Conducting a Cultural Analysis: A Simple Guideline

Ping-pong tables, zen rooms, fun and open offices…

Do any of these remind you of something?

These staples of modern day startups have rekindled interest in workplace culture, and made it urgent for companies to evaluate and revise their corporate cultures in order to remain competitive. According to Glassdoor’s 2019 mission and culture survey, close to 4 out of 5 job seekers consider a company’s culture before applying for a job. 

In this article we dive into how organisations can identify which cultures are dominant amongst their employees and how to take advantage of these – how organisations can perform a cultural analysis.

 

Content

 

  • What is cultural analysis?
  • Why is cultural analysis important?
  • How to conduct a cultural analysis
  • How to use Hoftede’s Cultural Dimensions for cultural analysis
  • How to use Schwartz’s Values for cultural analysis
  • How to use Fiske’s Model for cultural analysis
  • How to use the Competitive Value Framework for cultural analysis
  • How to use Corporate Culture Classification for cultural analysis
  • How to guarantee data privacy in cultural analysis

 

Employees conducting a cultural analysis

 

What is Cultural Analysis?

 

Even though nuanced in definition, culture is generally understood to be the collective of beliefs, customs, ideas, institutions, laws and values that determine behaviours amongst a defined group of individuals. The same understanding applies for organisations where any set of formal or informal practices, systems and expectations that guide behaviour and decision making will qualify as culture.

In this line, cultural analysis is any attempts, usually by human resource professionals, to uncover the core values and practices common to stakeholders within an organisation and how these affect employee experience, overall organisational performance and how the outside world perceives the organisation.

Also, the most pro-active employees and job seekers often seek to understand organisational culture in order to avoid it or devise methods to adapt and/or take advantage of it.

 

Why is Cultural Analysis Important?

 

In today’s volatile and highly competitive world, companies are in need of resilience and a competitive advantage to sustain and grow overtime. Turns out that beyond great product market fit, positive cultures that define how companies interact with their customers are strong determinants for success. The key with a cultural analysis is not necessarily creating these positive values but understanding which ones are dominant and how they could contribute towards achieving organisational goals. A good cultural analysis can:

  • Help companies leverage a positive culture to outperform competition and attract the best talent.
  • Ensure that company objectives are aligned with employee motivation.
  • Communicate executives’ interest in building an environment of trust and openness to diverse perspectives.
  • Throw light on cultural strengths and possible weaknesses that might impede any present or future change initiatives.
  • Provide guidance for cultural fit in recruitment, job orientation and job promotion practices.

 

Happy employees in an organization that performs a cultural analysis

 

How to Conduct a Cultural Analysis

 

We know that cultural analysis is important, but conducting one can seem tricky and overwhelming. It helps to think of cultural analysis as consisting of 2 major steps: choosing the appropriate theoretical framework and a practical implementation using a HR consultant and a data gathering and analysis tool.

Theoretical frameworks in the field of organizational culture provide a lense/canvas for companies to measure and view workplace culture. Frameworks could be based in academic research or could be practical adaptations of academic frameworks by companies and HR professionals to make them easy to implement in the business world. In this article we see 3 frameworks based on academic work: Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions, Schwartz’s Values, and Fiske’s Relational Model.

 

How to use Hofstede’s Cultural Dimensions for Cultural Analysis?

 

Hofstede’s cultural dimensions is probably one of the most famous theories in HR and workplace culture literature. It identifies 6 key dimensions that help understand the difference in cultures across countries and their impact on individuals and the business setting. This theory is mostly relevant in multinational companies with employees from various backgrounds. See below the 6 dimensions of interest

  • Power Distance Index: High power distance cultures encourage bureaucracy, and respect for rank and authority while low power index cultures encourage decentralised decision making, participative management styles and power distribution.
  • Individualism vs Collectivism: In companies where individualism is dominant, employees place a greater emphasis on attaining their personal goals above the goals and well-being of the group. Think “I” versus “We”.
  • Uncertainty Avoidance Index: High uncertainty avoidance is usually characterised by strict rules and procedures. With low uncertainty avoidance there is an appetite for risk taking and comfort in ambiguity and the unknown. Rules and regulations are more laxed.
  • Masculinity vs Femininity: Masculine cultures seem to focus on material achievements and wealth building. Gender roles tend to be distinct. In feminine cultures, there is a focus on quality of life, fluid gender roles, modesty and nurture. 
  • Long term Orientation vs Short term Orientation: Long term orientation is all about delayed gratification. Company culture in this domain forgoes short term success in order to achieve long term vision. Short term oriented companies on the other hand are interested in immediate results and the present rather than the future.
  • Indulgence vs Restraint: The freedom for employees to have fun versus restraint through social norms and company policy.

