To survey or not to survey: the question of measuring culture
TCC's Head of Culture and ex-FCA culture specialist, Olivia Fahy, outlines her top tips for using surveys as a culture measurement tool
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We think the long-term success of your business depends on your organisational culture. It drives behaviour, attracts and retains employees, forms the backbone of many compliance programmes and leads to good customer outcomes.
Most of us can get a sense of a business’s culture when we’re immersed and working within it, but measuring it objectively is far from simple.
The de facto approach across most industries is some form of employee survey or questionnaire, with varying levels of sophistication. From what we’ve seen, most are based on decades-old methodology and have a number of shortcomings.
Here’s the most common pitfalls in the use of surveys to measure culture.
- Not asking the right questions
Employee responses are often unreliable. For starters, most surveys are designed to measure engagement. While there is some link between employee happiness and misconduct, questions are best tailored towards understanding employee behaviour rather than sentiment if you want to use the insights to truly understand culture and reduce conduct risk.
What’s more, social desirability bias means traditional ‘satisfaction’ style surveys are highly unlikely to get you an honest answer anyway. Most people will say what they think you want to hear, and some studies have shown that even complete anonymisation doesn’t get round this problem. Questions need to be carefully crafted, reassuring the respondent that the focus is on the firm, the wider team or the specifics of their role – not them.
- Relying on snapshots
Another common mistake we see is limiting the use of free text answers. This is where employees are most likely to give candid answers, but instead are forced to choose between several pre-filled responses. On top of that, most businesses only deploy surveys a few times a year at best. But your business is always evolving, so that data will be out-of-date almost as soon as you’ve analysed it.
- Taking the data at face value
The hardest part of this whole process is understanding what the data is telling you. Not only do you need to dedicate the time and resource, but most people lack the in-house skills to dig beneath the data’s surface. As we know, survey responses can be unreliable, so it takes a bit of extra work to compare that information against other data sources and gain broader insights to uncover the true picture.
- Not translating insights into solutions
Employee engagement is just one small piece of the culture puzzle. Only when all the pieces fit together can you understand culture and the actions that need to be taken to drive real change.
This is why many attempts at culture measurement don’t translate into culture change. There’s usually a narrow focus on measurement, rather than a more complete assessment and understanding of culture. This often means that any remedial actions, while well-meaning, aren’t addressing the root cause of the issue because they’re based on an incomplete picture.
As a result, staff think leaders don’t understand what’s really going on, don’t see the point and are much less likely to engage on a continual basis, meaning many culture change programmes fail.
Time for an upgrade
Our culture analytics platform is uniquely designed to solve these problems. Building on the advantages of survey tools, we combine clever people and smart technology to take culture analytics to the next level, focusing on in-depth assessment.
- Our team consists of leading experts in culture, conduct risk and behavioural science. Together they created a survey that’s rooted in FCA regulation and specifically designed to elicit honest, insightful answers.
- We use pulse checks to provide real-time monitoring, so you can track progress over time. This can be targeted towards specific areas of your business to investigate issues while guarding against ‘survey fatigue’.
- Alongside a survey, intelligent culture analytics pulls live streams of statistical and systems data from across your business, including business communications systems such as Slack and MSTeams. This provides real-time continuous data and enables us to compare what your business says it does to what actually happens in real life.
- Cutting-edge Organisational Network Analysis provides you with a unique view of how your organisation is communicating and sharing information, allowing you to identify key informal influencers and gain insight into how inclusive your culture is.
- Our culture experts know exactly what the FCA is looking for. With their undivided focus, you’ll get a clear roadmap with tangible actions to help get you there.
See it in action
Book a demo to see how our tech can supercharge your culture programme