How Often Should You Run a Culture Assessment?

January 9, 2024
January 9, 2024 Jamie Notter

BOTTOM LINE:

You do NOT need to do them annually, because there are better ways to measure progress than running a whole assessment (see details below). We recommend running our culture assessment every 2 to 3 years or so, but it really should be done only when you think you need to see your underlying patterns because they are messing with success.

THE DETAILS:

We get this question from every client, and while there is a certain amount of “it depends” in the answer, here are our general guidelines.

First, we do NOT recommend doing our culture assessment every year. I know this is common practice in engagement surveys, because you want to measure progress, but it’s different with culture assessments. You still want to measure the progress of your culture change, but the assessment may not be the best way to do that.

To measure progress, we frequently develop a shorter, simpler survey for clients that is targeted at the specific parts of the culture they wanted to change, rather than measuring the whole culture. If you were trying to break down your silos or become more transparent, don’t ask your employees to answer 64 questions just so you can see if your numbers changed on 3 or 4 of the questions. Instead, ask them directly about the specific behaviors that you were hoping to change.

See also  Better Results Start with Culture

The need to run the assessment again typically comes well after you’ve measured the progress of the change. There will come a point where your culture has changed significantly, but so has your operating environment and strategic priorities. At that point, you don’t need to know the progress of the change—you need to figure out if you need to move your culture in a different direction. That’s when you run the assessment again, because you need to see your underlying patterns to determine if they are messing with success.

When you run the assessment again, it’s less about comparing your scores to the last one (though obviously you can). It’s more about looking at the patterns. A culture assessment captures what your culture is at that particular moment in time. Use the data to come up with action plans that will move your culture in the right direction, rather than spending too much time comparing your scores to an assessment at an earlier point in time. The purpose of a culture assessment is about becoming better, not about being happy with progress.

See also  20 Reasons To Do a Culture Assessment

The frequency of needing to see your patterns to adjust your culture will vary depending on the pace of change in your environment, but we think most organizations will need a new culture assessment every two to three years or so.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is a co-founder and culture strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders create amazing workplace cultures that drive greater performance and impact. He brings thirty years of experience to his work designing and managing culture, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is the co-author of four popular business books, including the award-winning Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement, and his fall 2023 release, Culture Change Made Easy. He holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.