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- Company culture describes your company's shared attitudes and behaviours that shape the way your team approaches business challenges, social occasions, and everything in between.
- There are four types of company culture: clan culture, adhocracy culture, market culture, and hierarchy culture.
- Measure company culture by finding out what your employees think, how they behave, and how they're feeling.
- Employee surveys, third-party tools, and in-person conversations are all ways to gather data about your company culture.
- Remember to act on your findings: a culture committee can be a helpful way to keep company culture high on the agenda.
Ah, company culture. That ubiquitous term that in recent years has come to mean you can bring your dog to the office while taking part in a table tennis tournament, all the while enjoying a free team breakfast and as many coffees as you can handle.
Except, it's so much more than that.
While office benefits can certainly inform company culture, they don’t really tell you what it’s like to work in that particular environment. And with 94% of executives and 88% of employees attributing business success to company culture, how it feels to work in your company carries a lot of weight.
What is company culture?
Your company culture describes the shared attitudes and behaviours that shape the way your team approaches the crunchiest business challenges and all the soft people-y stuff in between. It’s the difference between the impression your job description gives out and what it actually feels like to work at the company. It’s your organisation’s personality.
As well as contributing to overall employee happiness, company culture can have a direct impact on the productivity and success of your team. Employees working for a company with a strong culture that aligns with their values and beliefs are likely to work harder and remain with the company over time. And if the company’s culture doesn’t reflect their own feelings, they’re more likely to underperform — or leave.
Download our company culture survey template
4 types of company culture
Every company is the sum of its parts and every individual at that company will contribute something entirely unique to the company. As a result, every company has its own distinct culture, but broadly speaking, a company’s culture can be described as one (or a mixture) of four different ‘types’ of culture.
First identified by business professors Robert Quinn and Kim Cameron, the researchers found two key opposites in organisational culture: (1) internal focus and integration vs. external focus and differentiation, and (2) flexibility and discretion vs. stability and control. Forming the competing values framework, these polarities form the basis of the four types of company culture. It’s worth saying that rather than being viewed as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ cultures, they instead provide frameworks that company’s can use.
1. Clan culture
A people-focused company with a ‘family-like’ vibe, clan cultures create a highly collaborative work environment. Prioritising communication and employee appreciation, these companies are flexible and often have a ‘horizontal’, or ‘flat’, hierarchy.
👉 Where to find a clan cultures: Startups and smaller or young companies, who tend to rely on collaboration and feedback to leadership in order to not only grow but establish company frameworks and policies.
2. Adhocracy culture
Looking to develop the ‘next big thing’ before anyone else, these companies thrive on risk-taking. Employees are encouraged to think creatively and share their ideas, so long as they contribute to market growth and company success.
👉 Where to find adhocracy cultures: Head to the ever-changing tech industry (just look at Google and Apple) to find companies regularly developing and releasing new products.
3. Market culture
‘In it to win it’, market cultures prioritise money. A results-oriented culture, these companies tend to focus on external success (meeting quotas, reaching targets, getting results) than internal satisfaction and there’s often a degree of separation between employees and management.
👉 Where to find market cultures: Companies who want to be the best in their industry — think, large companies who are already leaders of their area who want to outcompete anyone who may compare.
4. Hierarchy culture
The more traditional of the four, hierarchy cultures have a clear chain of command with distinct career paths to follow. Well-defined processes make them stable and risk-averse.
👉 Where to find hierarchy cultures: Spanning old-school organisations right the way through to fast food restaurants, this culture is common in any company that’s focused on stable day-to-day operations.
Why measure company culture?
Unlike growth metrics and sales figures, culture is somewhat intangible. It can be a tricky thing to measure but it’s so important to get right — 77% of employees consider company culture before submitting a job application and 56% say company culture is more important than salary when it comes to job satisfaction.
By actively measuring company culture metrics you can collect data that means you can:
- Measure up the employee experience across different teams and departments
- Decide what needs to change – and where to focus your energy
- Check whether your company values reflect the business
- Compare responses from particular audiences, which can be helpful for Diversity & Inclusion reporting
- See what impact new culture or wellbeing initiatives are having on employee satisfaction
Like that wise old HR proverb says, what gets measured, gets managed. Keeping track of your culture metrics means you’ll know where to invest your time and budget to make a real difference.
See how Spill can automatically measure the mood of your team each week — and make sure anyone with low mental wellbeing is given extra support.
What to measure in your company culture?
A ‘healthy’ corporate culture means a workplace where people feel motivated, comfortable and connected. An unhealthy one has the opposite effect. Getting a steer on what employees think about your business, how they behave day-to-day, and how they feel at work are all good measures of how healthy your internal culture is.
Find out what your employees think (psychological culture assessment)
Ask them, honestly 💬
Predictably, the best way to see what your team thinks about your business is to ask. An eNPS (employee Net Promoter Score) survey is a popular and objective system to keep track of employee satisfaction. And it’s quick to complete, too. You’ll be measuring the response to a single question once a quarter: How likely are you to recommend us as a place to work?
