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How Do You Measure the Success of Your Organizational Culture?

Updated on April 24, 2017

One of the most popular reference examples that people think of defining a good organizational culture is Google. They are known for their extensive list of perks including free catered meals, fitness classes and gyms, extended time-off, arcades, pool tables, pets – you name it.

But a good organizational culture is more than just throwing some volleyballs and cracking beers. What most people don’t know is that Google created their winning culture based on data and science. Their People Operations Department (which is just fancy way to say HR), strictly uses numbers and analytics to maximize performance potential of their employees.

By looking at the data, the team at Google is able to make more accurate decisions when it comes to people management. Because of that, they’ve been hailed as one of the most attractive places to work at.

But more than just good looks and perks, having a good organizational culture where employees are happy has been proven to increase productivity and profits. A study by the Department of Economics at the University of Warwick found that happy employees are 12% more productive than the average worker. And when productivity is up, so are profits.

It’s no wonder all the companies are buzzing about having good company culture. So how do you measure success of your organizational culture so you can have a winning team just like Google?

What the Heck is Company Culture?

Before we get into it, let’s define the term “company culture”. It’s a broad term, difficult to define because there are many elements to it that is unique to each company. So in the simplest terms, company culture is the unique identity and characteristics of the organization.

It’s all the little details that make up the company – like its values, mission, beliefs, relationships between coworkers and management, goals and ethics. All this makes up the personality of the company and like humans, the better the personality, the more valuable and attractive you are.

Brittany Forsyth, VP of Human Relations at Shopify quotes this,

“Determine what behaviours and beliefs you value as a company, and have everyone live true to them. These behaviours and beliefs should be essential to your core, that you don’t even think of it as culture.”

How you choose to create your culture is important because it impacts employee engagement, retention and overall success and growth of your company. So say you spent the time and money defining your company culture. Now what? How do you quantify it and validate that what you have implemented actually works?

The Metrics to Cultural Success

Meaningful Employee Surveys

Just like how you can conduct customer satisfaction surveys for your products or services, you can also conduct surveys to evaluate how satisfied your employees are feeling.

Cue the long sighs – employee surveys. I know what you’re thinking, do they even work? Traditionally, employee engagement surveys were made to assess how happy employees are within the company. Questions usually include, “Do you feel valued at work?”, “How often do you receive recognition from your manager?”, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied do you feel at work”.

Let’s be honest, how often are employees really being truthful when answering these surveys? Would they really want to risk being brutally honest about how happy they are?

Instead, let’s start framing questions differently. Stop asking “fluffy” questions like, “How happy are you” and start asking more meaningful and engaging questions that can actually help you assess and improve your organizational culture.

Employees need to know how they fit in the company, they want to feel like they’re a valued part of it. Here are the type of questions you can include in your next employee survey:

  • Have you received recognition from your manager in these two past weeks?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how meaningful is the nature of your work to you?
  • Do you believe in the larger mission of the company?
  • Is your work making good use of your skills?
  • Does your work align to your desired career path?
  • Do you believe that you have all the appropriate resources you need to do your work?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how confident do you feel about your given tasks?
  • On a scale of 1-10, how comfortable do you feel approaching someone for help?

Objectives and Key Results

In 1999, American Venture Capitalist John Doerr introduced a system called, Objectives and Key Results – otherwise known as OKRs to Google when it was less than a year old. Since then, they’ve been using it and it continues to be a key quantifiable indicator on how successful their organizational culture is performing.

So what exactly are OKRs and how do you implement it? Google Ventures’ Rick Klau explains it pretty well in this presentation.

To put it very simply, OKRs is a system used to track progress of goals – both company wide and individually. What’s so important about OKRs is that all goals must be measurable. Here’s a brief of how it works:

  1. Set 3-5 company-wide goals for the year and break it down into quarters.
  2. Have each team set 3-5 objectives that are aligned to the company’s overall goal.
  3. Then have each employee come up with 3-5 measurable key results that align to the team and company objectives.
  4. Bonus* Let your employees set a personal goal for themselves as self-development. Maybe there’s something new they wanted to learn or there is a specific skill they want to improve on.
  5. Once OKRs are approved and agreed on, make it challenging. Set the OKRs as stretch goals that aren’t easily achievable.
  6. At the end of each quarter, come together and evaluate everyone’s OKRs. The sweet spot that is considered successful is typically between a 60-70% goal achievement.

When employees feel like they have ownership and responsibility over tasks, they tend to be more motivated to achieve them because there is a feeling of pride and greater purpose. This way they can clearly see where they fit into the company and how they are contributing.

Moreso, by implementing OKRs, you can easily track and measure how successful your organizational culture is. If your employees aren’t hitting their goals, this may be an indication that your company culture is not properly established.

The 70-20-10 Model

When Eric Schmidt became Google’s CEO in 2001, he forced the company to think about where to invest their time and resources. This is when he implemented a new formula of innovation known as the 70-20-10 model. This system of working allows Google employees to spend:

  • 70% of their time on core business tasks
  • 20% on related projects
  • And 10% on completely unrelated, new projects.

When employees feel like their personal interests and goals are aligned with their career, they’ll naturally feel more inspired and motivated to work. By setting this new work model and allowing your staff to pursue personal interests, you may begin to see work productivity improve. This way you can start to measure how they utilize their time in relation to company growth and see how successful your organizational culture is in terms of nurturing and providing available resources. This will also help your company stay innovative, engaged and inspired. Who knows, your employees might come up with some really great ideas that could be useful to the organization!


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