Culture Missteps Deep Dive: Measurement (3/4)

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

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates once said: “I have been struck again and again by how important measurement is to improving the human condition.” When it comes to an organization making working lives better by developing purposeful culture, we couldn’t agree more, with one caveat: Measurement must be properly executed.

Unfortunately, strategic gaps in measurement are far too common during a culture journey. CultureIQ defines measurement missteps as those that occur during the data gathering process; they tend to generate results that are confusing to interpret or are interpreted incorrectly. In this blog, we take a deep dive into these missteps that dramatically reduce the chance that a culture initiative will drive meaningful impact.

Misstep #1: Egalitarian View

The success of any measurement activity should begin by looking at what was chosen – and not chosen – to measure. Companies that take an egalitarian view of culture see all of its elements as desirable, assuming perhaps there is one high-performance culture that all organizations should strive for.

  • Consequences. Companies that make this misstep run broad, generic surveys, giving too much real estate to culture elements that are relatively less important, and underrepresenting elements that are more critical to their unique culture. As a result, in the likelihood that low scores are observed in relatively unimportant areas, leaders are much more likely to waste time and money to address them while diluting time and effort that could have been spent on high-impact areas. In addition, the mountains of confusing data that often results from this type of approach cause organizations to have to field focus groups or other follow-on activities to distill true insight, which delays actioning and impact.
  • CultureIQ’s view. This misstep is often the direct result of another misstep that occurs in the strategy/pre-measurement phase – one we call “no definition”. By failing to define an ideal state of culture (using an exercise such as our CultureTarget), organizations cannot understand which cultural elements will be more or less critical to study; in short, this reduces the efficacy of measurement before a single piece of data is collected.

Misstep #2: Survey Fatigue

The second misstep is an assumption, the belief that measuring more than once or twice per year will result in survey fatigue (a phenomenon where respondents become overwhelmed, bored and disengaged).

  • Consequences. Leaders that make this misstep are much more likely to see a cascade of unfortunate results. First, they deploy excessively long and generic surveys because they think they’ll get minimal chances to interact with employees in a given time period, which can cause poor response. Second, they are so gun shy that they only run a major survey once every two years, which harms their ability to see key changes from one year to the next based on actions that were taken as a result of a previous survey.
  • CultureIQ’s view. Survey fatigue comes far more from leadership failing to deliver proper actioning versus simply asking questions too many times. By ensuring that employees understand how their feedback will be used and having a proper pulsing strategy tied to significant action – avoiding much of what we see with our third measurement misstep – survey engagement should go up, not down.

Misstep #3: Pulsing Approach

Pulsing – fielding periodic surveys to touch base with employees – has grown in popularity. The misstep that many leaders make when discussing it, however, is fixating on how often they should be pulsing vs. on what and who they should be pulsing.

  • Consequences. Those who fall into the frequency trap display one or more of three negative tendencies. First, they tend to ask the same pulsing questions over and over, which eventually causes survey fatigue. Second, the questions tend to focus purely on raising engagement scores in the belief that demonstrating improvement in this specific area equates to culture building. Third, they tend to field pulses on a timing cadence rather than centering the effort around measuring the impact of actioning initiatives.
  • CultureIQ’s prescription. A great pulse strategy should focus on whether a specific set of actions is making a difference (the what). Develop a series of unique pulses that will be deployed to specific subsets of the population (the who), with an understanding that the exact questions asked within the pulses may change over time as actions are tweaked based on results.

Jump To:

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

Part 2: Deep Dive: Strategy/Pre-Measurement

Part 4 -Deep Dive: Actioning/Post-Measurement