Go back

Practice makes perfect: 6 tools and strategies to assess and improve your business culture

September 19, 2023
Hand holding out a diamond

Organisational culture is one of the most important elements of business today. Considering it’s about the way your work life is conducted, it’s no surprise that 86% of the younger generations prioritise company culture in their job searches. And while no one wants to work in a toxic environment, it’s important to consider how to make your workplace culture actively positive. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of the best tools and strategies to boost your culture.

What is business culture?

Business culture is about how your organisation feels for employees and clients. It includes the values, beliefs, and behaviours within your company, shared among leaders and workers alike. It’s as much about the ideas as the way they are enacted in reality.

There isn’t necessarily a ‘good’ or ‘bad’ organisational culture. Different companies will have different values and ways of working that they aim for, and what’s good for a small company of highly motivated and extraverted sales people won’t be best for a big corporation of quiet accountants. You just have to figure out what your culture is right now and how to get closer to your ideal.

You can assess your business culture by evaluating attitudes, expectations, behaviours, and experiences at your workplace, on an individual, team, and organisational level. How do these correlate to your values? How can these be improved?

Why is business culture so important?

While every business would want to highlight different values, there are some indications of bad culture that are pretty globally applicable. Malicious gossip and drama around the office, long working hours with no breaks, or a debilitating fear of failure, are all symptoms of a toxic working culture. But even a relatively good company culture that doesn’t suit your workplace — or making the wrong hiring decisions for your culture — could spell some big issues for your business.

A bad or unsuitable workplace culture can manifest itself in high employee turnover, decreased productivity, health issues (both mental and physical) among your employees, and negative brand reputation.

What should a cultural assessment include?

Before improving your business culture, you should establish what kind of environment you already have, and what you should improve. Some questions to consider include:

  • What lies at the core of your organisation? What is your mission and main values? What are you trying to achieve as a business?
  • Do you expect your employees to control their own work as long as they produce results, or do you prefer employees to follow orders from leaders with little input?
  • How is success measured? What qualifies as a success?
  • How fast-paced is the environment? Is speed the top priority of your business, or is quality more important?
  • How independent are your employees? Do you expect a lot of teamwork or independent work?
  • How important are processes to you? Do you have no process in place at all, or do you expect your employees to follow procedures to the letter even if they have a better solution (or somewhere in between)?

These answers will give you an indication of what your culture is right now, but also what it should ideally look like, setting you up for the next stage of the process.

How to improve my business culture?

Assessing your business culture has probably exposed your strengths and weaknesses in a clear way, as it enabled you to see what your ideal culture would look like and the gaps compared to what you have now.

Here are some tools and techniques to help you on your journey.

1. Consider personality

The reality is that the vast majority of people are nice. They want to get up for work without feeling existential dread, arrive to a warm atmosphere (in the office and remotely), and leave at the end of the day not worried and anxious about their job. So why are some businesses still fostering a toxic or uncomfortable culture? Because they haven’t addressed the specific individuals within their organisation appropriately.

We’re all different: we each have the methods that work best for us, our own quirks, pet peeves, and approaches. Without understanding the behaviours, practices, and traits your team has, you won’t be able to tailor your culture to this tapestry of personalities. Using a personality assessment will help immensely with identifying the different behaviours and unique traits your team possesses and how to approach your culture — just make sure it’s scientifically robust, reliable and valid, and bases itself in approved theories and methods.

Either way, you should consider who your team is, how they interact, how decisions are made, the structure of your organisation, how feedback is given and received, what kind of conflicts arise and how they are resolved, and understand the conclusions not just in the context of the whole company, but also the individuals within it.

2. Request feedback

There’s no one who understands your culture better than your employees. They know if they’re happy, what is working well, what they need more of… At the end of the day, the culture is meant to work for them, so they should have a say in what they want to see. Requesting and giving regular feedback is essential.

In 1-2-1s with managers, it’s good to regularly insert a culture review. In this part, the manager provides feedback to the employee about how they fit in with the culture, where they are fully aligned, and gives actionable steps and goals for how to improve where they’re weaker. While also asking the team member for their opinion on the culture, what they enjoy, and what they’d like to see changed or improved.

You should also consider incorporating focus groups with selected groups of employees, managers, and stakeholders across the organisation. You could gain deep insights if you use open-ended questions, act out scenarios, and incorporate exercises.

3. Incorporate surveys and questionnaires

Even though it’s important to extract feedback, there’s a limit to how much your employees are going to divulge in a conversation with you. They could have fears of being portrayed as negative, criticising a manager, or putting their job at jeopardy. However, understanding your employees’ real opinions about your business and culture is crucial for your ability to improve.

Incorporating surveys and questionnaires — especially anonymised ones — is a great way to ask specific relevant questions for what you are trying to achieve, and receiving answers that are not tainted by the inherent power relations between employee and employer. Of course, you could create your own surveys. However, choosing this way means receiving unreliable questionnaires from a scientific standpoint, compared to those that have been constructed by psychologists. Thrive’s platform includes surveys for a variety of possible concerns, and analyses the data for you, too, so you can get the full value even without being trained in psychology or data science.

You should run surveys regularly, but not too often so that the results don’t change. You should take active steps to remedy issues that have popped up in a previous survey before you conduct a new one — that’s how you can see whether your actions have made a difference, what your culture  trends look like over time, and your road to improvement.

4. Visualise your culture

Having gained so much insight into your culture, it can be easy to get confused — you might find yourself not seeing the bigger picture, or alternatively, get too bogged down in the details. That’s why many companies like to use visual devices to illustrate their ideal culture in a clear and positive way.

Containing an array of visual aids — such as diagrams, charts, graphs, images, colour-coding, and stories — within your visualisation can help get the point across a variety of different personalities and cognitive abilities. There are many tools that can be useful in achieving this, like The Culture Map, Cultural Web, and Culture Canvas.

Culture mapping and modelling tools can be used to visualise and communicate your findings to stakeholders and employees alike, as well as keep you on track in the long-term regarding your culture.

5. Implement your findings

Once you have an action plan ready to go, it’s time to implement it effectively. In order to do this, you should consider using action planning and implementation tools, purpose built to help you prioritise, align your actions with goals, and monitor progress.

Some of the more popular frameworks are SMART goals and OKRs, but there are many options available for businesses today. You can find countless templates, checklists, and calendars online, as well as dashboards and video tutorials — so make sure you do your research before you pick one.

6. Continue to develop

If there’s one thing you’ve got to take away from this article, it’s that culture development is cyclical. It’s not enough to study it, analyse it, and implement changes once, because culture is a living thing. With new hires, promotions, turnover, and just individual human changes, your culture is an ever-evolving entity, which must be constantly evaluated and refined.

This goes both ways: you should also strive to develop your employees persistently, because this is what grows culture in the right direction. It will expand the skills of your workforce, increase knowledge, and foster a culture of growth and learning.

The Thrive platform, for example, will show your employees how to develop the skills and traits they need to improve, while giving you an indication of what to do as a manager and as a business to move ahead. You could also include training sessions, mentoring programmes, or a development budget. There are many ways to support the personal development of your employees, and it’s an integral part of your culture.

If you’re curious about how Thrive can improve your culture, book a demo with us today.

Stay in the know

Subscribe and get Thrive's latest updates and articles straight to your inbox.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.