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Culture and Engagement

21 questions to ask in a corporate culture audit

Corporate culture is more than providing free snacks and a foosball table. It's about happy employees and achieving business goals together. To find out if your culture needs a tune-up, we have 21 questions to get your audit started.

8 minute read
culture audit
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Culture plays an enormous role in the health of an organization, but it can feel invisible to those immersed in it. And because many of us don’t see it, we have difficulty understanding what our corporate culture is, and more importantly, what areas require improvement. This is why a culture audit is a good idea. 

Whether your corporate culture is in need of a minor tweaking or, a major overhaul, it’s never too late to begin the journey of improving your culture.

In this article, we will cover:

What is organizational culture?

Organizational culture is a broad term that encompasses all aspects of an organization’s environment. It is much more than providing free snacks and a foosball table. Organizational culture is defined as the collection of attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors that occur in a work environment.

Your organization’s culture is an amalgamation of employee life experiences, combined with the impact of executive influence. Other factors include:

  • Employee personal values
  • Workplace procedures, behaviors, policies, relationships, and employee expectations
  • Company stories and interactions
  • Employee recognition programs  
  • Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives

Why does corporate culture matter?

While the benefits of a positive workplace culture run aplenty, the costs of a negative culture run just as deep. Poor workplace cultures are generally characterized by employee negativity, complaining, underachievement, low levels of trust, and high turnover. According to Dying for a Paycheck author Jeffrey Pfeffer, toxic workplaces and job stress cost US employers more than $300 billion every year.

While 90% of executives say the importance of company culture is increasing, yet 25% of decision-makers have difficulty getting buy-in from the rest of the leadership team. If you want to foster a successful corporate culture within your company, then you will need a leadership team that collectively recognizes the importance of a strong and positive corporate culture. 

In a Deloitte study, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe that a distinct workplace culture is integral to business success. There’s no denying that a vibrant corporate culture is the cornerstone of organizational success.

Here are 4 key reasons on why it’s important to invest in your corporate culture:

1. Sense of belonging and purpose

Companies with a strong sense of shared purpose and values have a 17% increase in performance. A well-defined corporate culture provides employees with a sense of belonging and purpose, instilling pride in their work and fostering a collective commitment to the company’s mission. 

2. Employee engagement and productivity

Companies that maintain high employee engagement levels experience a 21% increase in profitability, a 17% boost in productivity, 10% higher customer ratings, a 41% reduction in absenteeism, a 59% decrease in turnover, and a 70% decrease in safety incidents. A successful corporate culture drives employee engagement and productivity. When employees feel connected to the culture and aligned with its values, they are more likely to engage in their work.

3. Employee retention

Employees who rate their corporate culture poorly are 24% more likely to leave their company. It should come as no surprise that a strong corporate culture has a direct impact on employee retention. Employees who feel a sense of belonging and connection to the culture are more likely to stay with the company for the long term.

4. External perceptions

46% of candidates believe company culture is very important when applying for a job, with 88% of job seekers citing it as at least of relative importance. A positive culture can enhance the company’s reputation as an employer of choice, attracting top talent and bolstering its competitive advantage in the marketplace.

Why conduct a corporate culture audit?

Even if you think your company has a strong corporate culture, there are a few reasons to assess it.

For example, while your culture may appear strong, it may not support your business goals. Or, perhaps you are already aware that your culture needs some TLC, and you want to understand why.

Whatever your reasons, a culture audit helps determine your overall working environment, employee sentiments, and determine rules around employee interactions and team communication.   

The 8 key principles to a successful corporate culture

When doing a corporate culture audit, there are 8 key areas to consider. These principles serve as the compass that aligns the actions of employees with the overarching goals and mission of the company:

1. Values and vision

Corporate values and vision define the company’s purpose, identity, and aspirations. A clear and compelling vision inspires employees, aligns their efforts, and reinforces the company’s commitment to its mission.

2. Decision-making and leadership 

The decision-making process reflects the values and priorities of a company. Effective leadership inspires trust, motivates teams, and navigates the company towards its vision.

