What is a Culture Survey and Why Does My Organisation Need One?

The culture of an organisation directly affects its performance and the bottom line. Improved performance is a direct result of increased employee engagement. Data from Queens University Centre for Business Venturing shows that an organisation with an engaged culture reaps many benefits, including:

 

  • 20% less absenteeism
  • 26% less employee turnover
  • 15% greater employee productivity
  • 30% greater customer satisfaction levels
  • 100% more unsolicited employment applications

 

Therefore, if your organisation is looking to increase its performance, it needs to improve on its employee engagement. Culture surveys provide you with tangible objectives for change. By repeating your survey regularly, it is possible to measure progress and identify key areas which require additional focus, in turn, increasing both performance and profits.

A culture survey will enable you to focus on the most critical aspects of your companies’ culture which will drive results and enable you to make the behavioural changes which can have the most significant impact.

 

Considerations 

The creation and deployment of an employee engagement survey is a reasonably simple process.  More complex are the ways in which the survey is positioned with employees:

  • a statement of purpose
  • policy and procedure
  • respecting individual anonymity
  • how the results and outcomes will be communicated
  • commitment to action on the part of the organisation

In our experience the success of an intervention pivots on the extent to which the above matters have been anticipated, planned for and employee expectations set by the organisation.

 

Recommendation

 

We work with organisations to ensure that an appropriate policy and procedure is in place to facilitate the successful execution of your survey.  This initial stage would involve reviewing the way that the initiative was described. This would include:

  • why the survey was being conducted
  • what was being requested of each individual
  • how the opinions of each individual would be collected
  • how it would be processed and by whom
  • how the results of the survey would be used by the organisation
  • how the results and consequent actions/initiatives would be communicated to employees

 

The above points represent critical steps in ensuring that the survey has a net positive outcome for the organisation. The risk of not giving due consideration to these points is a profound and negative impact on attitudes and morale.

Questions used in the survey are tailored to the organisation, this is not a one size fits all approach, because of course no two organisations are the same and nor are their objectives, goals and priorities.

We would work with you to disseminate the survey and gather the results. We would analyse the results and report to key stakeholders on:

  • The whole organisation
  • Department by department
  • Job level

We present the report of the results in an readily understandable format, identifying implications and with suggestions on future actions.

Managing Your Personal Impact

First impressions are, undeniably important in terms of building your personal brand. Most of us are aware that others make decisions about us within the first few seconds of meeting us. However, if we are striving to make a positive impact on others, it is important to follow-up, with behaviours which support those impressions. Ways to improve and maintain your personal impact include:

 

Initial Impressions:

Demonstrate confidence – while this may not come naturally to everyone, practising until you do feel confident  will help. Push yourself to do things you do not feel confident doing, such as speaking publicly. After doing it a few times, it will become easier and you will be less inclined to shy away from such situations.

Personal grooming – ensure that you are always smartly turned out. This does not mean that you need to have the latest in terms of style, but ensure that your clothes are neatly ironed, shoes shined and heeled, and that hair and nails are neat – these points are equally important for men as they are for women. Also, ensure that you dress appropriately for the occasion and adhere to the dress code.

 

Body Language:

Pay attention to how you carry yourself, posture is important and is something which can seriously affect your personal impact, either in a negative or a positive way. Stand tall, sit up straight and carry yourself with confidence.

Make eye contact with the person to whom you are speaking. People who do not make eye contact can come across as suspicious or nervous, neither of which is a desirable impression to make. However, take care not to prolong it to the extent that it comes across as aggressive. Maintaining appropriate eye contact projects confidence and trustworthiness.

Control your facial expressions. If you are speaking with someone, try to appear interested and don’t allow your eyes to wander around the room. Your face can easily betray feelings of boredom, disinterest or anger.

 

In the Workplace:

Timing – don’t just be on time, be 5 minutes early to meetings. If you are running late, ring ahead to let the person know. If you are responsible for delivering a piece of work, make sure that this is delivered on time and if this becomes impossible, due to circumstances beyond your control, be sure to communicate what is happening to the relevant stakeholders as soon as possible. Try to offer some alternatives or solutions to the problem and apologise. Do not become known as unreliable.

Don’t be a gossip – if you have nothing positive to say, say nothing at all. Gossip in the workplace breeds resentment and mistrust – don’t be someone who contributes to this.

Listen to others – even those who are junior or less experienced. Don’t be known as the person who takes up all the airtime.

