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Complete resource about Company Culture by O.C. Tanner
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Your Complete Workplace Culture Survey Guide

Workplace culture is what sets companies apart and makes employees either want to stay on staff for years or sends them searching for a new job in a matter of weeks. When a company’s culture is great and encourages employees to be the best versions of themselves, the company sets itself up for success and can grow with ease. When the culture is toxic or negative, finding qualified staff can seem next to impossible.

Unfortunately, even the best cultures can shift over time. That’s why staying on top of things and asking your employees about their feelings on the company’s culture is so important. The best way to gather information and find out what’s going well and what needs improvement is through a workplace culture survey.

Content Preview:

• What Is a Culture Survey?
• What Does a Good Workplace Culture Look Like?
• How Do You Evaluate a Workplace Culture?
• Are Employee Surveys Effective?
• Are Workplace Culture Surveys, Employee Engagement Surveys, and Employee Satisfaction Surveys the Same Thing?
• How Should You Conduct a Workplace Culture Survey?
• What Is an Organizational Culture Survey Tool?
• Should You Write Your Own Survey, or Use a Premade Survey from a Reliable Source?
• How Do You Distribute the Survey?
• Employee Survey Questions about Culture You Should Include
• What Do You Do When You Get the Results?
• Take O. C. Tanner’s Culture Assessment

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What Is a Culture Survey?

An organizational or workplace culture survey is a way for employers to gauge how their employees feel about the work environment and identify areas where they can improve. It gives upper management a simple way to make sure the business is operating in a manner that stays true to the company’s core values.

Every company has at least a vague sense of workplace culture. It’s what makes the business stand out to prospective employees. It’s the embodiment of the business’ values and the way companies communicate their appreciation for their team members.

Unfortunately, that ideal workplace culture—the one where the business operates in a way that aligns with the company’s core values—can be elusive.

If you’re not sure where your current culture is missing the mark, you won’t be able to make the necessary changes to make the culture stand out. Surveys allow you to check in with the entire team and find ways to improve.

What Does a Good Workplace Culture Look Like?

Since each company has a unique culture, figuring out what a good culture looks like can be a bit of a confusing process. That said, there are a few characteristics that set great workplace cultures apart from those that need improvement.

High Retention Rates

When employees stay in their jobs or search for ways to move up within the company rather than looking for a new position, that speaks to a great workplace culture. This is a surefire sign that they’re happy with the way the company works and the values it represents.

Inter-Staff Friendships

Companies with positive cultures encourage employees to become friends, not just coworkers. If most of the employees on staff enjoy being around each other and take the time to get to know their coworkers personally, the culture is positive.

Happy Employees

Businesses that prioritize creating a welcoming culture will create a work environment that employees are happy to be in. Everyone will have off days occasionally, but the bulk of the team should be happy and upbeat throughout the day. If most people are down or not enthusiastic about their job, the company culture needs improvement.

Transparency at All Levels

Open communication shows that companies value their workers and want to make sure they’re comfortable with each aspect of the business itself. Being transparent and honest about your company’s performance almost guarantees that the culture is moving in the right direction.


A diverse workforce shows that companies value the different perspectives that those from different walks of life bring to the table.

Perks That Make a Difference

Sure, beanbag chairs and free soda can be great perks that improve the culture on the surface, but it’s not what employees want most. Companies that provide perks like work/life balance, flexible work hours, remote work policies, and other options that employees request have better cultures than ones that merely provide a ping pong table in the break room or have overly colorful office spaces.

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How Do You Evaluate a Workplace Culture?

Every company has a different workplace culture, just like every employee has a distinct personality. Evaluating workplace culture is a multi-step process.

First, look at the company’s core values, mission statement, and the stories it tells prospective clients and employees. What about the business stands out and represents how the company operates?

Then, talk to the employees and see what they have to say. The best way to do that is through a workplace culture survey where employees can provide insight anonymously.

Once you have employee responses, see how they measure up to the company’s ideals. If the company is succeeding, employees should have favorable things to say about the company and their experience.

Beyond reading the responses to the survey, companies can also evaluate their workplace culture by looking at overall retention and performance rates. If employees stay on staff for years and seek promotions rather than jumping ship after a few months, the workplace culture is a positive environment.

See Also: How to Measure Workplace Culture

Are Employee Surveys Effective?

Conducting regular employee workplace culture surveys is one of the best things you can do for the company at large. These surveys will give you insight into how the company is doing, how team members perceive the company’s values, and what they need to be successful.

The key is to keep all responses anonymous.

These surveys are only effective if employees feel comfortable sharing their opinions and their experiences. Even if the company promises not to retaliate for negative responses, there’s always the fear (and risk) that a supervisor or management team member may change the way they treat an employee.

Instead of asking employees to include identifying information, make each survey completely anonymous. You’ll get better responses and have access to more data that tells you how the company culture is really being perceived.

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Are Workplace Culture Surveys, Employee Engagement Surveys, and Employee Satisfaction Surveys the Same Thing?

One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that workplace culture surveys, employee engagement surveys, and employee satisfaction surveys are one and the same. They’re similar, yes. But they tell you different things.

Workplace Culture Surveys

Workplace culture surveys tell you how employees feel about the culture of the company. This includes how they feel about managerial styles, what the company can do to improve and make the experience more fun and comfortable, and what you’re doing right.

It’s all about the culture of the company as a whole and how that culture is experienced by the employees that work in it each day.

Employee Engagement Surveys

Employee engagement surveys give you insight into how involved, excited, and invested employees are in the work they do. It helps you find out what they’re most passionate about and gives you more information to help different teams grow into new departments. When employees are engaged, it can impact workplace culture positively.

