Best Practices in HR

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Michael Haberman
  September 11, 2019

How to measure and improve your workplace culture

All too often, senior management read “improving workplace culture” as “offering some lunchtime yoga and putting on some free food every now and then”.

It’s not that there’s anything inherently bad with either of these two things (free food is a cornerstone of good morale in all workplaces, as far as we’re concerned). But still, your workplace culture is more than that, and taking measured steps to improve it requires more effort than occasional baked goods.

If you’re serious about creating a better workplace for your employees, here’s what you need to do:

Employee engagement surveys

Really, there’s only one way to measure your workplace culture – and that’s by asking your colleagues what it’s like working at your company.

Sure, you can rely on your observational skills and word of mouth, but that makes it particularly hard to differentiate personal complaints from the issues which are general workforce trends that need sorting with a degree of urgency.

Employee surveys – the dinosaur approach

Traditionally, organizations would typically run one giant employee engagement survey each year.

We think this is a terrible, terrible idea.

Opening the floodgates just once a year offers just one opportunity for your colleagues to bring issues to your attention. Your HR team won’t be able to address all of these issues – and if nothing gets done about the ones they care about, it’ll just be a drain on your employees’ productivity and morale and people won’t engage with future surveys because they think they are a waste of time.

Also, bear in mind:

  • It doesn’t allow you to nip pain points in the bud in the early stages – by the time you hear about something, it’s a huge issue draining productivity and morale.
  • They’re unfocused – you’ll likely scape the surface of several issues, but you won’t get an in-depth view
  • It’s a once-a-year administrative nightmare for your HR team as they send email after email reminding people to complete them,

Crucially, one big employee engagement survey per year makes it difficult to measure improvement. If you think about each survey you do as a plot point on a graph, only adding one per year isn’t a very efficient way of measuring trends in your workplace culture.

Instead, we recommend…

Doing smaller, frequent employee engagement surveys

There are lots of advantages here. First and foremost is that if you ask colleagues what they think regularly, they feel more listened to from the get-go – and engage accordingly.

They also allow you to:

  • Discover, monitor and resolve issues as they appear, rather than leaving you shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
  • You can theme your surveys to hone in on a particular area – pay and benefits, or management issues, for example.
  • Because they’re smaller, they take less admin work

You might have seen these types of surveys called “pulse” surveys elsewhere. The key to their success is to mix a small number of quick yes/no and answer-on-a-scale questions with opportunities for people to expand on these if they want to. This allows people to respond quickly if they want to, and in more detail, if they need to.

The second key to their success – especially if your workplace contains a lot of deskless employees – is to allow employees to complete them whenever and wherever suits them. A purpose-built employee app let employees complete pulse surveys from their smartphones – quick, convenient and much easier for those employees who don’t sit down at a desktop very often.

(And, you can even remind people by sending push notifications. No passive aggressive emails needed).

The importance of action

The best, most efficient pulse surveys are a pointless waste of time if you don’t act on the results.

It’s also important that you signpost these results. Shout about them on your employee app (if you have one), update people on progress at quarterly meetings, put posters on the staff noticeboard, the intranet…whatever means you have at your disposal to get the word out.

What action you take, of course, will depend on the outcome of your surveys. To start you off, we’ve taken some common pain points and suggested ways to improve them below:

Lack of senior staff visibility

Whilst the obvious answer here is “make senior staff go into the office more often,” this is a deceptively tricky one to address. What if most of your workforce is mobile? Or what if your company is large, with several offices, potentially spanning many countries?

Getting your senior staff to run drop-ins or participate in regular Q&As is a great way to engage your staff more with the direction of the company…as long as you bear the above in mind. Technology is your friend here – stream these updates live, or run webinars so that non-office staff can take part.

Lack of alignment with company values

The larger your company gets, the trickier it becomes to keep everyone aligned to your values and purpose.

To combat this, there are a couple of things you can do. On a practical level, make sure that your colleagues can access all essential workplace documents and training easily. Offering top-up training on your company’s key values will also help with this.

Secondly, when someone performs well, let everyone know how they’ve made a difference! This could be done in a semi-regular company-wide award scheme with exciting prizes (think cash, vouchers, extra PTO) or on a smaller scale. Why not encourage your line managers to pick a “team member of the month,” to be awarded a small hamper, or a bottle of something nice?

Lack of friendly workplace atmosphere

This is where your activities come in, and there’s no limit to what you can do. There’s the usual sports clubs – lunchtime yoga, running, five-a-side – or you could get creative with workplace choirs and lunchtime photography walks.

If you’ve got a mobile workforce, this is trickier, but you can still run regular events so that they get the opportunity to socialize with colleagues. Target the times they are all in one place together – if there’s new training they need to do, for example – and turn it into a social. Offer a meal on the company, or maybe a few drinks and some team-building activities

A final word: it’s easy to see workplace activities as a “quick win”. The truth is that they won’t make a blind bit of difference if your workforce feels overworked, underappreciated and have no real desire to engage with the company. Fix your structural issues first, then move onto the fun stuff.

This guest post was written by Anna Hayes of Joinblink.com

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