Measuring organisational culture | S1 E27

First published: 8 December, 2020

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Series 1
Series 1
Measuring organisational culture | S1 E27

Measuring organisational culture

In this episode of Engaging Internal Comms, The Big Picture People’s Craig Smith talks to Victoria Bond about measuring organisational culture.

Victoria is Director at Space HR Ltd. – a new HR consultancy that helps organisations to maximise the value of their teams, their people, and their culture.

Victoria’s extensive career includes several senior HR roles in organisations, including Manchester Airport and The Access Group. She is passionate about helping organisations to better measure and understand what their employees are thinking and feeling, thus finding ways to help their leaders to respond to that feedback in real time.

The difference culture can make in Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)

Victoria points out how management often focuses too heavily on profits and sales, when it’s the engagement of its people that can truly make the difference, especially when merging or introducing potential investors, or acquisitioning.

They are overlooking the value that having a really great team is adding to their business,” Victoria says. “A lot of conversations I have with clients are around really maximising the value and the performance in their business through really turning up the volume of employee engagement.

Victoria talks about how investors or potential buyers are looking for healthy culture and the feel of a successful business that runs on the fuel of engaged and innovative employees.

If somebody is coming in to value your business, and they’ve had a terrible experience from the people who work there, while you’re going to take points off, you’re going to take pounds off the value of that business.

The added value of engaged employees is a value that is not only identified by potential investors and buyers, it is also a value that allows management to present the company in a confident pitch.

Victoria explains the difference it made to her in her experience, when she was HR director presenting her well-cultured company. “It helped that I was able to passionately and articulately talk about our talent, and the thing we were doing,” she says. “We could talk about the levels of engagement in our business; we could talk about the length of service and loyalty that we had from our team. And that was backed up by the owners and the other operational leaders in the room.

When focus is not solely placed on sales and profits, and instead attentive of people engagement, the culture that cascades throughout the organisation strengthens the spine of the company. This adds exponential value to a company’s investors and potential buyers.

How can organisational culture be measured?

Whether organisations have identified that they need to improve engagement amongst their people, or they already have a strong and healthy culture, they must be able to measure their successes and failures. This is critical to preventing failures in engagement from being identified in the early stages, and in identifying where a company may be struggling in order to improve people engagement.

Victoria outlines a couple of physical indicators that demonstrate a company has a good employee engagement strategy:

  • Incentive schemes – appropriately managed and working effectively
  • Rewarding and supportive employee contracts
  • Succession planning, with personal development programmes for key players

However, a lot of monitoring of employee engagement can be based on the general feeling within an organisation, and it’s crucial that this has regular pulse checks. Victoria gives a few pointers:

  • Are the leaders and managers inspirational and good at leading change, with the ability to lead their teams through big change transitions?
  • Are employees connecting and onboarding with the business vision?
  • Are employees’ roles well designed to fulfil their personal development and job satisfaction?
  • Do employees display pride in their role and their company?
  • Do employees feel well supported, safe and secure?

Asking these questions will help in measuring the organisational culture, and highlight problem areas that need to be rectified to strengthen company culture through the engagement of its people.

Why the employee survey is not enough

The traditional way of receiving feedback from employees has been the annual or bi-annual survey. It’s important that management are asking, but are surveys really the best way? Victoria thinks not.

We should definitely be measuring employee engagement, because it matters – what gets measured, gets done,” she says. “But an annual survey kind of gives out the message that we only really care once a year what our employees are saying.

Victoria explains that, with surveys, a huge amount of data is collected, and often management don’t even know quite what to do with it. This wastes time, effort, and budget.

Additionally, collecting data can be quite a time-consuming and lengthy process, meaning the results can often be outdated. The world is changing rapidly, and businesses must make continuous adjustments.

Asking employees only occasionally what they think is simply not enough. It causes devastating effects to employee engagement, and it misses potentially huge issues that have been identified on the shop floor but not reached the attention of management.

Craig pinpoints that, while surveys often prove unsuccessful and at a cost of time, money, and effort, they give the illusion that something is being done. Worse, as Victoria mentions, such survey tools can be destructive in demotivating employees.

When vast data is collected from surveys, only for managers to not know how to act upon them, it is demoralising for employees, and very detrimental to engagement.

Considerations of effects on culture when merging

In the case of acquisitions, a healthy company culture could potentially be at risk. With so many elements of a good culture being agitated – such as pride, security, and a connection to business vision – the flow of engagement can come to a grinding halt.

If you are taking the team across, and you don’t get it right and they’re not a good fit, it’s like slamming the brakes on that business,” says Victoria.

While there will naturally be some decreased circulation in the current of engagement as they transition, it’s crucial that organisations maintain movement in the rowing mechanism of their teams to ensure they steer together.

To do this, Craig clarifies that a team must have faith in the change; that they’re not being forced to change direction, but that they are merging as a meeting of minds.

For a harmonious culture during mergers and acquisitions, Victoria explains the importance of respect. Organisations must tread carefully during mergers and acquisitions and when adapting business operations.

Victoria also highlights the essential need to ensure that leaders are comfortable and fully understanding of changes. They are the key to guiding their teams through. Giving change managers and leaders the time and opportunity to digest, understand, and support movement will create a well-lit and guided path of support from the rest of the company’s people.

Finally, Victoria emphasises communication as the absolute necessity to maintain employee engagement. This not only includes information from the top down, but equally importantly the circulation of feedback supplying management with knowledge on how its people feel, how much support they’re getting, and changes and adjustments that may need to be actioned.

Measuring organisational culture and banking on it

It’s clear the traditional surveys are becoming increasingly outdated, and replaced with regular, fluent communication to strengthen and maintain organisational culture. As Victoria sums up, “Nobody knows how to improve employee engagement in your business like your employees.

However it’s done, getting that crucial feedback from your people allows engagement to flow from the top down and back round again. Victoria uses an analogy of a bank account to describe this:

Your employee engagement is like a bank account. The currency that’s in it allows you to go buy stuff, like business performance, or loyalty, or retention,” she explains. “Every single thing that you do in that business is either a deposit or a withdrawal from an investment perspective.

Businesses must value and measure their culture as part of their balance sheet to invest in the future of their company and its culture.

Useful Links:

LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/employeeengagementvb/

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