Assessing your workplace culture: 5 steps leadership need to take

01 March 2023 Sharyn Waterworth

Assessing Workplace Culture: 5 Steps Leadership Need To Take

Are you keeping your finger on the pulse of your workplace culture? Can you easily define and explain your workplace culture to a client or a prospective employee?

Everything from productivity to retention depends on your workplace culture. In order for your company to thrive and grow, you must know what your employees want and if your company’s values are being translated into the workplace.

Workplace culture is constantly evolving and requires regular upkeep. To enforce a strong and positive work environment that enables happy, high-performing teams, you first need to take stock of where you are now.

Once you understand your workplace culture, you can succinctly define what it looks like, and if needed, work on improving it.

To understand what workplace culture means and what aspects of the workplace influence it, visit this blog: What does workplace culture mean? Can you define yours?

Here are the 5 steps you need to take to begin assessing workplace culture.

How to observe your own company culture

  1. Observe behaviours

Your workplace culture can be distilled down to how employees and management behave and what their interactions are like. Observe whether:

  • People share their opinions and ideas in meetings;

  • If coworkers are helpful and friendly towards one another;

  • Management is regarded as a positive or negative force;

  • There is ongoing conflict or tension;

  • Staff appear motivated or disengaged;

  • Staff work well in a team.

Behaviours set the tone of a workplace in a palpable way. For example, a low-trust work culture transpires when people are closed off, unwilling to contribute and don’t operate well in a team.
Behaviours like the above don’t happen on their own; it’s a trickle-down effect from leadership reinforced through poor management.

  1. Do a culture walk

Assess the physical manifestation of your workplace culture with a culture walk through your building.

  • Where does everyone sit? And how is space allocated?

  • Is it a traditional office environment or more bright, bold and open?

  • What’s on your walls and posted on the bulletin boards?

  • Do staff claim their desks with personal objects?

  • Are common areas used? Do people sit together for lunch?

These are just a few of the questions you should consider when assessing workplace culture. Watch for the physical manifestations of culture and consider whether they align with how you, or want others to view, your company.

  1. Conduct culture interviews

You may be able to gain an objective understanding of your workplace culture by making your own observations, but you can also gain an even deeper understanding by looking at how managers and employees internalise and describe the culture. They’re the ones who live it every day, after all.

Depending on your current workplace culture, staff may or may not feel comfortable telling you what they really think. It may be helpful to outsource the task to a third party.

Staff may also feel more comfortable discussing their true feelings if they’re in a small group where they can build on each other's points.

You can ask the following questions to further your understanding of the culture in your workplace:

  • What’s the best part about working here?

  • Is there any aspect of your role you’d like to see improved?

  • Are you satisfied with our processes?

  • Do you feel supported in your role?

  • Do you feel like you work in a collaborative environment?

  • Do you feel like work-life balance is important to the company?

  • Can you explain what the main values of the company are?

  • How does the value of “X” show up at work?

  • What kinds of people are successful here?

Asking specific questions can help you understand what aspects of your culture are falling down.

Of course, asking a question like “do you feel like you work in a positive environment” can be helpful to gauge general consensus, but it needs to be followed up with specificity so you can determine where the leak is.

  1. Send out anonymous culture surveys

Another way to gain insight from staff is through an anonymous survey. If you like hard data, this may be a good approach, as you can clearly identify trends and plot a course of action.

A survey is also a good way to regularly check in on and assess your workplace culture. Arranging cultural interviews every six months may be challenging, and just another thing to organise, but a survey is quick and painless. Plus, you may receive more honest feedback.

  1. Review your company values/vision

Once you’ve gathered all your findings, it’s time to review your company’s values and vision. Does what you’ve seen and heard align?

How and how not? A core value of your company may be “inclusion and diversity” but if this isn’t reflected in your culture, it feels disingenuous and misleading.

Brainstorm ways you can bring your company’s values into reality. This can include: updating practices and processes, providing training so management can lead more effectively, or rethinking seating arrangements and the physical expression of your culture through decor and signage.

At the end of the day, you want to create a culture your staff can thrive in and feel proud of. The ultimate sign of a company that understands and strives to uphold its workplace culture is when a new recruit joins and thinks “this is exactly how I pictured it” — with nothing more than a job ad and word-of-mouth to go by.

Interested in more HR and recruitment insights? Click here to keep reading.