Whether it be a set of values, customs or traditions, your company culture is a set of collective aspirations that will define how your business grows. Healthy business cultures can inspire people to navigate through tough times and produce work far beyond their pay grade. Though culture is frequently invoked with success, cultural failures can have an equally pronounced effect on a company. If not carefully tailored, a poorly planned culture can create a dysfunctional workplace.
Though you may have organized your company’s culture, your employees experience it every day. They see it at its peaks and troughs, and they are the best way to determine whether your culture is making your business stronger.
Here are five ways to survey your employees about company culture—and why doing so is important.
1. Find out the actual consequences of values.
Core values are the foundation of many corporate cultures. They can range from one word (determination) to short phrases (“Work smart, not hard”) and are designed to be guiding principles for your business. Whether you know it or not, your employees probably emulate these traits in distinct ways. As the team leader, it’s necessary to understand whether your values cultivate positive employee habits or generate unintended side effects. Also, if those values don’t affect behavior, why are you promoting them? Crafting an employee experience is much like crafting a customer experience. To improve both, you need a direct source of feedback.
2. Determine what is limiting productivity.
Employee productivity directly depends on the quality of your culture. The cultural norms such as work hours, post-meeting protocols or approval methods are a function of top-down decisions that upper management doesn’t directly experience. Even the most valuable employees can feel hindered by cultural norms. They view these practices as stifling and unfocused rather than empowering and precision-driven.
Identify any cultural norms that may be barriers, and refine them to encourage employee productivity.
3. Learn about the work environment.
Work environment is solely a function of company culture and those managing it. However, you may find it tough to experience your company’s work environment firsthand, because employees tend to change their behavior around employers. This behavioral shift can make it difficult to identify whether everyday interactions motivate or burden employees, or if the method by which you deliver criticism is constructive to your culture.
Allowing employees to anonymously assess their work environment provides business owners with an authentic representation of the workplace and factors that affect employees’ satisfaction with their work environment.
4. Assess employee fit.
Ask 100 employees about workplace culture and you’ll receive 100 answers. Use this feedback to not only examine your culture, but evaluate each employee’s compatibility with that culture. An employee might have unparalleled talent and exceed expectations on each of their deliverables. However, if it’s a poor cultural fit, their presence can have far-reaching effects that eliminate the company’s net gains.
Use your employee’s answers to assess mutual growth in your company’s work environment and how their views on company culture affect the growth of those around them.
5. Build a better vision.
Successful business cultures are not only built from the top down, but also from the bottom up. Reiterate your workplace’s values, but you can’t build culture on your own. Examine your employees’ responses, and look for trends within them. If project ownership is a common problem, turn ownership into a company value and become its champion. If office politics are devouring your team, enforce honesty and collaboration on a cultural level. Determine what’s important to your employees and what functions they need to succeed, and a newer, better vision of workplace culture will begin to build itself.
Jonathon Ende is CEO of SeamlessDocs.com. A version of this article originally appeared Entrepreneur.com. Copyright © 2015 Entrepreneur Media, Inc. All rights reserved.