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Better indicators of workplace culture

24 October 2019 at 8:22 am
Fran Connelley
We need more robust, leading indicators for workplace culture, writes Fran Connelley.

Fran Connelley | 24 October 2019 at 8:22 am


Better indicators of workplace culture
24 October 2019 at 8:22 am

We need more robust, leading indicators for workplace culture, writes Fran Connelley.

The following is an excerpt from Connelley’s new book, Workplace Culture and the NDIS, to be released next month. The central thesis of the book is that workplace culture flows from the strength of your “internal brand”. This internal brand is the human element that ties organisational values to daily actions and patterns of behaviours.  

Two months ago I was running a workshop interstate when I heard a phrase that I’ve now heard over and over again: “We just had to set culture to one side so we could get everything else done.”

If you accept that the internal brand is what propels and protects your culture, then you would understand the consequences of setting culture “to one side”. To do so is to risk your identity, your mission, and your future. 

“Successful cultural transformation takes at least three years and requires regular monitoring.”

This may sound dramatic – but there are too many stories of corporate and institutional cultural collapse right now to prove it’s true.

Clearly, this particular manager was not required to regularly report on cultural indicators to her CEO. If she had been responsible for measuring any aspect of it and reporting on that measure regularly, culture would not have been set aside for so long.

Most organisations don’t monitor cultural indicators on a regular basis. Successful cultural transformation takes at least three years and requires regular monitoring. Existing employee and customer metrics such as staff engagement surveys or net promoter scores (NPS) are lagging indicators.

So how does your organisation report on cultural health to your board? Is it simply annual staff retention figures and the staff satisfaction survey? Or have you developed something more meaningful that can be measured at any point in time and then watched as a trend?

If you’re serious about culture change, you need to add in some leading indicators of progress. You need to get more human, more granular and more nuanced. This means measuring the weekly “human” clues or behaviours that indicate cultural fatigue or decline – and addressing them sooner rather than later.

Take a commonsense, human approach around what is an easy, reliable measure of staff engagement in your workplace. (Keep in mind Eric Reis’s comment in his fabulous book The Lean Startup: “Remember, metrics are people too!”)

Some examples are given below, but it’s really a matter of identifying those metrics that can be easily collected, tracked as a trend and that, most of all, will act as a measure of your organisation’s values.

New indicators of cultural health – some suggestions (not in any priority order)

  1. Weekly team meeting attendance rates. (I know this sounds like school, but believe me, so many organisations don’t even get their staff attending team meetings. How can you support them – or keep them – if you never see them?)
  2. Weekly or monthly absenteeism rates.
  3. Monthly team social events.
  4. Monthly staff rewards/awards.
  5. Monthly staff retention.
  6. Monthly rate of service cancellations versus services delivered.
  7. The number of CEO site visits.
  8. The number of CEO–frontline team leader face-to-face meetings.
  9. The number of CEO–participant (and family) face-to-face interactions.
  10. The number of cross-functional projects active at any one time.
  11. Board meeting attendance rates.
  12. Positive and negative customer feedback rates.
  13. The number of people who know your mission and can share your origin story
  14. Performance management incentives are tied to the organisation’s values.

The old saying “what gets measured, gets managed” absolutely applies to workplace culture. So identify the indicators that make the most sense for your organisation and start monitoring them now, rather than waiting another six to 12 months until the next engagement survey. Because with the speed of change in the Australian not-for-profit sector, six to 12 months is a very, very long time.

About the author: Fran Connelley is a strategic marketer, author, facilitator, and speaker. She is passionate about using marketing principles to improve the employee and customer experience. Her new book Workplace Culture and the NDIS will be released in November and is now available for pre-order. Fran’s first book, How to Thrive under the NDIS, is in its seventh reprint. 


Fran Connelley  |  @ProBonoNews

Fran Connelley is a culture and communications specialist with over 20 year’s experience in the not-for-profit sector. She is CEO of Fran Connelley Culture & Communications, which helps organisations improve internal communications and build a more supportive workplace.

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