Fortunately and unfortunately, culture is not something that can be crafted, implemented, and controlled in the same way as other organizational initiatives.
While this lack of control may at times be frustrating, the natural ebb and flow of cultural development serve as a reflection of the current and future state of organizational health. That is why it can be useful to conduct a culture audit to gain a better understanding of your organization’s dynamics. Doing so will provide you with insight as to how you can leverage or improve the competitive advantages that company culture has to offer.
The first step in conducting a culture audit is to talk to those who live your culture day-to-day: your employees. There are two main ways in which you can go about collecting feedback from your employees. The first is to conduct an anonymous survey. This method can standardize the process and objectively identify areas of improvement based on several employees. It also gives you significant reach, which is especially important for larger organizations. However, a survey may fail to capture the true feelings about and complexities within your culture. That is why the second feedback collection method is a one-on-one meeting or focus group. These more personal means of feedback collection uncover the unique situation of a particular employee, which can drive the conversation towards latent topics that are difficult to capture via a set of standardized survey questions.
Employing a combination of questionnaires and more in-depth interviews paints the clearest picture of how your culture is perceived. Unsure what questions to ask or where to start? Start by looking at your values and making questions around those. For example, if autonomy is central to your culture, be sure to ask a question or two regarding freedom of choice decision-making, and views on micromanagement. You can also check out this list to get more insight into key areas of interest when it comes to culture audits.
In addition to asking questions and encouraging ongoing dialogue with your team members, think about the physical space of your office. Is your office layout enabling or inhibiting ideas and transparency? Assessing your office layout does not mean you have to break down your walls startup-style and have an open layout. In fact, it’s best if you design your office in a way that best aligns with and supports your culture type (see Chapter 2). If you are working remotely, it obviously doesn’t make sense to assess the physical layout of your WFH setup, but it does make sense to assess the communication channels your team uses most often. You may want to read this HBR article to learn more about cultivating your remote or hybrid culture.
Once you have analyzed your company culture, it is now time to look for areas of improvement. Even though this may be a muddy process that gives little direct control, the HR team and leaders are tasked with influencing culture in a positive way. The lack of control that responsibility entails may be frustrating, which is why our e-book Employee Retention 101 dives into how you change company culture towards improvement.