Culture barometer: easy metrics to drive improvement in company culture

How we think about measuring company culture in companies and how you can use the system we built to help do that.


A little while ago, we started looking for a way to help companies measure company culture. 

We talked to a lot of customers who told us what kinds of things mattered to them in their culture. Then we spoke with heaps of HR professionals who were running cultural improvement in their companies and their clients’ companies. 

What we learned is that there are a lot of ways to think about company culture. They go from simple pulse surveys all the way up to complex lead/lag indicators (some quantitive, some qualitative).

Most significant though: a lot of people just aren’t tracking anything measurable around company culture in their organisations. They have some idea of how they’re doing from just talking to their colleagues and also from being employees of their own business. 

But that’s not going to produce any metrics that you can manage and measure. 

Five key areas for driving cultural growth

From our research, we believe that there are really five key areas that people use to talk about cultural health in their organisations. These are: 

  1. Purpose – How much do staff feel their work is meaningful to the business?
  2. People – How valued do staff feel in the context of the company as a whole?
  3. Progression – How well are staff being prepared for their future work?
  4. Pleasure – How do staff feel about coming to work every day?
  5. Promotion – How likely would staff be to recommend the business as a good place to work?

Occasionally you’ll hear someone ask for something else – but here’s why you probably shouldn’t pay much attention to that: 

Cultures are super complex and they change over time. In fact, quarter to quarter, year to year, in any business, the goalposts will move. Maybe you’re interested in tracking something like attitude to technology this year, but next year it’s more to do with a different metric. 

On the other hand, the five metrics that we have identified and detailed above, will always form a part of building a healthy culture. 

How we do measure this in practice?

A lot of the surveys that we saw for measuring company culture contained 30+ questions. But based on our now vast experience of creating surveys (we’ve seen tens of thousands of them), we can say with a fair degree of certainty that that level of information is not sustainable in the average company. 

So, we reduced the number of data points that we’d feed into our culture barometer down to 13 per respondent.

This does two things: 

  1. Makes it fast and easy for a respondent to give their answers
  2. Refines the scores to give you quick but powerful insights into where you can best spend your improvement efforts.

To do this, we ask a series of 13 questions in our survey which form the basis for a score card of the five unique areas in your business. In the example set of questions below, we’ve used our own company name (doopoll, obvs.) and timeline (a month) but you should change these to fit your own organisation and context. 

Purpose

  • In the last month, I can think of a time when I applied our company vision to a decision
  • In the last month, I have on at least one occasion explained why doopoll exists in one or two sentences
  • In the last month, I have felt strongly that doopoll is where I belong professionally

People

  • In the last month, I have generally felt appreciated by others at doopoll
  • In the last month, I can think of at least one occasion when I have had an opportunity to contribute to the organisation
  • Over the last month, more often than not, I have generally felt good about coming to work

Progression

  • Over the last month, I have had chances to take on more responsibility or ownership of an area of the business
  • Over the last month, I have been directly challenged or encouraged to learn a new skill related to my work
  • Over the last month, I have been able to see how what I'm working on now benefits my career in the future

Pleasure

  • Over the last month, I have enjoyed being in the office or location where I work
  • Over the last month, I have felt that it is easy to switch off when I'm not in work
  • Over the last month, I've been able to balance my professional and personal interests to the extent that I would like to

Promotion

  • Would you encourage someone you know to apply for a relevant job at doopoll?

The scale for each of these questions is always Strongly Agree, Agree, Disagree, Strongly Disagree. We don’t allow for a neutral option because it gives people a chance to not contribute to the overall exercise. 

What we want is big swings in opinion because that’s where the real insight is: there’s rarely anything useful to measure in the middle of the scale. 

How do you get the scores at the end?

The scoring system we use takes those twelve questions and feeds them into a variation on the classic management scorecard theory. 

Specifically, we weight the answers so that responses are score like this: 

  • Strongly agree – 10
  • Agree – 7
  • Disagree – 4 
  • Strongly Disagree – 1

The aim is to get a high score for each section. The maximum score that you can achieve is 100% – although this is incredibly unlikely.

Unlike the classic management scorecard, where you can only score as high as your lowest score, in our culture barometer, the idea is to get a holistic view of the culture. Because of this, we always suggest people work on the lowest scoring section first, but also keep in mind that there are other things that they could improve. 

Can I use this system? 

We made the culture barometer so that you can use it in your organisation. To make it as easy as possible for you, we’ve done two things. 

Firstly, we created a survey template that you can get started with. To use that, click this link and click the Create this poll for me button.

Secondly, we created a spreadsheet template that you can use to calculate the scores. That’s available here.

To use the scoring sheet, be sure to click File > Make a copy before trying to input any data.  

If you have questions or ideas about this system, we’d love to hear from you. Drop me a line at marc@doopoll.co