To measure the different cultural dimensions, Hofstede developed a survey tool known as the Value Survey Model that companies can use for their cultural analysis.

 

Hoftede's Cultural Dimension for Cultural Analysis with Diverse Employees

 

How to use Schwartzs’s Values for cultural analysis?

 

Schwartz’s theory of basic values identifies ten basic personal values and classifies them into 4 categories depending on their underlying goals or motivation: self-transcendence or self-enhancement or on openness to change or conservation. Some values conflict with each other, while others are congruent.

  • Self-transcendence vs Self-Enhancement: Values can either emphasise a concern for the common good rather than the individual (universalism, benevolence) or emphasise self-interest and success and dominance over others (achievement, power). 
  • Openness to change vs Conservation: Values can either emphasise readiness to change, innovation, independence of thought, feelings and actions (self-direction, stimulation) while others emphasise preservation of  traditions, rules and regulations and self-restriction (security, conformity, tradition).   See the table below for a breakdown of Schwartz’s ten basic values

 

Value Defining Goal
Self-Direction A requirement for autonomy and independence in thought and action
Stimulation Reflected in a need for variety, stimulation, excitement and novelty
Hedonism Interest in one’s pleasure and gratification – it encompasses characteristics of both openness to change and self-enhancement
Achievement Demonstrating competence in terms of prevailing social standards and in a way that provides resources for one’s survival – ambition, influence, social recognition, intelligence
Power Status differentiation and dominance over people and resources
Security A need for safety, stability and security in the environment within which the individual operates, interactions with others and with self
Conformity Self restraint in everyday actions and interactions to avoid to avoid violating social expectations/norms
Tradition Respect and commitment to the practices, ideas, symbols and beliefs of the group
Benevolence Concern for the welfare of others in one’s close circle
Universalism Concern for the welfare of all people and for nature

 

Using the Schwartz Value Survey (survey questions developed from the model) companies can measure which values are the most prominent amongst their employees and identify situations where values conflict and impede productivity.

 

 

Employee values for cultural analysis

 

How to use Fiske’s relational models for cultural analysis?

 

Fiske’s model is not as popular. Nevertheless it has potential to provide interesting insights that previous models don’t look at. Fiske’s is a relational model that informs how employees interact with each other. All human interactions can be described in terms of 4 relational models:

  • Communal Sharing : People consider themselves to be equivalent, undifferentiated and interchangeable. The focus is on the group’s success rather than the individual’s. Companies can look out for rituals, synchronous movements, sharing and generosity.
  • Authority Ranking : The working environment is characterised by hierarchical structures. Highly ranked people enjoy greater authority and prestige while lower ranked people are entitled to guidance and protection.
  • Equality Matching : Employees seek reciprocity and balanced relationships. In instances of difference, the necessary is done to restore balance.
  • Market Pricing : Interactions are oriented towards ratios and rates like pricing, tithes, wages, cost-benefit analysis.

Working with Fiske’s model, it is important for companies to seek to uncover instances of conflict and to align these to the company’s overall vision.

 

Cultural Analysis and Employee Interactions

 

HR practitioners have made attempts at modifying academic theories to simple guidelines applicable in the business context. These have taken the form of types of workplace cultures, with one of the most well known classification being Kim Cameron and Robert Quinn’s Competitive Value Framework.

 

How to use the Competitive Value Framework for Cultural Analysis?

 

Using the Organisational Culture Assessment Instrument (OCAI), companies can see which of 4 corporate values proposed affect how they operate, and how employees collaborate for now and the company’s desired future state.

  • Adhocracy Culture: innovative workplace environment with high risk tolerance
  • Clan Culture: Individuals are considered to be of equal importance and hierarchies are frowned upon
  • Hierarchical Culture: structure controlled and stiff processes
  • Market culture: competition and results orientation

 

How to use the Corporate Culture Classifications for Cultural Analysis?

