Evaluating Culture for Effectiveness

Table of Contents:

There are several methods that can be used to measure and evaluate the cultural health of an organization. These methods include reviewing documents such as policies and procedures, administering a survey instrument, interviewing individual employees and conducting both focus group discussions and work observations. Collectively, these methods have provided useful information that can be used to determine the health of culture.

Culture evaluation process

FIGURE 2.1 Culture evaluation process.

The literature on culture states, in general terms, that culture can be created to display the creator’s values, priorities and vision. Developing and nurturing a culture that can facilitate business growth can be challenging due to the diversity of people and the different customs they bring to organizations and development of varying subcultures that underline the overall culture of an organization. The process that has been effectively used in evaluating culture is shown in Figure 2.1.

Documentation Review: Perhaps the first step in evaluating the culture of an organization should start with a review of applicable policies, procedures and charters that document the expectations for the way that employees are expected to conduct business and interact with each other. In organizations where the policies and procedures are clearly documented and communicated, workers are most likely to support making every attempt to comply with the expectations set by these documents. When there is a lack of documentation that clearly supports the vision of the organization, workers can become confused and unsure of the appropriate behavior and expectations. This ambiguity will have some impact on the compliance posture of an organization. Conducting a review of documentation as the first step of the process can produce important information that can inform the survey, focus group and individual interview process.

Assessment and Evaluation: Many organizations use several mechanisms to conduct a comprehensive survey of their work culture. These methods include the use of survey instruments, documentation review, work observation, focus group and individual interviews. When using surveys to assess culture, there is a need to ensure that the proper survey instrument is selected. There are many instruments on the market today that are used to measure culture; therefore, there are many to choose from. When using developed instruments, ensure the following:

  • • The survey instrument contains the questions needed to provide answers that complement the purpose of the evaluation and the feedback being sought.
  • • The survey has been validated.
  • • The questions are clear and not written in a way that can be perceived as leading.

Some potential constraints that must be considered when utilizing survey methods are as follows:

  • • The method or methods used to analyze the data.
  • • The cost associated with procuring and administering the survey instrument.
  • • How will the survey be administered? Paper distribution or electronic.
  • • The time required to complete the survey.
  • • Does the survey ask the right questions?

Conducting focus groups and individual interviews is another effective way of gathering data to support a comprehensive and effective culture evaluation. A focus group should consist of 6-12 participants. The reason for keeping the group small is to facilitate free flow of information exchanges. When utilized appropriately, focus group discussions are a valuable tool used to discover more about the opinions of employees. Guidelines to consider when conducting focus group discussions include:

  • • Keep the list of questions short to no more than 15 questions.
  • • Use terms that are familiar to the participants.
  • • Use open-ended conversation-type questions.
  • • Do not use leading questions.
  • • Each question should focus on a single element or activity.
  • • Select participants randomly from a group that has knowledge of the topic.
  • • Select a meeting location that would ensure privacy for the group.

Individual interviews can be conducted when there is a need to gather information from one individual. This method is an effective way to get feedback from senior managers. The same questions should be addressed for each focus group discussion. In addition to the questions asked during the focus group discussions, additional questions that may be appropriate only for senior managers may be asked during those interviews. Individual interviews should be kept to the prescheduled time frame. The individual and focus group interviews are good processes to collect additional data on the cultural health of an organization. The information obtained will provide insight into the views and opinions of the leadership team and the workers (Allen, Patricia, Alston, Frances, Dekerchove Emily, 2019).

Work observations provide an opportunity for the evaluators to observe work and see how work is actually performed by workers. Observing work also provides an indication of whether the policies and procedures are followed and work is paused if there is a lack of understanding of procedure or if a regulatory noncompliance exists or a safety hazard that needs to be addressed. The actions of workers during work performance provides clues to the workplace safety culture. Some actions to pay attention to during work performance include:

  • • Was a pre-job briefing performed before work began?
  • • Did the workers who will perform the job participate in the pre-job briefing?
  • • Was the scope of the work discussed and followed?
  • • Did the worker perform the work according to procedure, work documentations, etc.?
  • • Were safe work practices used?

• Were the tools needed to perform work on the job site available to the workers?

Communication: When embarking upon the culture evaluation process, it is paramount that a communication plan be developed and followed. Communicating to workers the need to perform a culture assessment and the process that will be used to conduct the data collection is important. Once the culture assessment is completed, a comprehensive communication campaign should be conducted to provide employees the result of the assessment and management’s commitment to address any weakness in the organization culture. The improvement strategy is communicated to workers as soon as it is developed, outlining the improvement areas and the process for addressing those areas.

Improvement Strategy: Many companies are beginning to understand the value and importance of including in their overall business strategy provisions to ensure that the culture of the organization is evaluated periodically and changes are made as necessary. A comprehensive culture improvement strategy should be completed once the data obtained from the culture assessment have been analyzed and areas of improvement have been identified. The plan should address all areas of weakness identified. It is not necessary to address all issues at the same time, however; all issues should be included in a schedule with a time frame for addressing them. Metrics should be developed to track the plan progress and made available for all employees to view.

Applied Learning

  • 1. What impact can the culture of an organization have on environmental compliance?
  • 2. List and explain the potential impacts of the four key cultural attributes on regulatory compliance in organizations. Discuss the role of leadership in compliance.
  • 3. Read the two scenarios below and discuss the culture described and its impact on compliance, the attitude and perceptions of leadership and employees.
  • 2.6.1 Scenario 1

On Monday, the security guard from A Company telephoned the Environment Safety & Health office that representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency were at the site gate and seeking access to the facility. The director and the president of the company agreed that they were not ready for a no notice inspection and so requested that the security guard stall three team regulators for about an hour to give them the opportunity to conduct a quick inspection of some problem areas of the plant. The employees were tasked with quickly inspecting their work spaces and remove any noncompliant conditions, concealing them in any manner possible.

After about an hour and a half, the inspectors were allowed to enter the facility and inspect the five preselected areas. The inspectors identified the following noncompliances:

  • • Waste was not being handled and disposed of properly.
  • • Chemicals were stored improperly.
  • • Documentation demonstrating maintenance of equipment designed to facilitate compliance was not available.
  • • Workers were not forthcoming in responding to questions.

The regulatory inspection report left behind by the inspectors was not embraced by leadership, and employees were requested to correct the violations because management wanted to avoid being asked any fines because of impacts on the quarterly profit margin and on managers’ bonuses.

2.6.2 Scenario 2

On Monday, the security guard from В Company telephoned the Environment Safety & Health office and informed that representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency were at the site gate and were seeking access to the facility. The director and the president of the company agreed that the security guard should grant the regulators immediate access to the facility. The employees were alerted that the inspectors would be in their w'ork area and the expectation was that they support the inspections in any way they could. They were further informed that any noncompli- ant conditions should be rectified as soon as feasible.

The inspectors identified the following noncompliances:

  • • Waste was not being handled and disposed of properly.
  • • Chemicals were stored improperly.
  • • Documentation demonstrating maintenance of equipment designed to facilitate compliance was not available.

The regulatory inspection report left behind by the inspectors was reviewed carefully by management and a plan put in place to resolve each issue and prevent reoccurrence.


Allen, Patricia, Alston, Frances, & Dekerchove, Emily. (2019). Peak performance how to achieve and sustain operations management. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis Group.

Alston, Frances. (2014). Culture and trust in technology-driven organizations.

https://www.epa.gov/assessing-and-managing-chemicals-under-tsca/tsca-work-plan-chemic al-assessments-2014-update

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