I recently conducted a culture audit for a company that has an outstanding culture. This company has had a meteoric rise in its six years, especially considering the serious challenges they have overcome in their first years. But a surprising number of employees felt that they were being treated unfairly and that their colleagues were not pulling their full weight. And they would not have known that their employees felt that way without the audit.
I’ve found that the worse the culture at an organization, the less likely they want to do anything to fix the culture. It’s the companies that have a good culture—like the one I just did the audit for—that want to make their culture even better.
Ignorance about your company culture is not bliss. Here are three reasons why you should consider having a culture audit.
1. You can’t fix what you don’t know.
Without a culture audit, you won’t know the issues you need to fix in your culture. Culture issues can hide until you force them to come to the surface through an audit. Otherwise they will stay under the radar.
We go to a doctor for an annual physical exam even when we aren’t sick. We go every year to make sure everything is good, and to find out if there is anything hiding beneath the surface that we are not aware of. If we don’t go for the physical then we won’t know if anything is wrong.
A culture audit is similar. It’s not like something has to be wrong to have the audit done. But we won’t know if anything is wrong if we don’t do the audit.
Culture is created by a thousand little things over time, so culture issues take a long time to develop. And they can take a long time to fix too. But if left undetected, culture issues can fester and explode when you least expect it. And they won’t get fixed unless you take the step of finding out what they are.
2. Your team may not know what’s wrong.
Your team might know that something is wrong with the culture at your organization, but they might not know what it is. They may feel uneasy at the workplace, but they might not be able to give voice to what exactly the problem is.
We go to a doctor to diagnose what’s wrong with us when we don’t feel good. That’s how we know what we need to get better. Similarly, a culture audit will help you isolate what the problem is. Once you know what the problem is, then you know where to start. The problem is, really, not knowing that there is a problem.
You will do your team a favor if you help them isolate what they haven’t been able to put into words. Like you, they want to work at a place that has a good culture. But they may not know how to say what needs to be said without having it drawn out of them.
3. Your team may not want to tell you.
It’s possible that your team may know exactly what’s wrong with the organization, but they don’t want to tell you. It could be that they would rather tell a third party. It could be that they don’t want to offend you. Or it could be that the problem is you.
It takes some self-awareness to be able to process the results of a culture audit. Don’t let yourself get in the way of finding out what will help your team. A third party can help your team give voice to their concerns. And a third party can then relay the information to you to help you grow as a leader from the information.
It’s important to tough it out and be willing to listen. As I say in my first bestseller, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew, “it is my hope that you will hear a cry for help and not see a finger of accusation.” Be willing to hear what’s being said, and then dig deeper to understand what’s behind the concerns being raised.
A culture audit will benefit everyone as a result. Your team will know that you care enough about them to listen. And they will know that you are willing to hear the hard things they may say. That alone could begin to improve your culture, even before you do anything to try to fix it.
Robert McFarland is the author of the bestsellers, Dear Boss: What Your Employees Wish You Knew and Dear Employee: What Your Boss Wishes You Knew. Robert is also President of Transformational Impact LLC, a leadership development consultancy helping companies improve their employee cultures to make the companies healthier, more productive, and more profitable.
How about your company culture? When was the last time you had a culture audit? If it’s been a while, click on the button below to start the conversation.