Monthly Archives: July 2015

How do you measure whether you have an energizing culture? We instinctively know that a positive culture enhances employee engagement. The question is how are companies supposed to gauge their cultures? What are the best practices for measuring culture success/shortcomings?

We generally know two things about culture: 1) a positive culture leads to an engaged workforce, and 2) most organizations have no idea how to measure the positive and negative aspects of their cultures.

Check out these disconcerting employee engagement statistics:

– 64% do not feel they have a strong workplace culture.
– 49% are not satisfied with their direct supervisors.
– 66% see no opportunities for professional growth.
– 25% feel they do not have the tools to be successful in their jobs.
– Only 21% feel strongly valued at work, generally due to lack of appreciation/recognition.
– Only 42% know their organization’s vision, mission, and values.

People are starting to pay attention to culture – so much so that “culture” was Merriam-Webster’s #1 word last year. But, what we really need to do is find a way to successfully measure it.

94% of business leaders worldwide believe that culture matters, but only 5% currently measure it. We painstakingly measure everything in our businesses, including sales performance, SEO, margins, expenses, etc. Why not spend as much time and energy on measuring culture? After all, you are what you measure – if a firm measures A and B, but not X and Y, people will naturally focus on A and B. Those areas will continue to be emphasized and strengthened, and X and Y will fall by the wayside. Such is the case with culture.

There are ways to roughly gauge culture with the naked eye – are your employees referring others to work for your company; are people quitting for perceived greener pastures; is the parking lot empty at 5:01PM. Yet, in the same way that you wouldn’t blindly trust a gut feeling or water cooler chatter, those observations won’t cut it in the long run when assessing culture or engagement.

Of the minority of companies that do measure their cultures, most do so via surveys once a year (or once a quarter). By the time responses are collected, reviewed, and analyzed, there’s usually been a shift in leadership, an updated product, or a shift in technology or market opportunity, which makes the data outdated and ultimately unhelpful. Companies are dynamic. Industries evolve. Technology moves at a rapid-fire pace. To stay on top of our game, we must reinvent employee engagement for the digital age. We must better gather, evaluate, and analyze big data, and this must be done through something more than an occasional employee survey.

Tips to successfully measure culture:
– Seek frequent feedback. Continuously gather data. If you wait until the end of a year to survey employees, you’ll probably get feedback on the previous month. It’s important to gauge in real-time, not in annual retrospect.
– Cater to the ADD generation. If you ask more than 1-5 questions, people start to lose interest and/or stop responding authentically.
– Communicate with employees how they want to be communicated with. Whatever’s most convenient and useful for your employees, talk to them that way (e.g. email, text, app).
– Assemble a data-driven dashboard and analytics. Get meaningful measurements with easy-to-understand variables.
– Use open-ended inquiries to spark robust responses. Empower employees to solve problems, express what they need, and act upon what they tell you.

Pro tip: 5 top engagement tools on the market today:
1. Bluebridge. Bluebridge engagement apps stand out by also driving recognition, productivity, strategy, and centralized communication alongside employee surveys.
2. TINYpulse. The famous trailblazer of the micro-survey industry, TINYpulse is a simple way to keep your finger on the pulse of employee engagement.
3. Culture IQ. Launched in October of 2014 by Greg Besner, entrepreneur and professor at NYU Stern, Culture IQ proves “great culture can be inspired anywhere, even in an elevator.”
4. GLINT. The first primarily iOS-based of these tools, Glint offers survey pulses that take less than a minute and operate live, so you can keep tabs on your organization in real time.
5. 15five. Neither anonymous nor general, 15five helps team members and managers engage in stimulating, constructive e-conversations.

Culture is crucial to your bottom line and deserves to be monitored, measured, and maximized!

As business people, we’ve been taught to manage what we can measure. Money, time, customer and employee counts—the ‘tangibles.’ We’ve gotten so used to talking about the numbers—about what we do—that we forget to address how or why we do it.

Yet, the ‘why’ driving employee behaviors is directly correlated with their motivation and performance in the workplace.

Behavioral economist Dan Ariely conducted several studies on motivation in the workplace. In one experiment, he gave subjects a piece of paper with a simple written task to complete. Ariely then reacted in three different fashions when the participants completed the task. In some cases, he took the completed paper, looked at it, gave a satisfied “uh-huh,” and put it on a stack of other papers. In other cases, he took merely glanced at the paper before putting it on the pile. In other cases, he didn’t even look at the paper. He put it directly in a shredder.

Participants were offered money to complete the tasks, and the amount decreased with each repetition. This continued until subjects declined to complete another task.

The people whose work was acknowledged (“uh-huh”) continued working until the payout dropped to 15 cents per page. Those whose work was ignored and placed on the pile continued until the payout dropped to 27 cents. Finally, subjects whose work was shredded stopped when the payout reached 30 cents per page.

Ignoring people’s performance was essentially the same as shredding their work in front of their eyes. The simple act of acknowledging a person’s output dramatically improves employee engagement.

Money isn’t the only motivation driver. In fact, it’s often not even the biggest driver for employees. Many people value meaning, progress, advancement, creativity, challenge, ownership, and pride even more.

If we only took action in return for payment, no one would climb mountains, start companies, or take risks. Human beings are naturally drawn to challenge themselves in hopes of achieving a sense of progress, accomplishment, and self-worth.

To understand these motivations in the workplace, let’s flashback to Psychology 101 and Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. First published in his 1943 paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” in the Psychological Review, Maslow’s five-tier pyramid showed a series of needs that could be met only when the one below was satisfied.
Consider the bottom-most level—physiological needs like water, air, food, and shelter. Moving up, we can address safety needs like personal security, financial security, health, and well-being. Social needs are interpersonal, like intimacy and belonging with friends and family. Esteem is the need to feel respected, accepted, and valued by others, including both self-esteem and self-respect, established through a sense of contribution and value. Self-actualization is the realization of your full potential, or ‘be all that you can be.’

No matter our role in the workplace, we all have these human needs. Companies should strive to develop cultures that act as catalysts for high levels of transformation and transcendence. A job must be more than just a paycheck.

A paycheck and benefits are expected. But rewarding interactions with people, meaningful work, and a sense of accomplishment are the things that really matter to employees. And according to Ariely’s experiment, they matter a lot—so much so that people would work for half as much money if their motivation was stronger.

So, how can we manage the higher-level intangibles? Especially when they’re difficult to measure?

Google developed a leadership program called “Search Inside Yourself” that promotes self-actualization and transcendence at work. Google realized that self-actualized people tend to exude characteristics such as innovation, mindfulness, humor, compassion, and creativity—all of which are highly profitable for business.

Google’s proving that you don’t have to choose between inspired employees and financial success. Inspired employees lead to financial success.

As Start with Why author Simon Sinek explains in his inspiring TED talk, “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. . . The goal is not to do business with people who need what you have, but with people who believe what you believe.”

Sinek notes how most organizations start with what they do, then how they do it, and end with why (if they get there at all). The most influential organizations, on the other hand, reverse that thought process.

Apple is known for the statement: “Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo, in thinking differently. The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed and simple to use. We just happen to make great computers, want to buy one?”

What you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe. And what you believe, the intangible why you do what you do, is what can motivate employees, engage loyal customers, earn the faith of investors, and inspire true transformation.

Also published in FirstPerson.