Do you know what a culture analysis is? No – read this. Yes – you should still read this.

When you are a team of four like Thrive it’s relatively easy to keep a finger on the pulse of the company culture. But what do you do when there are 40, 400 or 4,000? You likely survey them, right? But if you’ve never done an internal culture analysis before, you may not know where to start. Not to worry — we have some ideas.

When we manage internal employee surveys for our clients, we spend 4–6 weeks creating and completing the analysis, providing reports of findings and identifying suggested next steps. We suggest the process could look like this for your company.

Enlist a third party. We may be biased on this one (because we have been the third party) but it is best practice to hire an outside firm to manage your culture analysis for the all the reasons you would expect: organizational transparency, participant candor, expertise and perspective. Outside firms will be able to guarantee anonymity and draw out employee honesty in a way that an internal team would struggle to do. Many times they will use in-person interviews to get specific and detailed responses that otherwise would never be shared internally. And if you aren’t getting to that level of candor — the survey is essentially a waste of your time, effort and money.

Create survey questions. If you are doing this internally, you’ll need to use an anonymous online survey (use SurveyMonkey, GoogleForms or a similar tool) to ensure the employees trust the process enough to open up. You’ll need to make sure you choose neutral questions that don’t bias the answer. And you’ll want to choose questions that are specific to the problem you want to address. However, some general cultural questions we ask are:

  • Why did you apply for your current job?
  • What are the things that you enjoy about your current job?
  • Are you learning and becoming more capable at work?
  • What are some changes that you would like to see about your current job?
  • What would you do differently if you were the manager?
  • What do you want to share with the executives?
  • What words describe the culture in your workplace?
  • Is there anything else you would like to share?

You can also ask for ratings (rate the following statements from 1- 5. 1 — I strongly disagree; 3 — neither agree or disagree; 5 — strongly agree). Those statements might sounds like:

  • My personal growth is considered important
  • I am growing in my professional capabilities
  • I feel valued by my manager
  • I know how my role impacts the company purpose
  • I feel safe to share my feedback and suggestions with the leadership team

Include demographic questions. Be sure to ask questions about age, gender, length of employment, role (front-line staff/manager/executive) so you can identify trends within the responses. Is it only females that feel this way? Are the frontline staff overworked? Is there a morale problem with the managers? How do the perspectives between older and younger workers differ? What is the disconnect between executives and recent hires?

Compile and interpret data. Depending on the number of questions and responses in your survey, there will be a lot of data to aggregate, interpret and report on. You’ll want to put all of the information into an easy to understand and easy to reference report. Be sure to include visuals (graphs and charts). Visuals help show the whole picture and accommodate those that are visual learners.

Create and communicate next steps. While you need to spend time with the results to ensure that you have worked through any emotional reactions, you’ll need to quickly create a plan to address any issues that were uncovered. Resist the urge to bury the report and go on with business as usual. Because even if you don’t publicly address the results with your staff, the problems are still there — wreaking havoc on your company’s productivity, morale and profitability. With many of our clients, the first next step is to create task forces of employees to tackle the problems that have surfaced. These task forces should be diverse in terms of age, department, gender, ethnicity and drawn from every level of the organization chart.

So let’s be clear about something: culture surveys and analyses are long, laborious projects. But they unveil information about your company that you couldn’t otherwise uncover. You’ll be surprised with your results…sometimes in a good way and sometimes in a not-so-good way…but either way, they are your best opportunity to pinpoint the most sensitive spots in your culture or confirm what you already think you know.

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