Overview of Your Culture Assessment Options

November 9, 2022 Jamie Notter

If you want your culture to be awesome, you first need to know what it is, and that means conducting some kind of assessment. There are many approaches out there, varying greatly in terms of things like level of effort, expense, and complexity. There are three main options: do it yourself, purchase an assessment, or subscribe to a platform.

DIY Focus Groups and Surveys

The simplest form of culture assessment is to sit your people down and ask them. But you’ll have to come up with your own questions, and they need to go beyond “What’s the culture like here?” The same is true if you want to do a home-grown culture survey. As you sit down to write up the questions, you’ll find it’s not easy to narrow down the best questions. But if you google, you can find some sample question banks out there. And some data is almost always better than no data, so if you have zero budget, this is not a bad place to start.

On the plus side, this approach is inexpensive (free, outside of staff time) and can be done very quickly. On the down side, your data won’t go very deep, and because it’s generally the boss asking the questions (or at least seeing/hearing the results), you may not get 100% honest answers.

Purchased Culture Assessment Surveys

You also have the option of getting culture data using a third-party culture assessment (obvious disclaimer: we are one of those third parties!). These assessments go deeper, are typically based in years of research, and allow for confidential data collection. Though once you start googling this, option you’ll see that people throw the term “culture assessment” around pretty loosely. Here’s my take on what kind of assessments are out there:

  • Engagement/Sentiment surveys. These ask your people if they are happy/satisfied with various aspects of your culture. They often focus heavily on things like benefits and relationship with your manager, but some engagement surveys also include some culture elements like transparency, collaboration, etc.
  • Benchmark-based culture assessments. These are based in some kind of model for what an ideal culture is, and they measure you against that ideal. Human Synergistics is the poster child for this one, and it asks you to identify both the current state and “ideal” state of the culture, so there is internal benchmarking as well.
  • Best place to work surveys. These are a combination of the first two—they have a model for what the best place to work is and you score against that benchmark, but their models are typically sentiment-based like the engagement surveys. Some of these appear to be pay-to-play as well. I view this as more of a marketing exercise than a true culture assessment.
  • Model-based culture assessments. This is where our WorkXO assessment Our particular model is not a benchmark-based one. It’s a model for seeing where your culture is on the continuum of traditional to futurist. Instead of narrowing your culture down to a type, it reveals the patterns, contradictions, and dynamics in your current culture. OCAI is another example that uses the competing values framework as a model.
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Pricing of all these assessments is not always easy to discern. Some, like Human Synergistics, are implemented by certified consultants, so the pricing gets wrapped up into the consulting fees. OCAI is inexpensive for a single report (under $1000), but if you want to see breakdowns, it can be several thousand more. For a robust report with detailed reporting, you’re probably going to spend between $5,000 and $10,000 minimum. The CORE version of our WorkXO assessment is $4,500, which gives you a full culture pattern report, but not access to the online analytical tools (the platform version starts at $6,000 for 100 employees or less).

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Online Employee Experience Platforms

The other major option is to subscribe to an online platform that that bundles a culture assessment with other employee experience or engagement tools. These are typically aimed at larger organizations (and come with a larger price tag) and they try to combine a lot of the individual assessments mentioned above into a single platform.

  • CultureIQ, for example, was a stand-alone online culture assessment that is now combined with Perceptyx, which includes other survey capabilities (they call it an “employee listening platform”).
  • CultureAmp, another platform early to the game, has now expanded their platform to include measuring OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) and tracking individual employee professional development.
  • QuestionPro’s Workforce platform is similar, and it includes our WorkXO culture assessment, along with other templates for surveying your employees, like pulse surveys, exit surveys, and onboarding surveys.

These platforms tend to start around the $10,000 mark (annual subscription) and can jump up quickly—even into six figures if you have thousands of employees you need to survey.

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.