 

Other Types of organisational culture are mentioned in Havard’s Leader’s Guide to Corporate culture

  • Learning Culture: knowledge and skills expansion, continuous learning and curiosity, innovation.
  • Purpose Culture: Working towards a vision greater than self, usually to change the world.
  • Caring Culture: Helping customers, employees and team members to thrive.
  • Order Culture: Structure, rules and regulations and standard processes.
  • Safety Culture: Risk planning and aversion and sticking to proven processes.
  • Authority Culture: Competitiveness, decisiveness and boldness. Employees and the company strive to be the best in their fields.
  • Results Culture: Meeting and exceeding goals and targets.
  • Enjoyment Culture: Fun loving, playfulness and spontaneity.

 

How to do a cultural analysis practically?

 

Using any of the theoretical frameworks mentioned above, it is important for companies to do the following:

  • Use anonymous surveys and culture assessments to employees to understand where you presently stand. See how employees view the company, their thoughts on company values, and their understanding of overall company vision and goals. Does their understanding align with what is communicated by the executive team? This could take the form of a cultural gap analysis where you assess where you stand today versus where you want to be in the future.
  • Supplement your anonymous surveys with other data sources. For example, observe team interactions and behaviours during meetings and social gatherings and/or review the stories and anecdotes that run across the organisation and what these say about the work environment. Companies can also analyse HR processes like recruitment, onboarding and incentives to see what they communicate.
  • Once strengths and weaknesses are identified, companies should develop a strategy to achieve their desired culture. This might require intensive training with employees, communication, skill training for leadership, recognition for employees who show desirable values and incentives to encourage certain behaviours.
  • Culture analysis should not be a 1 time event but a continuous process if you are going to sustain a positive culture.

How to guarantee data privacy in cultural analysis?

 

Nothing hinders the benefits of a cultural analysis like data privacy concerns. It is difficult to create an open space for the discussion about culture without the tools and processes in place to ensure any information shared is private and without risks to employees. To guarantee data privacy, companies are advised to hire the services of a 3rd party HR consultant and use tools with a privacy by design architecture to collect and interpret data.

Why 3rd party consultants over in-house HR staff? Privacy, limited bias and trust. For employees and other internal stakeholders to feel comfortable sharing honest feedback without any fears of negative repercussions, a third party with little to no conflicts of interest within the company is necessary. Any survey data shared back to management should be in aggregate form and guarantee anonymity.

While HR consultants will design survey questions based on any of the theoretical frameworks mentioned above or develop their own frameworks, there is a need for a survey analysis tool to collect and analyse data safely.

CODIFIC’S Survey Analysis and Reporting Automation tool (SARA) helps HR consultants:

  • Collect survey data safely with privacy by design principles
  • Automate analysis with either generic methodologies or proprietary methodologies of their choice
  • Generate automated reports with their existing templates and branding

 

360 Degree Feedback for Cultural Analysis

 

With the right frameworks, methodologies and steps to ensure data privacy via using a non-biased HR consultant and a data safe survey analysis and automation tool, companies are equipped with what it takes to carry out a cultural analysis and establish the right cultures to remain competitive.

Data protection:

 

Codific is a cybersecurity firm that develops SaaS applications. At the core of everything we do is a security and privacy by design principle, protecting user data and truly guaranteeing anonymity when relevant. The highest standard in data security is the only practical, legal and moral option.

Stop wasting time building reports manually. Stop sending your customers to third-party tools and stop being limited by the features of your software. Hire SARA today.

 

What else does Codific build with privacy by design principles?

 

Videolab is used by top universities, academies and hospitals to put the care in healthcare. Communication skills, empathy and other soft skills are trained by sharing patient interviews recordings for feedback.

SAMMY Is a Software Assurance Maturity Model management tool. It enables companies to formulate and implement a security assurance program tuned to the risks they are facing. That way other companies can help us build a simple and safe digital future. Obviously our AppSec program and SAMMY itself is built on top of it.

We believe in collaboration and open innovation, we would love to hear about your projects and see how we can contribute in developing secure software and privacy by design architecture. Contact us.