How to assess organisational culture

by Georgia Parker | May 08, 2021

time icon 5 mins

A strong organisational culture can make the world of difference for your business. As a result, you should regularly assess your workplace culture to ensure that it’s helping rather than hindering your ability to achieve your goals. This will also help you see whether there are any issues with your internal culture early on, so you can easily address and fix them.

Changing culture is no mean feat and this task shouldn’t be taken lightly. However, once you’ve assessed your organisation, you may find that your culture needs some slight tweaks rather than a complete overhaul. In this article, we’ll tell you how to do just that.

Why should you strive for a strong organisational culture?

There are many different benefits of a strong organisational culture. This includes:

  • Better employee engagement
  • Better productivity
  • Reduced employee turnover
  • Increased creativity and innovation

Therefore, it really pays to invest time and effort into improving and changing your workplace culture when needed.

How to assess corporate company culture

Of course, it’s not as simple as that in terms of a quantitative, data-based assessment of organisational culture, although it helps to remember that in some ways, any assessment is entirely subjective, however structured the approach. It’s influenced by the individuals who take part and the process by which they are engaged.

This is because we understand and interpret organisational culture through our lens, which is coloured and shaded by the experiences we have had throughout our lives, our internal sense of psychological safety, our values, our priorities. We’re all different and so have varying tolerances or perspectives on how different cultures feel. Some people flourish in what others would perceive as a hard-hitting, cut-throat world that they wouldn’t want to be part of. Others are energised by pressure, structure and deadlines which some would find constraining and frustrating. We adapt, of course, as best we can, and learn to work within the organisational culture we have joined. Or we decide it’s not for us, and move on if we are able to. 

So how can we get to a place where we have both the opportunity and data to assess organisational culture? There is a range of ways we’ve seen over the years and all are fit for purpose in different contexts:


The simplest approach is a desktop review of key documents and cultural collateral. This would include both internal and external facing material, such as the website and social media content, key strategies, performance frameworks, reward and retention schemes, employee wellbeing measures, KPIs around staff turnover, sickness absence and so on. This is appropriate perhaps at the early stages of a merger discussion, to establish some understanding around differences and similarities in organisational culture by the boards of those businesses considering merger or acquisition. But be warned: what a business does on paper or online about itself isn’t necessarily what happens on the inside. Much of what is communicated is often actually aspirational in reality. The values a business calls out as being important for them are often those elements they want or need more of.


Another common approach in assessing corporate company culture is to add in some interviews and focus groups. Perhaps with senior leaders and a cross-section of staff across the group.  These can be facilitated internally or by an external facilitator and there are pros and cons with each approach. In healthier cultures, leaders and managers have often been equipped with some coach or facilitation skills, there is sufficient trust and openness for staff members to feel able to speak up and share their real feelings with confidence with their managers.   In cultures that aren’t so healthy, there is often real value in bringing in an external facilitator to run sessions with managers not participating with their teams.  Either approach brings another warning: be prepared for some surprises and hearing things you might not like! And be prepared to take action in response to the feedback and dialogue you get. If you are going to ask people for their views on organisational culture, it’s critical that you listen and respond, otherwise you will damage the culture.

Workplace culture assessments

There are also more formal and structured corporate culture assessment methods. McKinsey’s Organizational Health Index is an amazing tool that assesses an organisations’ ability to align around and achieve strategic goals, critical for long-term performance. 

Many organisations seek external validation through entering recognised “competitions” such as the Times Top 100 Best Companies annual listings.

Then there are awards such as Investors in People and the International Safety awards for occupational health, safety and well being.  These kinds of external programmes offer a range of criteria against which your organisation is assessed either via staff surveys or assessment visits. Additionally, each sector has its own form of internal and external audit requirements, sector standards or regulations to meet and adhere to. All of these give insight into the organisational culture and have varying costs and timescales attached to them.

The There Be Giants approach

Here at There Be Giants, we use the culture assessment tools from Barrett Values Centre and there are a number of reasons for that:

  • It’s an affordable way to engage an entire organisation
  • It’s a values-based framework that can be used for creating new organisational values and behaviours or refreshing, recalibrating and validating existing ones
  • It can be tailored to suit the needs of your business
  • It provides simple, accessible data that leads to rich dialogue about culture

This last point is the most important. Whilst a Cultural Values Assessment will provide you with quantifiable data about the most subjective of subjects – who your people are in terms of their values and priorities,  how they experience the current organisational culture and what they believe is needed for the organisation to be successful – it is most valuable in opening up the opportunity and creating a structure for dialogue and discussion about culture. This is what leads to greater understanding, alignment and commitment to creating the kind of organisational culture that you want and need.

Organisational culture and the OKR process

In terms of implementing OKRs, the kind of culture that is wanted and needed is quite simple to describe. It is open, transparent, people hold themselves and others to account, failure is seen as a learning opportunity, everyone feels included and valued and there is the highest level of psychological safety to enable challenge, innovation and creativity to flourish for the greater good. It’s a stimulating, fun, supportive and stretching place to work.

As Peter Drucker once famously said, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”. No business would embark on an ambitious strategic business growth plan without research, data and discussion to shape and form it, and the same applies to shifting or growing your culture.

So whilst your gut feelings about culture will be right, for you, it pays to put culture as an equal priority for attention, focus and development at an organisational, team and individual level.  And if you don’t feel safe, welcomed, included or valued in your culture, chances are others don’t too and there is work to do. Engage your people, gather some feedback and data, listen, discuss and respond. It isn’t always the easiest work to do but it’s worth it.

If you’re ready for a culture shift and you want to get started with the next step of the process, book a call with a Giant today. 

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