Encouraging Innovation in Your Organisation

Innovation is currently a popular buzz word in business and what many organisations are striving for in order to succeed in today’s competitive environment. How can we encourage innovation within our own organisations?

  • In order for people to feel comfortable generating, and perhaps more importantly, voicing new ideas, they need to feel confident that they will be met by a receptive audience. This is an attitude which can be fostered by an organisation’s leadership team and management. Ensure that people feel that their ideas are listened to and not disregarded, as this is a sure-fire way to discourage an innovative mindset in employees.
  • Diversity within an organisation is a factor which has been shown to lead to greater innovation. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that “companies that have more diverse management teams have 19% higher revenue, due to innovation” (Forbes, 27th June, 2018). A diverse group will be less likely to fall victim to group think, where everyone simply agrees with the consensus of the group and nobody wants to challenge this.
  • The ideas of junior, or less experienced members of staff should be listened to as well as the more senior leaders. While a lack of experience can lead to a lack of awareness of potential pitfalls, this may at times be a good thing. Ideas can then be teased out to see what these pitfalls might be and how to avoid them. But coming up with the idea in the first place without self-limiting beliefs is a good first step in terms of innovation.
  • Allow time for innovation – schedule weekly team meetings where employees can bounce ideas off each other. Some companies, allow employees a set amount of time to take during their working day to work on ideas which may not be strictly related to what they are currently working on, but this time can allow for people to consider possible ideas which they may not otherwise have thought of.
  • Implement good ideas. Employees who take the time to come up with new and innovative ideas will quickly become frustrated if the idea is not used, or at least tried out, despite it being a good one. If the idea is not deemed suitable, feedback should be given to the employee as to why this is, so that they are not discouraged from submitting ideas in the future.
  • Reward employees who come up with innovative ideas. The rewards need not be monetary, they may come in the form of praise and recognition, increased holiday days or more flexible working hours. For the best results, try to tailor the reward to the individual so that it is something which is actually important to them. Some may be highly motivated by public recognition, while others may dislike being the centre of attention. Try to reward employees in a way which is meaningful to them.
  • Adapt what is already a success – Apple was named as the most innovative company of 2018, but as Steve Jobs put it “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas”. Don’t be afraid to look at what your competitors are doing and finding a way to improve on it. Or look further afield, at other industries and “steal” from their successful ideas.
  • Failure should not be frowned upon – in fact ‘intelligent failure’ should be accepted as part of an innovative organisation. It is impossible for all ideas to succeed, but if fear of failure prevents people and organisations from trying, innovation is far less likely to happen. Learn from failures and see what could be done differently the next time around.
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The Challenges in Managing Diversity & Inclusion

The concepts of diversity, inclusion and equality are becoming more and more widespread in everyday language both within and outside of the business world. In terms of its definition, Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) may be a rather fluid concept, but at its very core it is about empowering, respecting and appreciating individual differences. However, it is important to note that diversity and inclusion are not interchangeable as concepts. Diversity refers to the ways in which individuals differ from each other – these can be both visible and non-visible factors, ranging from gender and race to personality and cognitive diversity. Inclusion refers to the involvement and empowerment of all these different individuals – that is, everyone.

Unconscious biases and the complexity of D&I

A common topic in the D&I discussion is the emergence of unconscious biases and how to manage them. Unconscious biases are automatic, quick judgments and assessments we make of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. It is our innate drive to understand and make sense of ourselves, others, and the world around us, and this can sometimes lead us into thinking we know more than we actually do. Due to these unconscious biases – which are an inevitable part of human nature and embedded into our decision making – D&I can be a challenging topic to manage as it requires getting out of one’s comfort zone and being open to questioning the status quo. However, I believe there has been growing level of interest in understanding the bigger picture and the broader advantages of valuing the magnitude and complexity of differences in individuals – the differences in personalities, perspectives, life experiences and thinking styles that, if managed efficiently, can all add to the creative ideas, productivity and overall success of an organisation.

Diversity issues represent some of the most complex dynamics in the modern organisation, but the awareness of these can significantly improve workplace performance and relationships. Nevertheless, the efforts to promote diversity have often been ineffective. Research has found that dealing with diversity ineffectively can subsequently lead to poor communication and teamwork and further to segregation and intolerance within groups, in other words, to exclusion. This is why it is important to challenge ourselves to find not only efficient but, most importantly, authentic ways to deal with diversity. Although it can be relatively easy for organisations to increase its diversity in numbers, it should be noted that there is no evidence of causation when it comes to inclusion – diversity will not automatically increase the organisation’s social inclusion. Additionally, merely hiring diverse talent does not guarantee its retention.

