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The effect of Company Culture on your survey questions

“A rose is not a rose is not a rose.”

One of the very first things we do when sitting down with a new client is helping them customize their survey questions to uniquely fit their particular culture and work environment.

A not-for-profit is not a parts manufacturing firm, is not a professional association, is not a restaurant, is not a municipal district.

Yes some questions will always be relevant to every work environment – ex. “I would highly recommend The Island Inc. to a friend seeking employment” – but you might find that half or more of your items might benefit from some degree of customization.

One of our absolute favourite examples of tailoring a question to the culture is one we used for a not-for-profit that we love (LOVE) working for, and it goes like this;

My co-workers/supervisor/senior management always display unconditional love and absolute respect.” (on a scale of agreement).

You might not use the question in a (add rough-tough work environment example here), but it is absolutely appropriate to this particular client’s unique environment – and goes straight to the core of who they are, and the work environment that they are striving to achieve.

Finding the Questions to Ask

So how would you determine what these unique questions might be? Well that’s where some outside expertise can help, but ask yourself:

  • Are there aspects, unique to our organization or work environment, that make people want to work here rather than somewhere else?
  • Do you WANT to create or maintain an environment where people want to work here rather than somewhere else, and what would the particular aspects of that environment be?  How are you doing on that score?
  • Are there issues that you think make people NOT want to work here?  How prevalent are they? How can they be fixed? (you’re looking at an open-ended question for the last)

All this said, you can’t customize certain questions if you plan to compare your results to a larger database such as in a “Best Employer” or “Best Workplace” study. (These certainly have their place in the world of employee surveys, but we will address this in a separate post.)

But if you are not participating in such a study, we highly recommend that you seize the opportunity to customize at least some of your questions directly to your organization’s unique environment and culture in order to:

  • increase the survey’s relevance to your employees (AND make them more likely to fill it out btw)
  • get laser focus on the things related to your work environment that matter most to your employees
  • tease out information on the unique aspects of your work environment that you want to maintain or to be known for out there in the world
  • ensure that the results you get out of the survey are valid and actionable

As always give us a shout if you have any questions or comments on this one – we LOVE to talk. (“I love to talk incessantly – at times without pause – or breathing.” will be on our internal survey when the time comes.)

We love to engage in curious conversation! Grab a time on my calendar if you’d like to elaborate more on this topic or anything else
Maureen Simons

Maureen Simons is a senior human resources and communication consultant with over 25 years of experience helping clients achieve their business and organizational objectives through their people. (Linkedin)

Picture of Adam Hunter

Adam Hunter has a Bachelors degree in Mechanical Engineering, an MBA, and 35+ years of technical and programming experience, resulting in a broad mix of analytical, statistical, project-related and business skills. (Linkedin)