company culture assessment - understanding empathy and agency to make decisions.

Many organizations are bringing people back to the office. I’ve seen increased requests for company culture assessments or working with them to gather information about how people currently feel and what can be changed or altered within the workplace culture. 

There are many ways to do this company culture scanning process, and they all include similar requirements: 
  • gathering current employee experiences of the workplace, in their own words with their examples
  • developing some visual data map of the current condition or environment;
  • ensuring that everyone has agency over their interpretation and view of the company culture; 
  • a simple (but not too simple) way to visually share all the data – see the macro-data;
  • a simple way to explore and dive into the data points and learn more – see the micro-data; 
  •  a process to share the information with everyone – and they can see what clusters, trends, and outliers exist, 
  • and they can see what their work culture experiences look like compared to the whole; 
  • a way to determine short-term things to change, amplify, or decrease
  • a process to share and facilitate what to do about the culture assessment. 

With all the above in mind, I ask some standard questions when I meet with the decision-making team. 

These questions help to determine

  • what the organization and those in the meeting see as workplace culture;
  • how they work together (which shows us some cultural interactions to understand); 
  • what their best hopes are and what they feel progress looks like; 
  • where are the boundaries, constraints, and connections; 
  • where to start (this is complex work and knowing a place to start helps us all). 

Here are some of my typical first meeting culture assessment questions.

Sometimes I ask and listen, and sometimes we make it more interactive with flipcharts and post-it notes, or online with mural or miro

Listen and accept where people are and deeply respect their perspective of the company culture. 

When you choose to take on this work of company culture assessment, you are now becoming support or hindrance in their work; take that seriously and make every effort to listen. 

In the initial meeting, it is informal, some of my questions may be: 

  1. What are your best hopes from this process? 
  2. How can we determine or understand if our work together in achieving these hopes? 
  3. Who ought to be involved in this process, or do we need to talk to better understand what is happening and not happening within the organization? 
  4. What works best to encourage learning and discussion with the people in your organization? 
  5. What is currently going well that should be amplified? 
  6. What challenging or uncomfortable areas or topics do I need to be aware of to ensure that we can make progress together? 
  7. What is the best way to update you on what is happening? 

After discussing the initial queries and re-re-discuss, the boundaries and connections can be better known, and the work of the work culture assessment and feedback can happen.