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Business professionals have long understood that a positive workplace culture often directly impacts organizational success. And this intuitive knowledge is more than a hunch — research supports the strong tie between culturally imparted behavioral standards and positive organizational outcomes.
In fact, the Workplace Accountability Index discovered a statistically significant relationship between employees’ engagement level and their tendency to take effective action. In a positive workplace culture, employees enjoy their workplace and invest more in their work. An organization with a strong culture reaps the rewards of employee engagement: as employee engagement increases so does the rate of effective action-taking by employees. In this way, a positive organizational culture engenders higher employee engagement, which in turn correlates to higher achievement.
Still, even with the evidence that culture impacts organizational achievement, corporate leaders often view culture itself as an intangible, indeterminate thing that’s difficult to pin down — they know it when they see it, but they can’t quite put their finger on it.
The problem with this perspective is that changing culture requires the ability to adequately measure culture. Otherwise, there is no way to accurately gauge progress toward achieving the company’s vision for its new culture. Just as every member of an organization must be clear on desired results before they can achieve them, organizational leaders need a precise way to measure culture if they want to intentionally transform it.
Accurately measuring culture begins with a comprehensive understanding of how it is constructed.
Culture is the collective effect of the implicit and explicit norms that dictate employees’ attitudes and behaviors in the workplace. To better understand the complexities of this relationship, consider The Results Pyramid®, a Partners In Leadership model articulating how culture develops and directly impacts organizational outcomes.
The Results Pyramid illustrates that individuals’ experiences inform the beliefs they hold, which in turn motivate the actions that generate results — whether those be unintended consequences or the desired results of the organization.
Organizational leaders who understand these relationships are better equipped to transform cultures rife with performance gaps since they understand the origins of poor performance. In fact, by understanding the ways in which experiences and beliefs drive employee actions toward results, leaders can strategically focus their energy on developing experiences and beliefs for employees that breed accountability—the key to propelling organizational achievement.
Accountability, as outlined in the New York Times bestseller The Oz Principle, is the “personal choice to rise above one’s circumstances and demonstrate the ownership necessary for achieving desired results.”
Only when organizational leaders create positive experiences for employees — by encouraging personal candid feedback sessions, selecting leaders who model ownership, encouraging creative problem-solving , and more — can they cultivate beliefs in employees such as “My colleagues are reliable” and “My opinions and input are valued in this organization.” Such beliefs foster behaviors that are driven by personal accountability — which, when embodied by all employees, generate desired results.
Since culture is articulated in the ways that members of an organization think and behave, it can be gauged by key performance indicators such as cross-departmental collaboration and the frequency at which employees exchange feedback with one another. These insights along with others convey to leaders whether their company culture is misaligned and suffering from a lack of accountability, or if it is strong, cohesive, and highly accountable.
By measuring levels of personal and organizational accountability, the Workplace Accountability Index revolutionizes the culture transformation process. The Index provides critical insights that can be harnessed to guide the culture change process by evaluating four key indicators of organizational culture: precise levels of feedback seeking, psychological ownership, creative problem solving, and taking effective action. These metrics pinpoint specific performance gaps, painting an overall picture of organizational agility — which is an organization’s rate of growth, speed-to-market, ability to adapt to change, levels of achievement, and degree of employee engagement.
To illustrate the effectiveness of measuring culture via the Index, take this example: an organization discovers that only 29% of its employees agree with the statement “I feel comfortable asking superiors for feedback.”
This measurement reveals a crucial gap in accountable behavior, given that feedback seeking is a key indicator of workers’ commitment to hearing colleagues’ perspectives and determining the impact that their choices have on desired results. Armed with this information, the organization can provide better experiences centered upon the positive exchange of feedback that encourage employees of every rank to take accountability for both soliciting and offering feedback freely.
Similarly, the Index would underscore employees’ level of resolve to accomplish Key Results regardless of circumstances. An organization may find that over 60% of employees affirmed that they have “seen a problem developing in their organization but have done nothing about it.” This indicates a widespread lack of psychological ownership — the mental resolve and commitment to take initiative and do what it takes to deliver on organizational results, whether or not the task at hand is their particular ‘responsibility.’
To close this performance gap, the Index would then provide leaders with a roadmap that could include strategies for crafting employee experiences that drive home the value of personal and collective psychological ownership, making it clear to employees that no one succeeds when only some are committed to achieving success.
Should the same organization receive Index scores that indicate that a minority of employees “think outside the box” and even fewer “adapt priorities to adjust to new information,” leaders can recognize shortcomings in both creative problem solving and taking effective action. To rectify these organizational gaps, leaders must create experiences for employees that contribute to the formation of results-oriented beliefs and behaviors. By instituting weekly brain-storming sessions, for example, organizational leaders provide a space for employees to practice creative problem solving and support one another’s ideas. In the same way, leaders could make a weekly routine of covering industry news and crowd-sourcing techniques to respond to market changes. Using these techniques, organizations structure experiences that alter beliefs and support desired behaviors.
By measuring these key indicators of culture, the Index empowers organizational leaders to identify problem areas and eliminate performance gaps by taking a proactive approach to cultivating the mindsets and behaviors necessary for creating a culture of accountability.
Equipped with these data-driven insights, corporate leaders engineer experiences that inspire their employees to adopt accountable behavioral patterns, including exchanging feedback proactively, taking personal psychological ownership, practicing creative problem-solving, and executing effective solutions.
The sum total of these actions have a tangible impact on companies as a whole: they generate increased organizational agility. As a result, organizations grow more quickly while developing their workforce, adapt to shifting consumer and industry landscapes, increase their speed-to-market, fortify employee engagement, and maximize their rate of achievement.