In a previous post I described the two major types of surveys to assess corporate culture. This post will dive deeper into the pros and cons of these two types of corporate culture surveys. It’s important because their results can vary.
Different Surveys, Different Views
The first assumes employees are largely aware of the culture. If we want to know the culture, just ask the employees. If a majority feels a certain way, then that must be the culture. For instance, if a majority says the culture is hardworking, then it is.
The second assumes unconscious forces exist. For the most part, employees aren’t aware of them. For instance, a minority as small as 5-10% can set the tone for the group. Employees can’t easily see this. The survey will need to do more than just ask employees direct questions to get a sense of these forces.
Corporate Culture Surveys, Pros and Cons
Each type of corporate culture survey has its pros and cons.
By far the most common are self-reporting surveys. Their pros are:
- Ease of delivery and understanding
- Quantifiable and objective results
- Low cost
- Computerized tabulation
Their cons are:
- Questionable accuracy and thoroughness
- Requiring employees to be aware of cultural influences
- Close-ended questioning methodology
- Inability to follow up answers
Projective surveys are less common, less known. Their pros are:
- Comprehensiveness and accuracy
- Capturing unconscious influences
- Professional delivery and tabulation
- Open questioning methodology
- Qualified professional needed
- Moderate to high cost
- Labor-intensive tabulation
- Difficult to quantify results
Challenges of Surveying Cultures
There is more to a forest than the sum of its trees. Likewise, there is more to a culture than the sum of its people. Corporate culture surveys have to capture this. This is hard.
For instance, anthropologists don’t just look at cultures’ histories and traditions. They look at their structures, goods, services, tools and much more.
The same holds true in work cultures. Processes, hierarchies and even internal regulations influence culture. Most employees aren’t aware how.
Finally, most of all, it’s not the majority that sets the culture. It’s the passionate minority. It sets the culture. It gets things done. Unless the survey taps into this group and weights it more, it is doomed to report how the dispassionate majority sees the culture.