Every company has a culture — it’s up to organizations to decide how much they want to prioritize building and maintaining a great one. Unfortunately, many leaders fail to see how fundamental culture is to overall business success, mistakenly dismissing it as too nebulous, too hard to measure, or not worth the same consideration as their long-term company goals and strategies.
That kind of thinking has serious organizational consequences, including disconnect and disengagement. According to a Gallup study, just 41% of employees strongly agree that they know what their company stands for and how it sets itself apart from industry competitors. In addition, only four in ten employees say that their organization’s mission makes them feel that their job matters.*
Surveys can help you identify these areas of disconnect and diagnose what’s currently weakening your company culture, and the insights they yield are an ideal jump-off point for more detailed action plans for improvement. If you’re in the process of developing your own culture survey and need guidance, this article details 20 impactful questions and our best practices for effective planning and implementation.
The purpose & benefits of a culture survey
Far from a secondary concern, a solid company culture is foundational to effective internal communication, employee trust, collaboration, innovation, and strategy — all of which directly contribute to business success. Still, you can’t make effective adjustments to your culture if you don’t know what’s missing or needs fixing.
Culture surveys help people teams identify whether there’s any misalignment between official company values and employees’ perception of those values, including how leadership embodies them and the impact workplace culture has on the overall employee experience. This allows human resources teams to pinpoint areas that require improvement, such as their organization’s feedback practices or remote working arrangements, and helps determine the action steps they should take to build thriving workplaces.
As TestGorilla’s Head of People and Culture Nadia Vatalidis explains, “Culture and engagement surveys are absolutely necessary, but only if you can carry out meaningful iterations on the feedback you get.”
Conducting a thoughtfully designed, action-oriented culture survey can lead to significant short and long-term organizational benefits, including:
Higher employee engagement rates
A strong culture means that team members feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and connection to their company’s mission, meaning as much as a 41% decrease in employees missing work.
In a study on hybrid employees, Gallup research also revealed that team members who feel connected with their culture are 3.7 times more likely to be engaged at work and 5.2 times more likely to recommend their organization as a great place to work.
A 2019 study from the European Journal of Business and Management discovered that organizational culture has a direct and significant influence on employee performance, with Gallup research indicating as much as a 33% performance increase. That’s no surprise when you consider how a great culture also enables better processes, more people-centric policies, and additional space for creative thinking.
Better talent retention
A lack of transparency and psychological safety due to cultural neglect can have a direct impact on turnover. SHRM’s Global Culture Research Report revealed that 90% of employees who believe that their company culture is poor have thought about leaving their jobs. Whereas companies with a strong culture can increase average tenure by 63%.
More diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)
In a 2021 report, SHRM found that professionals who belong to traditionally underrepresented groups are less likely to feel supported by their company culture. This makes regular company culture assessments even more vital, as it’s impossible to have a great culture if not everyone in your organization feels valued.
Healthier team dynamics
A solid culture leads to a more cohesive community, which helps teams work together more productively. Recent O.C. Tanner research found that organizations that prioritize community building share the same goals, show high team commitment, offer more effective communication and feedback, and have greater camaraderie and trust.
According to O.C. Tanner’s Global Culture Report, strong company culture can also decrease burnout by 66%.
Every company should carry out culture surveys regularly — at least annually. This is especially important if you observe a rise in absenteeism and shorter tenures or a decrease in work quality and motivation.
Even if you’ve run culture surveys with great results in the past, monitoring your company culture should be a repeated and ongoing process. Luckily, software like Leapsome’s Surveys module enables you to automate this with customizable templates, recurring reminders, and science-backed analytics, so you can focus on creating relevant, meaningful initiatives for your employees.
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Planning your culture survey
When putting your first culture survey together, getting inspiration from other sources can be useful. However, according to Nadia Vatalidis, it’s important to take the time to figure out which questions are most relevant for your organization. “Start with questions that directly relate to your company values and diversity, equity, and inclusion, as well as [questions about] your performance reviews processes, leadership, sense of engagement, and overall trust.”
Here are some concrete steps to consider:
- Begin with clear goals — Be specific about what you want your culture survey to help you achieve. It’s also critical to ensure that your objectives align with your short and long-term goals and business mission.
- Make sure your questions touch on all aspects that affect culture — Don’t just ask about your company mission and leadership style. Also include prompts regarding the work environment, company processes, team dynamics, communication patterns, and DEI.