Employee Satisfaction Surveys

Employee satisfaction surveys give insight into how happy employees are with the overall work experience. This includes both their experience with the workplace culture and their engagement levels in their work.

Think of satisfaction surveys as a way to determine how happy employees are with the company in general. Remember, they can still be satisfied with their personal experience even if workplace culture needs work.

For most companies, conducting all three types of surveys throughout the year will make it easier to assess the overall reputation the organization has with its team members. That said, by focusing on improving workplace culture, most companies can improve both employee engagement and satisfaction over time.

How Should You Conduct a Workplace Culture Survey?

Ideally, workplace culture surveys should happen at several points throughout the year. This will give you the best blend of answers based on different trends and allow you to examine the impact any new changes have on the culture as a whole.

These surveys used to be filled out by hand and submitted in a physical dropbox, and there’s no reason your business can’t continue collecting information and opinions this way. However, it’s far from the most efficient way to conduct a workplace culture survey.

Instead, you’ll want to get employees to fill out surveys either online or through an organizational culture survey tool.

What Is an Organizational Culture Survey Tool?

An organizational culture survey tool is a program that allows companies to create, distribute, collect, and analyze workplace culture surveys throughout the year. It eliminates the need for piles of paperwork and makes turning the information you receive from your employees into usable data a breeze.

You don’t even have to design the survey tool in-house. You can sign up for the service and use it as needed to make the necessary improvements to your workplace culture.

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Should You Write Your Own Survey, or Use a Premade Survey from a Reliable Source?

Any workplace culture survey will provide you with information about how employees feel about your business.

Some businesses prefer to create surveys on their own to provide insight into parts of their culture that are completely unique to their company. Others prefer to use premade surveys from reliable sources. Both are great options and have their own distinct benefits and downsides.

Unique Surveys

By creating your own workplace culture survey, you’re able to have complete control over the questions you ask. This is ideal for companies that want to identify the minor challenges and issues with their already-thriving workplace culture.

However, it does take time to create and implement. You’ll have to write the questions, build out the survey, and find ways to measure the data collected in those surveys.

Premade Surveys

Premade surveys can provide businesses with both strong and weak company cultures detailed information about how their employees feel at work. The questions can be general, but they’re highly effective as they’ve been tested and used by other companies in the past.

You won’t have to worry about clarity or spend time generating questions that allow you to gain a true sense of workplace culture in the company.

Premade surveys are generally customizable as well, so with this route you can utilize the optimized questions recommended by experts, in addition to adding your own that are more applicable to your specific business.  

Which Is Best?

The best option for your business is the one that makes the most sense for your schedule, your concerns, and your needs. If you choose to write your own survey, make sure the questions are focused and prompt employees to provide the answers you truly need.

If you choose to go with a premade survey, preview the questions beforehand. Make sure the survey creator has experience putting these questions together and can illustrate how other companies used the information gathered in the past. Make any modifications or additions that will enhance the survey for your company.

How Do You Distribute the Survey?

The easiest way to distribute your workplace culture survey is to send it to each employee’s work email address. If they don’t have a dedicated work email, sending the survey to their personal email address is fine.

There, employees can access the survey, type responses, and submit it through an online portal that keeps their personal information private. You’ll receive their responses without any identifying information about the employees.

If you sign up for a premade survey and partner with a dedicated assessment provider, they’ll manage the collection of surveys for you. They can even analyze the information so the managerial team will be able to make improvements immediately.

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Employee Survey Questions about Culture You Should Include

Whether you’re creating your own survey or using a premade workplace culture survey, there are a few key questions you should ask to make sure you receive enough data to analyze the quality of the culture at your company. These are a few of the workplace culture survey questions that every company, regardless of industry, should ask.

    1. How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend or colleague because of the workplace culture you’ve experienced?

    2. Are you comfortable with the workplace culture you’ve experienced?

    3. Do you feel that your team members, managers, and the company respect you and your personal values?

    4. Are there aspects of the organization that you believe can be improved? If yes, please explain.

    5. Do you feel safe while you’re at work?

    6. Are you happy with the types of reviews and raise opportunities you have in the company?

    7. Are there perks that you wish the company could provide or perks that could be improved?

    8. List three things that drive you crazy about the work environment.

    9. How many coworkers do you consider to be your friends?

    10. On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 being the best), how respectful do you feel that your supervisor and coworkers are to you?

By asking these questions on your workplace culture survey, you’ll get a good feel for what employees think about your workplace culture while giving them the opportunity to suggest improvements.

What Do You Do When You Get the Results?

Once you have the results in hand, take the time to read through them. Remember, dissatisfied employees or responses that the workplace culture isn’t ideal doesn’t mean you’re failing as an organization. It just means there’s room to improve.

Look at the results and identify the main weaknesses in your organization. Then, prioritize making those weak areas stronger. You can even follow up with employees at a later date to find out what types of improvements they’d like to see. This can build employee confidence and makes it abundantly clear that you value their opinions and suggestions.

Know Where You Stand: Take O. C. Tanner’s Culture Assessment

Workplace culture can change quickly, but by prioritizing it, you’ll help create an environment that employees want to be a part of for years to come. The best way to find out where you stand is to conduct a workplace culture survey on a regular basis.

You’ll get real-time insight into the things you’re doing right, the areas where you can improve, and what employees think about the culture you’re creating. Get a reliable pulse on your organization’s culture with the O.C. Tanner Culture Assessment.

Ready to start improving your company culture? Check out Culture Cloud

Read more about the latest trends in workplace culture in our 2021 Global Culture Report

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