Company culture has been on the minds of many in the corporate sphere—from E&C professionals to employees to board directors. In fact, recent data from the LRN Benchmark of Ethical Culture shows that there is a present, growing need to shape culture globally. We know that, traditionally, this has been a challenge. Regions vary by language and cultural sensitivities, and our research has shown that large multinational organizations have especially struggled to achieve consistent ethical cultures and behaviors across all locations. But this does not mean that catalyzing culture change is impossible. Rather, it highlights the importance of knowing where to begin: by asking questions.
4 questions to ask to better understand your company culture
We’ve discussed before how asking questions can broaden your understanding of how people interpret the culture and values of your organization—which ultimately impacts your business. Questions can also help identify any gaps in experience that need immediate improvement. So, even if you think you know your company culture well, it is worth asking these four questions:
1) Do we truly understand what is driving and influencing the behavior that we are seeing?
Ethical culture is more than just the stated values of an organization. It encompasses the actual values that guide people’s actions each day—how they make decisions, compose emails, earn promotions, and treat their fellow colleagues. Consider consulting resources that provide a comprehensive look at the state of ethical culture in your industry, then use them as a key benchmark when examining your own company culture.
2) Do we know how our employees are experiencing our culture, and how that might vary across the organization?
There are many ways to gather insights into your company culture, but we find the best method is asking employees directly. Asking your people about company culture might reveal that different factions of your organization—senior leaders, middle management, and individual contributors—have varying experiences of company culture. In fact, data in the Benchmark of Ethical Culture reinforces this hypothesis: on average, senior leaders report scores about 11 percentage points higher than those of individual contributors across all dimensions of culture. Deploy your own company-wide survey to be certain, and keep in mind that whatever results you receive should be acknowledged openly and honestly in order to effectively bridge the culture gap.
3) Do we know how employee, leadership, and organizational behavior are impacting our business performance?The Benchmark of Ethical Culture found that companies with the strongest ethical cultures outperform—by approximately 40%—across all measures of business performance, including levels of customer satisfaction, employee loyalty, innovation, adaptability, and growth. Tracking cultural progress over time is also important for organizations that aim to lead on ESG, DEI, organizational justice, trust, and other metrics. Illustrating these kinds of insights requires access to data and analytics tools, so be sure you are able to either pull this information yourself or receive it on a regular basis.
4) Are we going through a period of significant change in strategy, leadership, or organizationally?
There could be larger forces at play that are influencing your company culture. In those instances, it is especially important that your leaders regularly seek and acknowledge feedback from employees at all levels. Understanding how bigger business changes express themselves in the workplace on a day-to-day basis can help you truly understand where your company culture is succeeding and where it can improve for everyone
The key takeaway
Having an ethical company culture significantly impacts business results, but it does not happen overnight. Asking questions about your organizational strengths and areas for improvement—from the outset and on a regular basis—is key to ensuring you are on the right path to creating a company culture that everyone can be proud of. To learn more, download a copy of the Benchmark of Ethical Culture and check out these additional resources to help you develop your corporate culture:
- Yes, you can measure ethical culture
- Addressing the Great Resignation: 3 tips to build employee loyalty
- How to build trust: Insights from the PwC Trust in U.S. Business survey