The key to performance is culture data

December 15, 2021

“If my company lies to me, I can lie back.” That’s what people tend to think when the organization that employs them breaks their trust. Perhaps the recruiter told them, “We’re like a family,” and shortly thereafter, their boss denied their holiday time off. (It’ll be a holiday with the “family,” I suppose.)

That sort of whiplash starts a negative spiral. At least in this country, work is an exchange—labor for money—but it can be so much more. When employees feel that exchange is fair, they give more, and gain meaning. When they feel it’s unfair, as in the example above, they do less, get less, and can start to work against the organization.

Culture can tip from good to bad at different times, and as we’ll explore, those shifts largely determine your company’s success. As culture goes, so go the people—and thus the business.

Everything is not alright and everyone knows but you

People who feel positively about your company tend to do things better on almost every conceivable measure. Highly engaged workers are, on average, 50 percent more likely to exceed expectations, according to the Hay Group. Respondents in the top quartile for trust (for their organization) indicated they had 106% more energy and were 76% more engaged than those in the bottom quartile, according to The Harvard Business Review. The list goes on and on.

It all makes a strong case for not just managing employees, but managing your emotional culture, because good culture is what inspires and rewards great work. “In organizations where employees felt and expressed compassionate love toward one another, people reported greater job satisfaction, commitment, and personal accountability for work performance,” reports the Harvard Business Review. Culture is that force that binds and inspires.

When people trust their companies, they stick with them through challenging times. Source: Integral.

Yet unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Even slightly negative cultures inspire negative action. Those actions pile up, then start to appear in postings on job review sites that warn applicants away, in fudged reports that create compliance gaps, and in harmful gossip, and managers are often the last to know. 

This problem is not a small one. Today85 percent of employees are not actively engaged, reports Gallup, and 47 percent of people work in organizations where trust is low, reports the Harvard Business Review. More than one-third (36 percent) of employees say their organization does not reflect their values. 

When individuals fall out of love with their organization, their peers know and hear about it. But do you? At most companies, leadership doesn’t. Just one-third of employers (34 percent) believe their employees actively provide feedback, but beyond that, they have no real measure.

Employers fear employees taking negative action. Source: Integral.

Everyone wants to be in a good culture. Most workers know what’s wrong with the culture. But nobody’s telling the leaders who could actually do something about it. Thus, bad cultures are allowed to develop.

But what if you could foresee that happening, and act?

Source: Integral.

Data makes all the difference

If positive culture inspires outstanding performance, negative culture inspires uninspired (and potentially malicious) performance, and any business can tip either way without management knowing, that’s a big opportunity. If businesses could get a reading on things before the effects of negative culture take hold—before those reviews appear—it’s better for everyone. 

Because, no worker wants to be unengaged at work. They’ve simply had their trust broken and don’t don’t feel comfortable sharing feedback. Many don’t believe that feedback would have a positive effect.

That’s where tools like ListenUp can help businesses reimagine this impasse. If you as the leader can gather all that unvoiced feedback, you can get a reading on where your culture stands. And better—if that feedback is anonymous, but selective summaries are posted publicly, it reassures employees that their feedback matters. Nobody can ignore it when it’s on the wall for all to see. 

Imagine every department having a “culture” score, based on direct employee feedback, relating where things stand, and what must change for it to grow more positive. 

For managers, having employees trust that their feedback is taken seriously changes the relationship. It means employees actually share it, and managers are finally in the know. Employees have a voice that’s honored, but now, also more responsibility in being part of the fix.

If you have all that data, you can build that trust, see where the culture stands, and take actions to nudge it in a positive direction

Getting started with culture data

If you’re curious where to begin, I would recommend evaluating ListenUp. There are many culture tools out there, each with strengths and weaknesses. The strength of ListenUp is that it’s not built just for management teams to surveil employees like other platforms are. Employees know when the platform is not for them, and it prevents them from being honest. 

ListenUp takes a different approach. It’s built for employees to trust and want to share, and to allow them to reward each others’ right actions. It’s built for your workers. And counterintuitively, that’s why it’ll work for you. If your people use it, you’ll have the honest and frequent data you need to make good culture decisions.

And furthermore, ListenUp doesn’t just listen—it also guides you with specific recommendations for what each manager, division leader, or executive can do for their area of responsibility. So rather than wonder whether they possess the trappings of an excellent culture, they can see where they stand, take action. 

And if they can do that, they can build toward the sort of organization where employees are 50 percent more likely to exceed expectations, have 106% more energy, and are 76% more engaged. Culture decides performance, and with the right tools, you can now guide culture. What will you do with that power?