Your team will record their responses on a scale of 0 to 10, with 10 being the most likely to recommend your company. You can use any survey software you like to get this question in front of your colleagues, but the most important thing for an honest response is to communicate that the answers will remain anonymous.
- Anyone who scores a 9 or 10 is called a ‘promoter’.
- Anyone who scores 7 or 8 is ‘passive’.
- Anyone who scores 6 or less is a ‘detractor’.
To get to your score, use the following sum:
% of 'promoter' employees - % of 'detractor' employees = eNPS
The minimum score is -100, the maximum is 100. The higher your eNPS score, the better regarded your company is by employees. It might seem simple, but you can use your score as a baseline indicator of your culture as a whole.
Start doing exit interviews 👋
When someone leaves your business, take the opportunity to give them a structured exit interview. This is when they can be most honest about all aspects of your business culture and employee experience. Think about the big questions that’ll give you a better understanding of any cultural weak spots, as well as ideas to improve:
- Why did you join? (This one’s been made famous by Patagonia’s Dan Carter, who flipped “why are you leaving?” on its head to better gauge how the company experience matches up against its initial promise. “Did we deliver?” is a good follow up.)
- What are you hoping to find in your new position?
- What could we have done differently?
- How would you describe the culture here?
- Do you feel like we stick to our company values?
- How would you improve team morale?
- Did you feel personally valued here?
Make sure to keep a record of exit interviews (anonymised, if appropriate) and see which themes keep cropping up. This should give you a better idea about where to focus your attention.
Find out how your employees behave (behavioural culture assessment)
Introduce company culture KPIs 📊
You’re probably already measuring plenty of useful metrics that can give you a glimpse into the health of your company culture. How you define ‘good’ varies by industry, brand architecture, company size, age and outlook, but in general, happier, more engaged employees are better for business (hooray!). So, you’re looking for any measures that might clue you in:
- Absenteeism. If employees are taking more time off than usual, it’s a good indication that they’re stressed, tired, ill or burned out.
- Turnover rates. Are employees sticking around once you’ve hired and trained them? If not, you might be underdelivering against the working culture you promised in the interview process, or undercompensating people for their efforts.
- Communication metrics. How many people open, read or respond to your company-wide emails, intranet pages or Slack posts gives you an idea about how connected people feel to the company. You could also look at average attendance at company meetings and events.
- Productivity. If your team is consistently underdelivering against set KPIs, you’ve got a golden opportunity to investigate whether your expectations are too high (which may indicate a communication issue), your team morale is low (a broader culture issue), or your team feel under equipped to perform at their best (a practical issue).
- Holidays. Does everyone in your team feel comfortable taking their whole holiday allowance? If not, why not? At Spill, we made holidays a KPI because we think they are so crucial to maintaining good morale, collaboration and communication between teams.
Hold a SWOT analysis workshop 🗣️
This workshop takes a little organisation, but it can be a valuable way to hear directly from your team and collaboratively decide where your culture is thriving – and where it needs a bit of a steer.
SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats, and you’ll want to plot them on a great big axis. Give everyone access to an unreasonable pile of biscuits, post-its and pens (or the digital equivalent).
Option 1: use your value statements to help you
Let’s look at an example company value. Transparency: we share information freely with everyone in the business.
Get your team to think around this value and plot their ideas on the chart. A strength might be that every team meeting is recorded and circulated. A weakness might be that the business’s financial situation is kept secret. A threat might be that employees can’t report concerns anonymously, and an opportunity might be hosting a weekly demos meeting so that new work is shared between teams.
Option 2: freestyle
If you’d rather not use your brand values as a starting point, give your team complete freedom to contribute ideas to the chart. One way to stay focused on actions and behaviours is to stipulate that each idea starts with “We do…” or “We don’t…”
Once you’ve finished adding ideas and playing them back, give everyone 5 votes. Get the team to vote for whichever ideas have (or could have) the biggest impact on your company culture. Follow up this workshop with consolidated notes, and a plan of action. The idea is to play to your strengths, act on your weaknesses, realise your opportunities and minimise the threats.
If some of your core values feel a bit wobbly after this workshop, then this is a good pause point to see how you can uphold them better, or review them with a more democratic mindset.
Find out how your employees feel (emotional culture assessment)
Send out wellbeing surveys 💌
Another piece of the culture puzzle is regularly asking your employees how they feel. This can happen in 1-1 manager meetings, but you’ll want to send a proper wellbeing survey to collect and compare employee data over time. Unlike an eNPS survey, a wellbeing survey should give you a bit more direction about how energised your team’s feeling, and where your culture might be lacking.
Find out how to write your own employee wellbeing survey, and get some ideas for qualitative and quantitative questions you might like to ask.
Give your teams the gift of Spill! 🎁
This isn’t just a shameless plug for our product. We designed Spill Safety Net, available to any company on Spill's Team plan, to specifically help managers keep an eye on how their team is feeling. You can add Spill Safety Net to any regular team meeting, so participants are nudged to answer two quick questions about their mood before they join the call.
Insights like these help you to spot any changes over time, and take action quicker if your company mood takes a dip. With Spill, the results are also monitored by a qualified therapist, who’ll reach out to any individuals who seem to be struggling.