3. Communication and collaboration

A corporate culture that prioritizes open communication encourages innovation, problem-solving, and a sense of belonging among team members. Collaborative environments leverage diverse perspectives and talents to drive creativity and achieve common goals.

4. Work environment and employee experience

A positive workplace culture promotes work-life balance, well-being initiatives, and opportunities for growth and development. It celebrates achievements, values contributions, and recognizes the unique talents of each individual. 

5. Performance and accountability

A culture of accountability emphasizes personal responsibility, ownership, and results. Accountable cultures promote a performance-driven mindset where individuals strive for excellence, take initiative, and deliver on their commitments.

6. Diversity, equity, and inclusion

Fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace is essential for creating a culture of belonging where all individuals are valued and respected. Companies that focus on DEI recognize the unique perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences of their employees.

7. Customer focus and service

Companies that prioritize customer-centricity understand and anticipate customer needs. A culture of customer service encourages empathy, responsiveness, and continuous improvement to ensure positive interactions at every touchpoint.

8. Adaptability and innovation

Companies that embrace change and innovation encourage experimentation, creativity, and continuous learning. A culture of innovation fosters a growth mindset, encourages risk-taking, and celebrates learning from both successes and failures.

Culture audit workbook

Get the complete corporate culture audit workbook. Learn what it takes to cultivate a positive workplace culture with this helpful guide and checklist.

Download now
ThoughtFarmer Corporate Culture Audit V01

21 questions to ask in a corporate culture audit

A culture audit can be a long and comprehensive process, which is why some organizations hire a third party to assist them.

However, here are some examples of questions you can start with. By conducting this type of mini-audit, you can start to gain an awareness of your company’s corporate culture and identify potential problem areas.  

1. What’s the communication style?

Are there more one-way broadcasts from leadership or grassroots conversations?

2. How are decisions made?

Is the approach hierarchical or collaborative?

3. Do you have a hybrid workplace?

Can employees work 100% remote or is there an expectation that they come on-site a certain amount of time?

4. How are employees treated?

And, how are they expected to behave day-to-day?

5. What’s the approach to getting work done?

Is the emphasis more on group collaboration or individual achievement? Do people pay more attention to methods or results? And are the negative ramifications if work isn’t completed?

6. How freely is money spent?

What is the money spent on? Do employees feel money is spent appropriately?

7. What’s the tolerance for risk?

Are strategies more daring or conservative?

8. How is customer service done?

What kinds of relationships are developed with customers? And how are complaints followed up?

9. What is the company’s vision?

What does the leadership want the organization to be? And are you achieving that? Are there specific diversity, equity and inclusion policies?

10. What are the company’s stated and implicit values?

What is important to the organization?

11. What structures are in place?

These could be physical, technological, or procedural structures.

12. How are desirable actions rewarded?

How are undesirable actions discouraged? And is there an employee recognition program in place?

13. How do customers talk about the company?

How do they interact with employees?

14. What is the competition like?

How does the market behave?

15. What countries is the company operating in?

Where is it headquartered? And does each location operate differently?

16. What does the company do to help ensure diversity and inclusion?

Does the company offer employees training on diversity, equity, and inclusion?

17. How diverse is the executive team?

And how do they ensure that commitment cascades down throughout the organization? 

18. Do new employee recruitment initiatives support a diverse culture?

Are they attracting a variety of backgrounds and talents? 

19. What benefits are offered?

Are there maternity and paternity leave benefits, or family leave benefits that include all parents? 

20. How do they communicate change within the organization?

And how did they keep employees connected during the pandemic?

21. How transparent are they?

How do they ensure important information is shared throughout the organization? 

The answers to these questions will provide you with a mini corporate culture audit and a cultural snapshot of your organization. You can then use that snapshot to shape your intranet (or extranet) and guide interaction and communication long after launch day, so that it reinforces the culture that serves the company best. 

Culture isn’t a panacea for success, but it is an important factor in attracting and retaining talent, which will ultimately contribute to your bottom line.

Learn about how ThoughtFarmer can enhance your company culture.

Get the Complete Corporate Culture Audit Workbook

Learn what it takes to cultivate a positive workplace culture with this helpful guide and checklist. Download now