clichéd way?

Some of the questions we need to answer are:

  • What is culture?
  • How is it created?
  • How can we measure it in a quantifiable way? (Apart from doing employee engagement surveys)
  • Can we make culture a tangible asset?

Let me offer some answers:

  • Culture is: behaviour and attitudes that are acceptable (ie ‘normally done and got away with’).
  • Culture is created by the people who used to lead the organisation (legacy culture) and is added to by the people who now run the organisation. The subconscious symbolism and inherited systems contribute to this culture.
  • Culture can be measured objectively using an online tool that takes each person 10 minutes to complete. This tool measures the values that a culture is operating from, and deciphers the decisions and behaviours that follow those values.
  • There are no methods that I know of – yet – that produce a financial value for an organisation’s culture. If there are please let me know!

However, the cultural assessment tool that we use will give a % of wasted cost which is attributable to the wasted energy in your culture. This can then be attributed to a % of overall salary for your people that is wasted each year.

Can culture be changed?

In the hopes of improving the culture, many companies improve tangible things: they restructure, recruit new people, send them on training courses, give leaders 1:1 coaching…

These initiatives, often fail because although the impetus is there, these methods won’t be able to change the core culture of the organisation. In medical terms, it’s like tackling the symptoms rather than the cause.

In fact, if your organisation chooses to spend money on coaching the top talent but doesn’t address the cultural entropy (the % of wasted cost due to your current culture) then all this will achieve is helping your talent to leave!

The 10-minute cultural survey

Drawing on years of experience in tackling the root causes of cultural entropy, we’ve put together a series of targeted questions which will shed some light on the underlying problems in an organisation’s culture.

At a minimal cost, the survey results will highlight:

  • What is and is not working within your organisation
  • What is important to the people in your team
  • How your team is experiencing the culture in their workplace
  • What they’d like to improve for the future

Take the first step towards sustainable culture change: contact me to request a mini cultural survey for your organisation.

Then, if you’re interested in working out how best to start tackling a cultural evolution in your workplace, we can discuss your results further!