- Choose the right survey timing and frequency — Waiting too long between surveys may prevent you from keeping up with your employees’ changing needs, but conducting them too often may lead to survey fatigue. Consider starting with a quarterly or semi-annual survey and let your results determine your cadence moving forward. You can also supplement longer questionnaires with more frequent pulse surveys and regular listening tours to diversify the feedback you receive, or simply include more culture-related questions in your regular engagement survey.
- Use software to simplify planning — With dedicated modules for meetings, surveys, and goal-setting, comprehensive people enablement solutions like Leapsome provide the tools that leaders and stakeholders need to collaborate and plan more impact-driven culture surveys.
Curating your culture survey | 20 key questions to ask
When compiling culture survey questions, clarity is key. To ensure actionable results, implement a good mix of scaled, multiple-choice, and straightforward open-ended questions. As you draft each question, consider the underlying issue you want to bring to light in that answer.
Below, we include 20 powerful survey questions that cover various cultural aspects. Remember, use these queries as starting points, and be sure to modify them according to your business needs.
General organizational culture questions
- On a scale of one to five how much do you agree or disagree with this statement: I understand the company mission and how it relates to my role and responsibilities.
- On a scale of one to five, how aligned do you feel with our core values?
- How often do you witness leadership and/or management embodying our company values?
- Open-ended: Are there any specific actions or initiatives our organization can take to better live up to our stated mission and values?
DEI & cultural diversity questions
- On a scale of one to five, how would you rate the company’s commitment to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI)?
- How safe do you feel expressing your diverse perspectives and opinions at work?
- How successful do you feel current leadership is in promoting and supporting DEI efforts?
- Open-ended: Have you experienced or witnessed any instances of discrimination or bias in the workplace? If so, please elaborate.
Team dynamic questions
- On a scale of one to five, how clearly does your manager and/or other leaders communicate team goals and expectations to employees?
- How effectively does your team collaborate to achieve shared goals and objectives?
- How encouraged are you to share your perspective during team meetings and discussions?
- Open-ended: Can you think of any way to improve communication and collaboration within your team? If so, please elaborate.
Leadership style questions
- On a scale of one to five, how central do you feel an empowering leadership style is to our company culture?
- How comfortable are you approaching your direct manager with work-related questions or concerns?
- How confident do you feel about approaching any leader with work-related questions or concerns?
- Open-ended: What specific leadership traits or habits would you like to see in the organization’s managers and leaders?
Employee well-being questions
- On a scale of one to five, how well do you feel our company supports you in maintaining a healthy work-life balance?
- On a scale from rarely to daily, how often do you experience feelings of burnout or stress in your role?
- How confident do you feel discussing your well-being with your manager?
- Open-ended: What initiatives or process improvements would you suggest to improve employee well-being?
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4 key steps to implement your culture survey
Well-thought-out questions are only half the equation when it comes to conducting surveys. For optimal response rates, it’s essential to also be mindful of the steps you take when deploying the survey company-wide.
1. Develop & send out your survey
Before sharing your survey, ask team leaders and stakeholders to review it and offer their perspectives and feedback. This ensures that the questions are clear and relevant to all company functions. After you edit your questions, consider these best practices for sending out your questionnaire:
- Promote the survey beforehand. That way, it’ll be on every team member’s radar, and they’ll be able to schedule time to complete it.
- Publicize it across all communication channels, with links included. This makes your survey easier to access and increases the likelihood that more employees will respond.
- Explain the reason you’re conducting it. Be honest about the issues you’ve spotted within your organization and what tentative steps you plan to take. This is an important first stride in fostering trust and open communication from the top down.
- Share what you plan to do with the results. What potential initiatives are you hoping to pursue after reviewing the responses and analyzing trends?
2. Ensure psychological safety in the survey process
If you want employees to complete your survey and share detailed, actionable feedback, anonymity is paramount. It allows you to establish a psychologically safe space for respondents to be as candid and specific as they can.
A 2014 academic study from the BMC Medical Research Methodology journal supports the confidential approach to surveys, confirming that anonymous survey methods encourage more honesty than non-anonymous surveys.
3. Make sense of the data & consult culture survey analytics
A combination of qualitative and quantitative data allows you to paint a clear picture of the current state of your culture and discover which factors are driving the most impact, for better or worse. You can make this process simpler by:
- Organizing your data with a spreadsheet or intuitive survey platform like Leapsome that displays results according to lowest and highest scores.
