Building a great company culture with Culture Amp
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Building a great company culture with Culture Amp

Company culture matters. According to the Society for Human Resource Management, engaged employees are more productive and drive increased revenue.

For many businesses, however, there’s a significant gap between their current culture and desired productivity outcomes. This disconnect is often underscored by limited data transparency and outdated evaluation practices. For example, a recent Gallup report makes it clear that once-a-year performance reviews actually do more harm than good.

But change is on the horizon. On this week’s What’s NEXT podcast, I had the chance to sit down with Matt Timmins, European team leader for Culture Amp, about how his company is helping organizations of all sizes better engage, evaluate, and enhance employees in order to improve the workplace experience.

Culture Amp is addressing some of the biggest challenges faced by companies of all sizes, such as building staff buy-in, improving employee inclusion, and changing the way employees think about long-term growth.

Simplifying workplace culture
For Matt and Culture Amp, a company’s culture starts with its values. Instead of being something that businesses need to create or design, Matt says, company culture is “actually about things that are already there, but crucially need to be uncovered.”

Matt is also crystal clear about what culture is not: words on a wall. Inspirational posters are a familiar sight in many offices, often focusing on the classic trio of honesty, integrity, and respect. They look good, but don’t always drive action. “Oftentimes, employees don’t see any value in those values,” he says.

In fact, culture isn’t just about the positives that are celebrated on a good day, but “what people are willing to hurt for on a bad day.”

Getting your values right
According to Matt, there are three things companies need to do “really well” to get their values right:

  • Clarify their meaning: Define what “honesty” or “integrity” mean in practice at your organization.
  • Make them relevant: Analyze the link between specific values and helping employees become the best versions of themselves at work.
  • Ensure expectations go both ways: Matt describes this as the “mutuality of values,” the idea that company values inform what employers and employees expect from one another.

Evaluating the impact cultural expectations
Initial engagement surveys are one tool that can help companies determine what employees are saying about a company and how likely they are to become “brand ambassadors” for the organization.

To effectively evaluate engagement, Culture Amp starts with a simple question: “Do you see yourself still working at this company in two years time?” The company views this as a way to gauge future commitment across a two-year time horizon. It helps managers understand what’s going employee commitment a cultural level.

Culture Amp then leverages artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze both initial survey results and the massive “data lake” of human resources information across thousands of community members worldwide. The result is a turnover and attrition-of-talent prediction algorithm that “shows the financial impact of people that have been disengaged.”

Creating engagement at scale

While companies are conceptually aware that employee engagement links to high performance, the challenge is start proving that with data.

Culture Amp’s solution is designed to help companies connect the dots between different data sets. Their human resources management platform is designed to help organizations generate better engagement, from initial staff onboarding during the startup phase to long-term engagement maintenance and improvement at scale.

By developing what Matt calls a “foresight engine,” Culture Amp can, for example, help companies better measure employee onboarding. They do that by collecting key data points about how quickly new staff members understand their role, and how that aligns with organizational goals.

When it comes to engagement at scale, Matt points to a “magic number” of employees. Once organizations reach about 40 people, Culture Amp begins to offer critical benefits around onboarding, off-boarding and change management. What allows Culture Amp to effectively serve its largest clients — with up to 150,000 employees — is the ability to solicit what Matt calls “intentional feedback” from employees. This helps companies understand how those employees feel about current workplace culture and the potential for change.

Improving performance management
Current performance management processes underperform, he says. “Ninety percent of employees feel unmotivated by the performance management process at work in their organizations today,” he adds.

Concerns about fairness is one of the biggest stumbling blocks. Employees often feel that traditional performance management solutions are not transparent. “People don’t know why they were given the ratings that they were given and it’s a feeling of lack of clarity and openness about what’s going on,” he says.

Changing the performance management process requires a shift in thinking. Culture Amp helps facilitate employee improvement by linking feedback to development resources.

Enhancing inclusion and diversity
Creating a culture-first organization, also requires companies “to embrace not only diversity, but actually inclusion.”

Culture Amp’s research reveals that when employees feel they belong in their organization, they also experience high levels of engagement over time. But according to the company’s 2018 Diversity, Inclusion and Intersectionality report, the employee experience isn’t equal. Staff of differing backgrounds often feel their perspective and voice aren’t valued as highly, leading to concerns around fairness and equitable representation.

Sustainable culture at scale ultimately requires a focus on how companies do things on daily basis, not how much revenue is generated each quarter. A scalable, successful company culture needs to be built on company values that are actionable, transparent, and mutually applicable. But it takes more than good intentions to set the stage for long-term success. That’s where Culture Amp comes into the picture, helping organizations create data-driven, transparent processes that boost engagement, improve evaluation, and deliver enhanced employee outcomes.

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