Culture reporting: Measuring and demonstrating culture

Posted in White Papers, Engagement and Reporting on 5 April 2019 By Darryl Mead, Head of Employee Communications and Engagement

Many businesses are keen to understand how to assess culture, as it is often talked about as being soft, fluffy, HR-led, or difficult to measure. 

Many leaders and employees describe their culture as being ‘fun’, or ‘family’ or about ‘strong team-work’. Or they may talk about perceived negative aspects of culture such as poor communication or lack of collaboration.

Some mistake ping-pong tables, team lunches, discounts, wellness programmes, or regular parties as being their culture. These things are nice to have as part of your employee experience – and are increasingly expected by employees – but do little to promote company values, or drive the behaviours that can shape your culture.

Why does talk of culture struggle to move past these things?

  • Often there is no specific budget for direct investment in culture development.
  • Investment and ownership is typically viewed as HR programmes or initiatives such as engagement surveys or employee perks.
  • Culture takes time, and leaders are impatient – looking for high impact and low cost.

Our research found that only

  • 10% of companies report on how they are progressing, evaluating and setting targets for embedding culture.
  • 16% disclose non-financial KPIs on culture.
  • 9% of companies share examples about progress in embedding their values.
  • 10% provide evidence and/or examples of culture in action.

But fear not, there’s plenty of positive change happening as the business case is strengthened.

How to approach measuring and reporting

We define culture as being the values, behaviours, systems, practices – quantitative measures. Plus the beliefs, traditions, interactions and attitudes – qualitative measures.

Before you measure, it’s important to:

  • Understand the culture you have. You can do this through using existing insights and data, reviewing the experience across the employee lifecycle, capture the unwritten beliefs and traditions that are unique to you, and mapping the behaviours, systems and practices.

Ask yourself:

  • Which aspects of your culture help you achieve your business goals
  • Which aspects of your culture harm your chance of success.
  • Articulate the culture you need. This should align to your goals, your brand and customer promise and the experience you desire for your people.

Then you’re ready to:

  • Identify the gaps between the culture you have now and culture you need.

  • Define how your desired culture can be embedded into processes, procedures, practices, systems, and behaviours. Document ‘how we do things around here’.

  • Define how your culture supports and delivers your business strategy. Is culture a business risk?

How the best companies measure culture

FORTUNE's 100 Best Companies to Work For evaluates five key elements of a thriving corporate culture: credibility, respect, fairness, pride and camaraderie.

Culture Amp works with over 1,800 innovative companies, helping them measure and improve their culture. Their measures include; cultural consistency, measuring and observing the alignment between culture and behaviour, and treating cultural measurement as an ongoing process.

What can you measure and report?

Measuring and reporting can cover many areas of a business. Every stakeholder group has an interest in how culture, values and behaviours are driving business outcomes, whether that’s to grow sales and profit, improve customer satisfaction, improve employee retention, deliver better projects, create a great workplace or define a unique business offer.

Chris Dyer’s book ‘The Power of Company Culture’ provides a compelling account of the power of culture and how to measure it. He states that measuring culture can be grouped into three areas; behaviours, systems and practices.

Behaviours

Behaviours are the things you do that bring your values to life. For example, ‘if this happens, we do that’ or ‘we always do X, we never do Y’. Behaviours make it easy to define standards and expectations - which can define your culture.

Measure the gaps between the agreed behaviours and skills that your values express  - versus the actual behaviours.

Systems

Every process that is created, every system you have or use, every technology platform, every structure you design, and every job title, will either reinforce or dilute the culture. Chris Dyer writes ‘There are five key systems that are important to the overall cultural system: Hiring, Strategy and Goal setting, Assessing, Developing, and Rewarding’. Each of these areas shapes culture and should have targets, behaviours and actions that can be measured and reported.

Practices

Practices encompass everything from how you run meetings, events, presentations, how you give and receive feedback, how you manage change, and how decisions are madeMapping the behaviours and putting your desired culture lens on these areas will shape measurement and help move towards a desired culture.

What gets measured gets done, what gets measured and fed back gets done well, what gets rewarded gets repeated.” John E. Jones.

Some best practice examples:

Coca Cola HBC

Coca Cola HBC talk of their people as both the creators and caretakers of our culture and values. This is demonstrated through direct reference to creating an inspiring workplace as the first element of delivering the strategy.

Their Values index measures how the values are being understood and lived by employees with ‘Values in action’ case studies to provide real life examples.

Go Ahead Group

The Chairman's Letter explicitly mentions the commitment to “lead, support and manage people effectively to promote a culture of high performance”.

Better teams is a key theme in the Strategy section underpinned by the core beliefs and attitudes that create the right culture

Admiral Group

A dedicated culture section in the annual report connects culture with people, customers and community. This quote from the Chairman’s statement sums up the approach “From the moment a new employee starts at Admiral, they understand our commitment to putting the customer at the heart of what we do – the customer, the customer, the customer. We do try to do the ‘right thing’ and to continue to make it easier to do business with us and be there at moments of need to provide excellent service”.

Culture may seem intangible, yet it is shaped every day by every employee, manager and leader. Take time to understand, nurture and develop it and you’ll be perfectly placed to harness the ever-changing workplace.

Our top tips

  1. Assess and measure the culture you have.

  2. Define the culture you need to meet your business and employee experience goals.

  3. Measure and report on the gap.

Emperor can help you to assess your culture and develop a great employee experience framework. We will also support you to meet the new reporting requirements and help to define priorities that can shape your culture.

Follow our culture reporting research

Over the next few weeks we'll be releasing the findings of our research and tackling the topics that matter:

  1. Leadership

  2. Performance and strategic progress

  3. Measuring and demonstrating culture

  4. Alignment and linkage to business model

  5. Engagement and employee voice

To receive the full research findings, email Sarah Eklund at [email protected].

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