Many companies begin their culture journey motivated to make big changes. While the intention of major change is there, some will lack the follow-through to sustain focus and solidify lasting change. Taking the time to measure the progress of your culture in a conscious, intentional, and continuous way is important to keep your initiatives on track.
The first step for many organizations is to conduct a baseline culture assessment, typically consisting of quantitative and qualitative data. The purpose of the assessment is to identify their ideal culture, measure the current culture, and find out where the gaps are. This data helps leaders get aligned on their vision, as well as to better understand the mindsets, values, and beliefs that are widely shared in the organization, and how they may enable or get in the way of attaining results.
As the culture transformation process unfolds – roadmaps are defined, workshops are conducted, communication strategies are implemented and change agents are mobilized – measurement typically goes to the bottom of the priority list. Rarely do we find that the same level of rigor that was used in the assessment step is applied to measure the progress and impact of culture change initiatives. The approach is often limited to informal sensing based on unstructured conversations and casual observations, or relying on employee engagement surveys, which seldom measure shifts in mindsets and behaviors. This makes it hard to pinpoint where are we making progress and what we need to do to accelerate the change.
However, administering comprehensive culture surveys and conducting multiple interviews and focus groups may not always be feasible if you want to keep the pulse on the change and assess progress in a continuous way.
Here are some ideas to help you design your culture measurement strategy:
Identify where you are in your culture journey
Have you recently started your culture transformation effort? Have you already started mobilizing people and launching initiatives? Understanding where you are will help you define what you need to look for (your key hypothesis and key research questions) and the data sources that will be most helpful. For example, you could assess the following:
- Change readiness – Do you want to see if leaders and employees are aware, willing, and able to drive change?
- Culture drivers – Do you want to see how effective the new programs or initiatives are?
- Mindset changes – Do you want to assess if the desired culture mindsets and behaviors are becoming norms?
- Outcomes – Do you want to understand how culture is impacting key business and people results?
At the beginning of your culture journey, you may want to focus on measuring change readiness and the effectiveness of culture initiatives. As your process takes root, you can focus more on behavioral and outcome measures.
Identify potential sources of data
Since culture is experienced, the best insights typically come from a mix of quantitative and qualitative data. Based on your key research questions, you can strategically identify potential data sources (such as employee lifecycle surveys, leadership 360s, performance evaluation forms, training feedback, sentiment analysis from employee comments, or feedback data) that can be re-imagined for intentionally capturing meaningful culture insights. If your focus is more on assessing outcomes, consider conducting advanced analytics, integrating people metrics (such as engagement, retention, development and performance measures) with employee surveys and customer data.
Identify potential experiments
Many successful culture change initiatives are rolled out in phases. This gives the organization the opportunity to learn and adjust, create success stories, and form culture champions. The phased approach also lends itself to measuring the impact of the culture initiatives over time for certain groups and to compare the differences among groups who have experienced the change vs. those who have not. Designing and measuring experiments will help you refine your approach before committing to bigger investments, make participants an active part of your broader change process, and assess the ROI of your initiatives.
Your strategy to measure the progress of your culture should be aligned to the mindsets that you are looking to drive – whether it is agility, innovation, accountability, or inclusion. Be intentional and approach the measurement process with curiosity – you are not looking for a pass or fail grade, but for powerful insights that will help you shape your best next step in your culture transformation journey.