Navigating Culture Challenges: Triggers and Signs for Assessment


October 23, 2023

Few factors contribute more to business success than culture. According to Deloitte, 94% of executives and 88% of employees believe a distinct workplace culture is important to business success.

This article explores the significance of assessing and nurturing company culture. It delves into how a positive culture impacts employee engagement, talent attraction, and organisational performance while highlighting key triggers for reviewing and improving company culture.

Why is it important to assess current culture?

Understanding the current organisational culture helps gauge employee engagement and satisfaction. A positive and inclusive culture tends to result in happier and more motivated employees who will likely be more productive and committed to their work.

Conversely, a toxic or negative culture can lead to disengagement, turnover, and decreased productivity. Research shows that 80% of job seekers consider company culture a critical factor when deciding whether to apply for a job. Therefore, companies with a positive and empowering culture can expect to attract skilled individuals who align with the company’s values and mission. Moreover, a positive culture can aid in retaining talent and reduce turnover costs. A culture that encourages open communication, collaboration, and risk-taking can also foster innovation and adaptability, leading to a competitive advantage.

By grasping the current culture, an organisation can identify areas for improvement and take strategic steps to create a more positive and productive work environment. But what are some of the things that may trigger the immediate need to review and assess?

Triggers to Review and Assess Culture

Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) are a primary trigger for several Quirk clients. As two entities merge, they bring together employees from different organisational cultures. There will inevitably be differences of opinions and values, potentially leading to culture clashes, confusion, and a need for cultural alignment to ensure a smooth transition.

Assessing and potentially reshaping the culture is crucial to integrating teams and creating a unified and productive work environment. For an example of cultural integration, read our case study on the people and culture due diligence work we did with client Selbey Anderson.

Other triggers that might trigger a cultural review are as follows:

– Changes to management and leadership teams

– Rapid company growth (which we’ve recently dealt with ourselves)

– Social factors outside the organisation’s control (e.g., Covid-19)

Beyond these triggers, how can you spot signs that indicate a need to assess your company culture?

Spot the Signs: When You Need to Assess Company Culture

Below are some symptoms that often reflect underlying cultural issues that you need to assess and address in the workplace.

-Low Employee Morale. Low morale is a strong indicator of an unsatisfactory or toxic culture. It suggests employees are disengaged, demotivated, or dissatisfied with their work environment. This may result from cultural issues such as lack of recognition, poor communication, or limited growth opportunities.

-Resistance to Change. A culture that resists change can hinder an organisation’s ability to adapt and innovate. It is crucial to ask the right questions to understand why there is resistance to change. Doing this can help uncover cultural reasons why some people are against flexibility, new ideas or agility.

-High Staff Turnover. If your employees leave in large numbers or over a short period, it is essential to assess the culture to identify potential causes, such as poor leadership, lack of career development opportunities, or a toxic culture. Understanding and addressing these issues can help reduce turnover and improve retention rates.

-Poor Performance. Team performance can be symptomatic of a culture that does not emphasise accountability and lacks a coherent and universally understood vision. It is important to assess the cultural factors contributing to subpar performance and address them.

-Siloed Teams. Silos within the organisation can hinder collaboration, communication, and information sharing. Teams don’t communicate or share ideas; hence, the company doesn’t benefit from diverse cross-functional collaboration. This often leads to inefficiencies and low productivity.

-Misaligned Communication. A significant gap between what the organisation communicates about its values, mission, goals or services and what it delivers can erode trust and morale. This dissonance often stems from cultural issues such as misalignment between leadership and employees or a lack of follow-through on promises.

So, how does Quirk help you assess and address culture for its clients?

The Quirk Solutions Approach

As part of our culture diagnostics service, we conduct in-depth surveys about employees’ attitudes towards their organisation, their feelings about it, and their role they play in it. We seek to understand how employees feel about how leaders make decisions, and how they view their place within both that and the wider structures of the organisation.

Many culture diagnostic tools produce a snapshot of what they think the culture is, based on an established model. At Quirk, we go further, by interpreting those results and developing what they mean within the context of the specific organisation. We believe that to really add value it is vital to look at how the current and desired cultures can be more aligned, and, vitally, how to get people from A to B.

During our process, it is key that employees feel heard. The surveys we conduct must be in-depth to get meaningful results. If employees aren’t included adequately in understanding why it is essential to hear their voices, they won’t see the value in completing the surveys wholly and candidly, making the data less meaningful.

Furthermore, leaders must communicate clearly and transparently about what will happen to the data and how it will be used to implement change. They must be clear about the genuine desire for change and the outcomes they hope for. This can be more challenging if the current culture is one where there is a disconnect between leaders’ intentions and actions. In these organisations, we often need to do some extra work around establishing trust.

By understanding the root causes of cultural issues, organisations can take proactive steps to realign their culture with their goals and values, improve employee morale, encourage adaptability, and foster a more productive and positive work environment.

If you are looking to review your current culture, please get in touch by emailing [email protected]. We’d be delighted to hear from you.

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