Inclusion and psychological safety

In recent times, there has been more emphasis on focusing on the importance of inclusion, as opposed to diversity. Ideally, in order to the organisation (or a group of any kind) to utilise its diversity to its maximum potential, the individuals will all feel included and thus motivated to bring their full potential to work and further bring their unique contributions to the organisation’s objectives. Therefore, the transformation, or the bridge, between diversity and inclusion involves accepting and valuing different views and behaviours, adapting to other ways of communicating, and further building on the benefits of diverse and inclusive environment. Again, this can also bring its challenges and it is important for leaders to manage any conflict of personalities or creative tensions that can result from the inherent differences within the team. The leaders need to ensure they influence others to value individual differences, big or small, and, most importantly, to make sure they accommodate each individual in a way that all the diverse perspectives, cultures and personalities are being heard. For the diverse teams to flourish, they need to be in a climate of psychological safety, a term coined by Amy Edmondson, defined as “a shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking”. In other words, it is about each individual having the confidence to take risks and express new ideas without fear of embarrassment. This is another important aspect of D&I that leaders need to be aware of and lead by example by bringing transparency and authenticity into their organisation.  

Journey of continuous change

Notably, research shows that when diversity efforts focus more on visual identities such as race, gender, age or disability, without addressing the more implicit differences such as personalities, values, perspectives, or attitudes , it may actually hold back development of inclusive environments by overemphasising differences rather than similarities. It is important to understand that there is no quick fix to inclusiveness and it should not be a specific or tangible goal to try to achieve, but instead a continuous journey that fluctuates with the changes as we learn and evolve. It is the individual themselves who is ultimately not only responsible but also capable of learning and expanding their capacity to deepen their awareness of their own differences – and similarities – and those of others and see the ultimate benefits of a diverse and inclusive environment. Furthermore, by increasing their awareness, the individual should have the ability to respond and adapt to their environment mindfully, rather than out of habit.

You and your career

Learning and development is undoubtedly necessary to stay at the top of your game professionally. Therefore we all try and take the time to keep updated on current trends in our relevant industries. However, what other steps can be taken to ensure that you keep moving your career in the direction you want? Technical knowledge will take you so far, but in order to truly grow and continue your career trajectory in the direction you want, it is necessary to take a look inwards, at oneself and see what interpersonal skills need to be developed and honed. Technical ability might help you achieve the promotion to manager, but in order to become a leader, personal development is required. This is where career coaching and psychometrics can help.

Career coaching is not simply somewhere to go to voice your dissatisfaction with your current role or circumstances. It is a highly tailored approach to evaluating ones goals and objectives and mapping out a plan to allow those to be reached. Steps are identified and agreed with the coach and he/she will hold the coachee accountable for reaching those steps and ultimately achieving their goal.

Dealing with people effectively is much more achievable if the person has a good degree of self-awareness and self-knowledge. People often take it for granted that they know themselves, but how often does one sit down and really think about one’s personality and what makes them tick, or conversely, what stops one from being as effective or as efficient as they should be? Psychometrics, or more specifically, personality assessments can help one gain a clear picture of themselves, identifying what their strengths are and how to draw on them, as well as figuring out what their potential development areas are and how to tackle those effectively. This can also be achieved with the help of a career coach or organisational psychologist, to explain the results of the assessments and helping the person to think objectively about their own personality and how to get the most out of the process.

Finally, 360 reports are a tool which is tailored towards eliciting structured feedback from one’s peers, direct reports and those they report to. It is anonymous and therefore should be candid and honest in a way in which people might shy away from in a face to face situation in which they do not have to worry about the potential for offending the recipient.

If none of these tools are currently a realistic option, take the time to honestly assess yourself. What are your strengths, what have you done well this year and why did it go well? Identify your strengths. But just as importantly, try to identify potential areas for development. What has gone badly this year and why? What could you have done differently?

Also consider asking trusted friends, family and colleagues for feedback. Explain that you want to learn and work on any potential development areas. Reassure them that you want them to be honest and take their feedback in a gracious manner. Do not try to defend yourself or make excuses. Simply thanks the person for their feedback and then take the time to reflect on this and what actions you might take to work on this feedback. A coach can also be employed for a number of sessions at this point if you feel that you need help to work on the areas identified.

Our sessions are tailored to the individual and their requirements, so if you would like to arrange a coaching session, please contact our office and we can match you with a coach who will best fit your specific needs.