Recently, we were asked how companies measure if their workplace cultures are successful? Good question. We’re so often asked about how to find the problems!

Point number one: start by looking for transparency, openness and honesty.

Let’s clarify. Uunvarnished honesty. The kind of honesty you can take risks with. Employees should be able to tell you like it is, even if the truth is uncomfortable. Examples would be, not sugar coating a situation or admitting mistakes. In many organizations a leader may say they like their people to call them out when necessary. Most do not really like this, but those who do find themselves leading powerful organizations.

The key here is to not just be willing to hear what your people think, but to be ready to do something about it or explain why you may not be able to address an issue.

“Transparent, open and honest” comes down to communication. Communication about what’s going on throughout the organization. And, it includes involving people in the decision process to the greatest degree you’re able.

The Center for Creative Leadership has its “Five Factor Model” to break out when a unilateral decision is appropriate and when inclusion is more important. There are autocratic situations and times when you need to get total consensus, but it’s a continuum and you want to engage people as much as possible when relevant.

Other key metrics for a positive workplace environment include:

  1. Continuity – low turnover is a huge positive indicator. If people stay, they grow as individuals and gain mastery. If a manager tells me their turnover is high but still below their industry average, I ask if they’re okay with that. If they say, yes, I see a problem. Because good leaders always want to improve on this metric and being complacent with “normal turnover” suggests they consider burnout and dissatisfaction inevitable.
  2. Culture – this might be the strongest metric. Is there a mission statement that is not only expressed but evident in the workplace behavior? Do people at every level understand the mission and have a sense of purpose? Culture is probably the main predictor of success.
  3. Core value agreement – within the mission, do people buy into the stated values or are they just words?
  4. Empowerment – here’s where decision-making is key. When people have some sense of control over their work – autonomy to make front line decisions – they usually perform better.
  5. Engagement – do people behave as if they care about their work. Do they exude enthusiasm and initiative in meetings?

One good tool for determining workplace positivity or assessing what may be holding an organization back is the Denison Organizational Culture Survey. Denison does a good job measuring if the culture is one that will lead you to be successful long term.

You can also do this by the old practice of managing by walking around, as long as you’re ready to have genuine conversations to find out how people really are feeling about how their work is valued in the organization.

If you’re adhering to point number one – transparent, open and honest – maintaining a positive and productive workplace is a lot easier and may be just a matter of occasionally adjusting workloads and assignments.