ANGELA SINICKAS: Developing surveys to measure the impact of corporate culture Corporate culture can help drive business results, but it takes a cultural audit to differentiate which elements of the culture can lead to superior performance. Angela Sinickas conducts employee engagement surveys that are specifically designed to measure the correlation between employee behaviors and attitudes that define an organization’s culture and its financial results. “The key is to ask the right questions,” she says. The questions are developed in two categories: behaviors defining outcomes with financial value and behaviors and attitudes describing inputs that could affect those outcomes.
Two categories of survey questions
1. The first category of questions measures positive behavioral outcomes that the organization needs in order to succeed. Some of these have immediate financial value, such as employees’ ratings of their own productivity or intention to stay with the organization. Other outcome questions are harder to quantify financially, such as self-ratings of employees’ commitment to help the company succeed or the likelihood of recommending their organization as a great employer to their friends. However, all these are specific employee behaviors that define an engaged workforce and will lead to better financial results. 2. The second category of survey questions measures the current extent of cultural factors likely to contribute to those positive outcomes. Obviously these have to be tailored to the type of work the organization does. Some examples are, “To what extent do you feel you have the opportunity to provide upward information or feedback?” or “To what extent are people treated with respect?”
Identifying key variables
The entire process depends on identifying the key outcome questions and the potential cultural variables at a specific organization that might lead to those outcomes. Sinickas’ methodology begins with qualitative research in order to identify the unique characteristics for each organization that help to drive business performance and achieve results. • Executive interviews. Start by asking executives what behavioral outcomes they want to see and what they think makes working at this place special. What goes into making people more focused, more productive and more committed to quality or customers? • Employee focus groups. The next step is to ask employees the same questions. Give them the opportunity to say in their own words what factors they think drive the company’s success. Ask why they either want to be there or what changes would increase their commitment to the company’s success. Getting people to discuss open-ended questions such as, “What makes working for this company better than working for your last company?” or “Why did you choose to work at this company rather than our competitors?” reveals the valueadding characteristics of the culture. In addition to using this qualitative research, a cultural survey should also incorporate survey questions measuring the extent to which the company’s stated mission, vision and values are reflected in current management and employee behaviors. “That’s how the company is saying what it’s all about, so you can measure whether management and staff are living up to the company’s stated values,” says Sinickas. For example, one merged corporation had launched its new mission and values with a big splash. Many employees asked during meetings how the company would know if and when it was fulfilling the mission and values. Sinickas measured this by structuring a cultural survey around these stated values. The survey was divided into sections, using the three parts of the mission and the values as headlines so employees would visibly
Internal communication’s role in defining and shaping organizational culture © Melcrum Publishing 2006
The impact of organizational culture on performance...