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Retooling Culture Measurement Amid the Great Resignation

measuring tape on blue background
By Georgann Smith

4 minutes

Take a layered approach to the tracking of cultural hits and misses.

High employee satisfaction is often confused with strong organizational culture. While happy and engaged team members are key, they are not enough to ensure an organization’s ultimate success. Indeed, an organization can have hundreds of cheerful, well-paid people on staff and still be ineffective in reaching its collective goals. 

In these circumstances, an unclear culture is often the culprit. 

When it comes to today’s workplace culture, there is a sizable disconnect between what employers and employees believe. A new workplace survey by EY found almost three-quarters (72%) of employers believe workplace culture has improved since the onset of the pandemic. Yet less than half (48%) of employees feel the same. 

Massive COVID-Era Turnover Forces Rethinking of Culture Measurement

Why is prioritizing culture measurement so important now? Because 20 million Americans quit their jobs between April and August 2021. Another 4.3 million left in August 2021. What’s being called The Great Resignation (or the Great Reshuffle or the Turnover Tsunami) is forcing every organization to rethink how it measures culture, one of the most important elements to employee retention. 

Organizations can get better at monitoring the success or failure of culture by taking a layered approach to measurement. Traditional metrics, such as employee happiness and engagement, are a good starting point. However, metrics alone typically fail to tell the full story. In fact, overreliance on data is often pointed to as a common analytics mistake. 

Layering qualitative conversations and strategic listening on top of data provides a clearer picture of how people really feel about the impact they have at work. 

Leverage Internal Teams for Strategic Listening

During my time at a fast-growing payments credit union service organization, we engaged in strategic listening around culture success by standing up what we called a brand promise team. An employee-led program, the cross-functional team not only measured how the company was performing against its three brand-promise pillars; it also had one-on-one conversations with employees to understand how those pillars were resonating in the day-to-day. The team armed managers with conversation guides to get additional feedback from employees. And real-life examples of when someone did (or did not) live up to the pillars were used in training to accelerate cultural wins. 

Cuna Mutual Group takes a similarly multi-layered approach to culture measurement. This year’s focus was on reimagining the employee experience given the ongoing nature of the hybrid working models. The annual employee satisfaction survey measured cultural hits and misses related to remote work. In addition, internal teams actively listened for factors impacting culture. Employee resource groups, for instance, facilitated discussions on a variety of topics—from the unique challenges facing employees who are also caregivers for aging family members to the creative ways young professionals kept up networking during the pandemic. Offering other channels for employees to connect and have conversations, such as employee resource groups, virtual coffee chats and even social tools like Yammer and Slack, can give greater insight into how employees are feeling overall.

$151 billion Navy Federal Credit Union, too, leverages internal teams and strategic listening to keep a pulse on its culture, which has gotten the credit union named to the “FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For” list 11 times. Virtual town halls and lunch & learn sessions, for instance, give rise to what Chief Human Resources Officer Holly Kortright says are authentic conversations on topics that take courage

Is Your Culture Really Eating Strategy?

The CEO of Starbucks once said, “In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable. Their foundations are stronger because they are built with the strength of the human spirit, not an ad campaign.” 

Organizations may feel like they have a real and sustainable culture, one that is eating strategy for breakfast. However, just because employees are working hard and enjoying great benefits does not necessarily mean their spirits are being filled with purpose and meaning. 

The most successful, innovative companies foster a culture in which everyone matters. Each individual employee has a voice, and all teams are united around a common vision and belief in the outcome. Employers must find ways into the trenches to hear those voices and stay on top of fast-changing staff needs, wants, pressures and pains. 

Data can be a powerful tool for attaining that insight. And it’s only the beginning. Internal teams can support strategic listening while also reinforcing an organization’s culture.

A better culture leads to better performance for the business. That, in turn, leads to a better employee experience and stronger chances at retention—something we all need to successfully navigate the Great Resignation. 

Georgann Smith is director of marketing for CUESolutions Platinum provider AdvantEdge Digital.

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