Culture Missteps Deep Dive: Actioning/Post-Measurement (4/4)

Editor’s Note: This blog is the final in a four-part series.

The phrase “where the rubber meets the road” is defined as the point at which a theory or idea is put to a practical test. It is often used to signify something that is action-related; in other words, stop talking about what needs to be done and go do it.

Taking action is a significant part of building purposeful culture, but when it fails to deliver the anticipated results, a host of things can be to blame. CultureIQ defines actioning/post-measurement missteps as those that occur as organizations are trying to convert findings into action, and ultimately to discern a return on this action. In this blog, we take a deep dive into these missteps that when observable dramatically reduce the chance that a culture initiative will drive meaningful impact.

Misstep #1: Actioning vs. Action Planning

While the first misstep may seem trivial, it can be an early-warning sign of greater trouble to come. Using the terms action planning (the process of identifying key issues to focus on and then determining who will do what by when) and actioning (the full process of taking action to cultivate purposeful culture) interchangeably denotes confusion as to the breadth – and criticality – of the task at hand.

  • Consequences. Action planning is typically administrative and HR-centric in nature, while actioning is cross-functional and highly strategic. The former includes loading plans into a system and managing them, while the process of actioning actually begins by formally tying business strategy and organizational environment to culture all the way back in the strategy/pre-measurement phase. While both are important, when companies prioritize action planning over actioning, their efforts will lose steam and visibility, and fail to drive quantifiable impact.
  • CultureIQ’s view. Companies that spend more time on administrative tasks as they pertain to culture development than they do building strong, aligned relationships between HR and other functional leaders will find themselves in an endless cycle of surveying, with little to show for their work. Separating the work of action planning from actioning, teaching those on the team proper terminology and right-sizing the time spent planning vs. acting are all major steps to stronger alignment between HR and its business constituents.

Misstep #2: Low Score Fallacy

When a major employee survey is completed and you’re drowning in data, it’s natural to look for a quick way out. Our second misstep is the notion that action should, by default, be prioritized against the lowest overall observed culture scores.

  • Consequences. A leadership team that has not done the work to determine which elements of culture will be most important for it to foster given its organization’s unique combination of planned strategies and emergent requirements (as discussed in the second blog in this series) often fall into this trap; frankly, they have little chance not to. What’s worse is when they leave the prioritization up to individual managers/departments, fragmenting efforts even further. When culture elements are prioritized prior to data gathering, those viewing eventual data will know which scores to take more or less seriously, even if they fall far below a comparative benchmark. Over time, those who make this misstep will find themselves on a treadmill, actioning the three lowest scores at any given time, then rinsing and repeating.
  • CultureIQ’s view. The strength of linkage between certain culture elements and a specific organization’s business goals/environment must first be known in order to guide subsequent executive attention when it’s time to action. By avoiding an upstream misstep, a cascade of downstream missteps can be avoided.

Misstep #3: Simplicity of Fix

The third action-related misstep is often an outgrowth of the second. Choose the three lowest scores in the survey, and then address them in one of three ways: Put in a new benefit, launch a new process or stand up a committee to further study the perceived deficiency.

  • Consequences. This phenomenon – which is more common than you might think – is a sure sign that organizational leadership sees culture as something that is more tactical than strategic, and more reactive than proactive. All three of these “fixes” tend to be left up to HR leadership, signaling an abdication of culture responsibility by the company’s functional leaders, CEO and board of directors.
  • CultureIQ’s view. For actioning to truly make a difference, a partnership between HR and functional leaders must be created, with both HR-led and leader-led remedies considered as a part of the culture improvement mix. In the years to come, those organizations that can truly forge a business partnership between HR and the set of functional leaders who culture change will fall to will create a decided advantage between themselves and the competition.

The preceding articles of this 4 part series can be found here for more common but critical missteps taken during one’s culture journey.

Part 1: Culture Work, Derailed: Three Root Cause Categories

Part 2: Deep Dive: Strategy/Pre-Measurement

Part 3: Deep Dive: Measurement