The Culture Audit: Building the Successful Company Culture

A company's culture can help ensure the success of its business objectives. However, company culture is about more than having free Coca Cola in the fridge and allowing employees to take their dogs to the office. Culture is how employees describe where they work, understand the business, and see themselves as part of the organization. Building a strong company culture will not itself guarantee business success, but culture is a key determinant in attracting talent--and it is that talent that carry a company forward.

A "culture audit" can help assess the culture that currently exists in a company. It also offers insights into the means to strengthen it. This process is more commonly referred to as an "employee survey," – it helps companies learn what raison d'être keeps employees at the company.

An effective corporate culture audit describes the overall working environment, identifies the unwritten "norms" and rules governing employee interactions and workplace practices, determines possible barriers to effective work practices and communication, and makes recommendations for addressing identified problems. Not only will it help retain top performers, it provides a blueprint of what attributes to look for in applicants.

Sample questions might be:

  • Are you being compensated fairly?
  • Are your benefits comparable to those of the company's competitors?
  • Does the company value your work?
  • Are you getting the training you need?
  • Does open communication exist in the company?
  • Do you feel challenged?
  • Do your values match those of the company?

You might notice that a culture audit asks questions typically asked during an exit interview! Why wait to ask these important questions after the company has already lost its investment in an employee. Audits uncover potential friction points as well as sources of synergy, and generate possibilities for internal process improvements within the organization. By uncovering trouble spots in advance, the audit encourages fun and creative ways for improving the already-existing culture.

Such creativity can be as boundless. Growth oriented companies are notorious for coming up with notably unusual ways to improve the work environment—off-site retreats, impromptu recognition programs, and the creative use of office space are all examples of how companies implement creative ideas to build their culture. These are just a few of the ideas often generated from the insights gleaned in a culture audit.