- Using easy-to-read visualizations like graphs and charts to spot trends, patterns, and outliers more quickly.
- Combing open-ended answers for useful insights. Using Leapsome means you can also access sentiment analysis that organizes open-ended answers into positive, neutral, and negative responses.
4. Use results for improvement
It’s time to put your data to good use and create a strategy for improving your company culture in a meaningful way. Rather than launching straight into action planning, consider these best practices for making more targeted, long-lasting changes:
- Determine which areas you need to prioritize. Look at your lowest-scoring areas and see which will have the most detrimental effect on organizational success in the near future. Then, tackle those first.
- Create action plans for every area of improvement, assigning timelines and ownership.
- Share your findings and plan with the company, using graphics to make it easier for employees to understand the data.
- Set clear goals so you can monitor progress on initiatives more easily. Leapsome’s Goals module allows you to set OKRs and SMART goals for individuals, teams, and the entire company to create alignment across your organization.
Leapsome & culture surveys: Your comprehensive solution
Company culture shouldn’t take a back seat to business objectives and strategy. On the contrary, a healthy, resilient culture makes it easier for employees and leaders to collaborate, innovate, and drive core organizational results. Culture surveys allow you to quantify what many leaders feel is unquantifiable and triage your opportunities for improvement. Still, if you’re new to culture surveys and have significant improvements to make, it can be hard to know where to start, and your current people ops tech stack may not be well-integrated or provide the right tools.
As a holistic enablement solution that’s perfect for startups, enterprises, and everyone in between, Leapsome can help. You’ll enjoy how intuitive our Surveys module is when designing, implementing, and evaluating your culture surveys. You’ll also find value in our Goals, Meetings, and Instant Feedback modules, which help you align, gather team member input, and iterate on the culture initiatives that are key to becoming a more people-centered workplace.
With Leapsome in your toolkit, you can trust you’ll have the data, instruments, and workflows you need to build a culture you’re proud of.
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FAQs about culture survey questions
1. What’s the difference between a culture survey & an engagement survey?
Culture surveys allow companies to analyze how employees perceive their organizational culture. Effectively, these help leaders identify if team members are aware of their company ideals and whether they feel the organization lives up to those core beliefs. Engagement surveys, on the other hand, focus on how staff members feel about their work and how motivated they are on an emotional, psychological, and even physical level. Engagement survey benefits include higher satisfaction levels, better employee well-being, and improved retention rates.
Because both kinds of surveys shed light on diverse aspects of the employee experience, both are necessary for organizations that want to have a more holistic picture of their work environments and devise more comprehensive, impactful people strategies.
2. How can we ensure a high response rate to our culture survey?
There are a few tactics you can implement to achieve the highest response rate to your culture survey:
- Promote the survey widely and utilize all of the channels at your disposal. Notify people via email, internal messaging, and company message boards.
- Share the “why” and highlight what you plan to do with the results and the tentative actions you hope to take.
- Let everyone know it’ll be anonymous so participants feel comfortable being honest about their views on your company’s culture.
- Make it easy to complete, share the link across every channel, and let team members know how long it’ll take. Ideally, you shouldn’t ask employees to set aside more than 20 to 30 minutes to answer your questions.
3. How can a culture survey help in employee retention strategies?
Culture surveys are crucial to employee retention strategies because company culture has a direct impact on working environments. Culture surveys can tell you:
- If staff members are aligned in the way they think and talk about your company
- How transparent employees perceive you to be
- How easy it is for team members to make decisions and work together
- If people feel psychologically safe, respected, and valued within your organization
- If your company mission makes team members feel that their job matters
These are important aspects of the employee experience that can inform team members’ decisions to leave or stay — which makes strategies to improve these drivers a good approach to promoting retention.
4. What if our culture survey reveals negative aspects of our company culture?
If you haven’t conducted a culture survey in the past, it’ll likely reveal at least a few negative aspects of your company culture, so avoid thinking of it as a report card. Instead, see unfavorable culture survey results as opportunities for growth and improvement. We suggest you:
- Prioritize the most urgent issues before addressing the lesser ones.
- Create a clear, detailed action plan and assign ownership for every process step.
- Thank employees for their participation and share results for better transparency.
- Explain what you plan to do and when so they feel confident their survey participation has brought value to the company.