Low morale is one of the first clues that something’s amiss. If you don’t take action, it can spread quickly and override any positive efforts you’ve been making to boost your culture internally.
Tools and tips for measuring company culture
So, you’ve got the what, the why and the how — now it’s time to understand how to gather all this information and most importantly, how to act on your findings.
How often should you measure your company culture?
A strong company culture isn’t something that’s ever really ‘done’ — it’s an ongoing process that requires nurturing. It’s also something that’s easy to gloss over in the face of other daily business. A lot can change in the course of a few months, which is why we recommend scheduling regular culture check-ins throughout the year. And by check-ins, we also mean taking time to review rather than just record your findings.
How this looks for your company will largely depend on the data you’re collecting. Some things, such as the eNPS, can be done once a quarter as a quick and easy way to see how your employees are feeling throughout the year. Wellbeing surveys on the other hand, might be good to roll out once a month to get a feel for how people are feeling over time. Others, like exit interviews, will happen as and when staff leave (indeed, a sudden spike in exit interviews may well alert you to the fact that all is not as well as you thought), while you may benefit from blocking out time once a month to record your company culture KPIs rather than remembering to do it on an ad hoc basis.
If you’re in the initial stages of ramping up your company culture, you might find activities like the SWOT analysis workshop need repeating within 6 months to review how things are going. It’s worth saying at this point that if it feels like things need changing or updating a lot, that’s not a bad thing! Company culture is ever-changing and adapting your culture means your team is engaged, providing feedback, and supporting you in your goal to build a company they’re proud to be a part of. And if your culture is more established, you’ll still need to keep your eye on the ball — keep the weekly, monthly and annual culture check-ins going so you can take action if anything changes.
Tools to measure company culture
There's a myriad of tools out there all designed to support your teams and help build a strong culture. We’ve highlighted a few below but the most important thing to say is do your research. Think carefully about what it is you actually want to achieve, what your budget is like, and whether it's best suited to large powerhouses or smaller teams.
Employee surveys: there are countless survey softwares out there to help you circulate quick questions or longer wellbeing surveys. From Google Forms to platforms like Typeform, Survey Monkey and Jotform, there’s plenty out there to suit all team sizes and budgets.
Third-party tools: depending on what you need, there’s likely a third-party tool out there. Culture Amp, Qualtrics and Officevibe are just a few examples of companies working to support company culture through things like structured surveys and feedback, while project management tools like Trello can help you organise and keep track of ‘Project Culture’. If you’re looking for something a little more accessible, Slack and Microsoft Teams offer multiple integrations like Polly, Simple Poll and of course, Spill!
In-person chats: technology isn’t the answer to everything — there’s plenty to be said for real, in-person interactions! Focus groups, workshops, brainstorming sessions, training sessions and one-on-one meetings are all different ways you can engage, interact with and gather real insights from your team.
Create a culture committee to act on your findings
Company culture is a team-effort, but in the hustle and bustle of daily business you might find it helpful to set up a culture committee to share your findings and create a plan for meaningful change.
Culture committees work best when they’re made up of a diverse group of people from across the company. Acting as a direct link between employees and the leadership team, they promote, address, and work on shaping culture rather than ‘fixing’ it.
Here are 5 things a culture committee needs to get started:
- Get support from the leadership team: leaders and executives may not play an active role in the committee but they should champion its work and support its initiatives.
- Spread the word: Make sure everyone in the company knows what the culture committee is, why it's being formed, and what it will be doing, and how they can get involved.
- Ask for volunteers: Recruit volunteers to join the committee from across the company with a variety of backgrounds, ages, company roles, ethnicities, genders, and opinions. You’ll also need people who are enthusiastic about culture at your company and those who can bring a new perspective to discussions.
- Write clear expectations: Decide on roles in the committee, how often it will meet, how often it will report to leadership and write a set of goals to help shape the committee’s priorities. Decide who will oversee the committee — in some companies, this is HR while in others, it's the CEO.
- Set a budget: Find out if you’ll have a budget and how much it will be so you can start planning events, special treats and meetings.
Once your committee is set up, you can start planning the fun stuff! From surveys and celebrations to retreats, meetings, culture training and company benefits, culture committees can hugely influence the culture you’re striving to create.
Measuring culture in the workplace might take some trial and error
Culture is a bit of a slippery term. A thriving workplace culture will look completely different if you’re working in a banking startup or a veterinary practice (and just as well). There are some important wellbeing principles that we believe can improve any workplace. But beyond these, it’s your people who set your culture. You can steer them with brand values, but you’ll never know what’s working (or not working) until you ask.
Be mindful when you set out to measure your culture that a mix of these initiatives might give you the best big picture. A wellbeing survey, for example, will give you a good idea about mood and morale, but it’s less telling about how connected your employees feel to the business as a whole.
And remember, all the juicy data you’ve collected is only helpful if you:
- Measure it regularly
- Share your insights
- Take action
That’s the other good thing about measuring culture regularly: you’ll see in the data when your plans are working. Hopefully, you’ll feel it, too.
Download our company culture survey template
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