Image by Yan Krukov

Is it Time for a Company Culture Intervention? 5 Questions You Must Ask

When is a company culture intervention necessary? And how do you know if your company needs to hear some hard truths?

The truth is that through the decisions you make and the behaviors you reward, your company culture has defined itself. And once a company sets a precedent for culture, it is tough to rewrite the narrative. Despite what our About Us page and the first paragraph of our job descriptions say, our aspirations for a quality culture too often fail to match reality. Even worse, unintentional cultures — and unintentionally problematic cultures — stand out more than positive ones. 

So how do you know if your company culture is failing to keep its promises? How do you know if a culture intervention is required? 

Here are five questions designed to help you gauge the health of your workplace culture. Ask each to current leaders and employees willing to share their thoughts. You’ll soon know whether or not it is time for a company culture intervention.

Q1. What is Our Company Culture?

According to a recent survey by Deloitte, only 12 percent of workers understand their company culture. If you haven’t clearly defined your company culture, that data point may hit close to home as you learn if an intervention is required. Because when an unintentional culture is allowed to live and grow, you might get 20 different answers to this question from 20 different people.

You can tell employees about your ideal company culture. But if you want to know what your culture is really like, you must ask this question. Then, no matter how surprised you might be by the answers, you must act upon what you hear.

Q2. Do We Consistently Demonstrate Our Core Values?

One key driver of positive company cultures is the ability to honor and demonstrate a company’s established set of core values. Of course, this question assumes team members are aware of those core values. But if you learn they aren’t, that may tell you a company culture intervention is needed.

For now, though, let’s assume your core values are known and honored. Do our people, especially our leaders, consistently demonstrate those values? 

For instance, one of your core values is “diversity and equality.” Chances are you have data to tell you if your staff is diverse. You have more data that shows is gender parity is an issue. And yet, to get a feel for how team members really feel about this aspect of your company culture, you must ask the question. Again, get ready to hear some complex answers.

Q3. Does Your Culture Meet the Expectations of New Hires?  

When new hires face too many cultural surprises, the temptation to sneak out the back door can be all-encompassing. According to one study, 30 percent of new employees quit their jobs within the first three months — many due to a mismatch of expectations.

Yes, the best recruiting and hiring teams are careful not to oversell and overpromise. And yet, too many new team members soon notice the actual company culture isn’t what they expected. So — especially if you’re losing many new hires quickly and are getting negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor right after they’ve gone — ask this question. Who knows, just by asking, you prevent another employee from exiting out the back door.

Q4. Do Third-party Providers Respect and Represent Our Culture?

Ideally, your contractors, vendors, and service providers will respect — and represent through their actions and business practices — your company culture. For example, do they reflect your efforts to ensure diversity and equality? Could they be inadvertently exposing you to legal risk through language that doesn’t fit precisely with your messaging on the issues that matter? 

Again, ask the question. And if the answer reveals a potential problem, be ready to be part of the solution.

Q5. Do Our People Enjoy Their Work?

To thoroughly engage employees, your workplace culture must foster energy, inspiration, focus, and meaningful work. This is especially true now, as many companies remain impacted by the COVID-10 pandemic. Now more than ever, employees want to adopt flexible schedules that allow them to balance family or personal commitments with their enjoyment of work. They also want to count on wellness and mental health benefits. Most important, they want to know their boss thoroughly appreciates their work. 

People don’t stay at their jobs for the vague, fuzzy feeling they get from the inspirational poster in the break room. They stay because they want to — and because the company culture fosters their growth and wellbeing. 

Does yours? Ask the question. Then listen — really listen — to the answers.

Company Culture Intervention: Better Sooner Than Later

After you’ve asked these challenging questions — and have provided a psychologically safe environment for employees to answer them — you’ll soon know if your company requires an intervention.

And if the answer is yes? Be ready to act. Because if your company needs to start an intervention, sooner is always better than later.