What Culture Metrics Do You Need?

April 22, 2022 Jamie Notter

I don’t think the “what gets measured gets managed” quote is 100% true, but it frequently does apply to culture. Culture is often written off as too hard to define or too complex, so people give up on measuring it. Unfortunately, that often contributes to them ignoring culture all together, and the end result is a bunch of bad cultures.

It doesn’t have to be that way. It is not hard to measure both the culture and the work you are doing to improve culture. And if you get good at the metrics, you are much more likely to end up with a strong and effective culture. Here are some metrics to think about putting in place.

Culture assessment. Obviously I’m biased because we created a culture assessment, but there are plenty of others out there as well. The purpose of an assessment should be to reveal the current patterns in your culture so you can determine what needs work. And even if you can’t afford a culture assessment, qualitative measures count as metrics too. For example, you can convene some small-group conversations to explore the current state of your culture. Pick specific areas you think are important (e.g., transparency, collaboration, innovation, etc.), and talk them through, with an eye toward clarifying how you do those things in your culture (not whether you’re good at them or not). The qualitative version may not provide as many nuances, but it still counts as measurement.

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Culture change targets/goals. This can be captured in the Culture Management Roadmap that I described in an earlier post, but you should be making visible to everyone in the organization what the priorities are for culture change and what progress is being made. People sometimes resist coming up with measurable targets for this work, but it’s not that hard.

Culture change impact. This one, on the other hand, is a bit harder. Here you want to provide concrete evidence that the work you’re doing to improve culture is actually having a positive impact on the organization and helping to produce better overall results. One of our clients noticed that after improving their culture they got hit with several huge projects all at once, and they were all completed ahead of schedule and under budget. The CEO was clear that wouldn’t have happened if they hadn’t smoothed out the culture issues. It’s not always easy to draw a direct line between the culture work and results, but you still should try. And at the very least, you can connect the culture work to improving employee engagement by measuring your Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS) on a regular basis to see if it improves as the culture changes.

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The sooner you get your culture metrics set up, the sooner you’ll be able to build a stronger culture that will attract the right talent.

Jamie Notter

Jamie is an author and growth strategist at PROPEL, where he helps leaders integrate culture, strategy, and execution to achieve breakthrough performance and impact. He brings twenty-five years of experience to his work designing culture-driven businesses, and has specialized along the way in areas like conflict resolution and generations. Jamie is also the co-author of three books—Humanize, When Millennials Take Over, and The Non-Obvious Guide to Employee Engagement—and holds a Master’s in conflict resolution from George Mason and a certificate in Organization Development from Georgetown, where he serves as adjunct faculty.
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