Blog – Why Measuring Culture Is More Important Than Measuring Engagement!

It may seem that Organisational Culture has been a buzzword in the business world for years now, but the importance of having a constructive culture is the heart and soul of any organisation’s success. In its most simple denotation, Culture is the set of values, beliefs, and behaviours that define how things are done within an organisation. But why is measuring culture more important than measuring engagement?

While engagement can be an indicator of employee satisfaction, it doesn’t necessarily capture the essence of a company’s identity or what sets it apart from its competitors. In this article, we’ll explore why measuring organisational culture is critical to building a thriving workplace and how it can be done effectively.

What is culture?

Organisational culture is the set of shared values and beliefs that determine how people behave within a company. It’s the unwritten code of conduct that defines how things are done and why they’re done in a certain way. Culture can be influenced by various factors, including leadership styles, communication practices, involvement of employees, design of roles, development and inclusion of employees as well as clarity of an organisation’s purpose.

At its core, culture reflects the personality of an organisation. It shapes its identity and brand image both internally among employees and externally among customers and stakeholders. A positive organisational culture can help attract and retain top talent (important in a talent shortage) while improving well being, productivity and profitability.

Organisational culture is not just about free snacks, office massages or foosball tables; that’s because, quite simply put, Culture doesn’t just live in the building. It does, however live in the everyday exchanges and choices made by its people. It sits within the interactions between staff – and it is a behavioural and relational phenomenon.

Developing a constructive Organisational Culture is about creating an environment where employees feel valued for their contribution to achieving shared goals particularly in an ever-growing hybrid work scenario following the pivot that was the pandemic.  When individuals share common values with their colleagues and employer, they tend to be more engaged and committed to delivering results as part of the wider team.

By understanding what drives a company’s unique identity and values, the creation of an environment where everyone feels motivated to achieve greatness together sustainable organisational success ensues.  Not only can a healthy and constructive culture help organisations navigate tumultuous times, but it enables the unlocking of true competitive value.

What are the benefits of measuring culture over measuring engagement?

Measuring organisational culture can provide numerous benefits to a company. Firstly, it helps in identifying the gaps between desired culture and the actual culture of an organisation. This way, an understanding occurs of where changes are needed to align a company with its goals and insights into how values are being manifested within its teams.

There can be a tendency to confuse engagement with culture, but measuring engagement alone can paint a superficial picture of an organisation solely through employee feelings. The exploration of company deportment and the underlying drivers of these behaviours are key. Focusing too intently on engagement alone is risky, a company may have a highly motivated and engaged team, but are the behaviours of its staff aligned correctly with the organisation or the expectation of its customers and stakeholders? Putting it another way we have seen numerous examples in industry, sport and politics where highly engaged individuals and teams still behave in ways (they manipulate, control, cheat, avoid the tough conversations, defer to others and look to minimise active involvement of others) that do not align with organisational expectations or that of societal values.

Flipping the equation on its head often yields a much better return, for example if a company has instilled aligned behaviours in its workforce such as collaboration, honesty, and authenticity, it will quite naturally see a higher level of staff engagement. Engagement is an outcome of good culture, not the other way around. To have an engaged workforce, companies need to get culture right, and in doing that they have to get leadership right – they are in fact two sides of the same coin.

A strong brand will attract employees, but it’s culture and behavioural expectations are what enable retention. And leadership is everything in the culture equation!

How to measure culture

For over 50 years, Human Synergistics have specialised in developing and providing tools, information, knowledge and proven change strategies to develop effective leaders, innovative teams and positive workplace cultures.

The tried, tested and refined diagnostic tool (the Circumplex) is the only real measure of culture. The assessment model clusters behaviours into constructive, aggressive/defensive and passive/defensive styles and is incorporated into the measurement at every level of quantifying analysis for individuals, teams, leaders and organisations.

To be effective as an organisation it is essential to gather feedback on organisational culture from employees via the Organisational Culture Inventory® (OCI)  – it is the world’s most widely used and industry-led tool for measuring organisational culture.

The OCI is a result of more than 20 years of research and now using the latest survey technology, the Organisational Culture Inventory® (OCI) goes to the heart of an organisation’s cultural make-up. The OCI reveals what  an organisation is really asking of its employees and how it affects staff performance, motivation and job satisfaction – ultimately providing a foundation stone for achieving successful, sustainable cultural change.

How it works

The OCI has two parts:

  • OCI-Current measures an organisation’s current culture in terms of the behavioural norms that employees believe are expected or implicitly required of them to succeed and ‘fit in’.
  • OCI-Ideal complements OCI-Current by identifying a company’s ideal culture. It measures the behaviours that its leaders and other employees believe should be expected of them for an organisation to maximise its effectiveness. The result is a picture of a company’s ideal culture based on its leaders’ and team’s shared values and beliefs – a benchmark with which it can compare the ideal versus the current culture to identify gaps and develop targets for change.

The data collected in the surveys is processed electronically, and a report (or reports) are generated to meet an organisation’s specific needs. A Human Synergistics consultant or accredited practitioner then guides leaders and broader teams through the findings and the steps required for successful change management.

The OCI surveys are available online and on almost any digital device, as well as in hard copy.

Complementary tools

It is recommended that company’s apply the OCI in tandem with the Organisational Effectiveness Inventory™, which provides unique insights into the structures, systems, technologies and skills/qualities of leaders that affect its culture. It also integrates with the Life Styles Inventory™, Group Styles Inventory™ and Leadership/Impact® measures to capture the links between individual, group and organisational behaviour.

The benefits for any organisation

Apply the OCI in any organisation and it will help its leaders and other employees to understand the thinking and behavioural styles that are expected of them in the way they work, interact, manage problems and adapt to change. It’s a starting point for a conversation on where a company is now, where it wants to be and how its going to get there.

The OCI is particularly valuable for organisational change initiatives such as:

  • measuring and assessing an existing current culture
  • building a vision of an ideal culture
  • gauging an organisation’s readiness for change
  • identifying and addressing the enablers of and barriers to change
  • facilitating mergers, acquisitions and strategic alliances
  • evaluating the impacts of change – it can be used again and again to measure progress and identify what’s working and what’s not.

By understanding a company’s culture, it can make changes that will positively impact its employees and ultimately benefit the bottom line.

Measuring culture may seem daunting at first, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. It should be a priority for every organisation looking to improve employee engagement, retain the right talent and increase performance.

by Melissa Jones


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