WHAT IS THE WORKPLACE GENOME?

IT’S A BETTER CULTURE ASSESSMENT

At Human Workplaces, most of our culture consulting projects start with the Workplace Genome® culture assessment as a first step. Our choice of this assessment is biased, of course, since we created it, together with our partner and HR expert, Charlie Judy, in 2015. 

The Workplace Genome model has its roots in our extensive research on today’s changing landscape in leadership and management. Our first two books—Humanize in 2011 and When Millennials Take Over in 2015—provided a rich framework for understanding these changes. In Humanize, we examined the evolution of management through the lens of the social media and identified 12 principles for running an organization in a more human-centric way (e.g., decentralization, systems thinking, transparency, etc.). In When Millennials Take Over we did a deeper dive with organizations who were already embracing these future-of-work principles, and uncovered four key capacities for thriving in this Millennial era (digital, clear, fluid and fast). The case studies we found all had metrics around employee engagement, unwanted turnover, and growth that were remarkably better than their competitors—we call them “positive deviants.” In our research, we identified the core themes, specific actions and behaviors, and cultural nuances that set these organizations apart.

Then we combined all that research with the decades of collective experience the three of us brought from our work in the trenches of human resources, organization development, and digital strategy (nearly 70 years if you add it all up!). The result was the Workplace Genome, a model that captures the full breadth and depth of how human beings truly experience the workplace.

The model revolves around 8 core Culture Markers:

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These Markers not only reflect how humans experience workplace culture, they also represent the key components of leadership and management that are going through big changes today.

  • Agility - how the organization manages change

  • Collaboration - how the organization facilitates working together

  • Growth - how the organization develops its employees

  • Inclusion - how the organization manages diversity and authenticity

  • Innovation - how the organization is set up for the creation of new ideas and new value

  • Solutions - how the organization incorporates internal (staff) and external (customer) user needs

  • Technologies - how the organization leverages the digital age and leverages current technology

  • Transparency - how the organization communicates knowledge and builds trust

The model allows you to see exactly where your culture stands in terms of the transition we are all experiencing, away from traditional management and toward the future of work.

This is one of the key distinctions of our model. Most culture assessments out there are designed to tell you if your culture is good or bad. That judgment is based either on an abstract model of a high performing culture, or the sentiment of your employees—basically, do they like your culture or not.

Our model does something different. It tells you exactly how your people experience your culture, and instead of good/bad, our scale ranges from “traditionalist” to “futurist.” Neither end of our scale is inherently good or bad—that depends on what you’re trying to accomplish in your organization. As we like to say, if you’re a nuclear power plant, you might not want to be “futurist” around innovation. We don’t want you hacking things and running lots of experiments. Your culture is unique, and it’s up to YOU to figure out how to make it successful—which is why employee sentiments and abstract models miss the mark.

Each of the 8 Markers in the model is then broken down into 8 individual Building Blocks, which helps you see key patterns and contradictions inside your culture. For example, here are three of the building blocks related to the Marker of Innovation:

We often refer to these Blocks as the conceptual side of innovation. If you want a culture of innovation, then your people should be indicating that they feel creativity is valued and that your culture is more interested in creating the future than holding on to the past. The scores in this example are more “futurist,” on our scale, and you can see that the descriptions reflect that.

But here are three other Building Blocks within Innovation that are more focused on the action side of the Marker:

Notice that taking risks (which requires tolerance of failure) and running experiments both scored lower than the more conceptual Blocks. In this culture, they seem to be more about talking the talk than walking the walk when it comes to innovation. Seeing these patterns in your culture is critical if you want to start aligning it with what makes you successful. This particular pattern may end up being perfect for you—or it may need to change—that will depend on what drives your success. But seeing it is the first step.

IT’S A POWERFUL PLATFORM

The assessment itself is completed by your employees via a secure, online interface. It takes about 15 minutes to complete, and once the survey is closed, you will be able to see your results in our online platform in only 24 hours. The platform gives you a broad array of data, graphic displays, and dynamic tools for slicing and dicing your data as much as you need to.

In addition to scores on all 8 Culture Markers and all 64 of the individual Building Blocks, the platform will show you standard deviation numbers for each of the Building Blocks so you can see which aspects of your culture are experienced more similarly and which ones have variation. To help you dig deeper into that issue, we give you robust comparison and segmentation tools so you can see how different subgroups within your organization experience the culture.

The platform offers seven different categories for exploring these differences:

  • Functional area

  • Level in the hierarchy

  • Job tenure

  • Geography/location (including remote employees)

  • Generation

  • Gender

  • Race/Ethnicity

For function, level, and geography, you will be able to provide your own groupings for the analysis (the rest are standardized).

For instance, take a look at these two graphs below, generated in the Comparisons tool on the platform. The one on the left shows you the overall scores at the three different locations for this company. You can see that the Dallas office scores consistently more futurist than DC or Chicago. But the graph on the right shows the results at the three offices, but only including data from the most senior level (C-suite and VPs).

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At that level, it’s the DC office that is consistently more futurist, particularly around innovation. And if you wanted to dig into that more deeply, in the Segmentation tool you could isolate either the offices or different levels in the hierarchy and see how they scored on each individual question in the survey. For example, the Washington, DC office scored 5% higher on the question related to running beta tests, which may be contributing to the senior level’s different experience there around innovation.

And that’s just scratching the surface! The platform includes:

  • Detailed quantitative data and descriptions for all 8 Markers and all 64 Building Blocks

  • A “trajectory map” that plots all 64 Building Blocks on one chart based on both average score and standard deviation—the clusters of data usually reveal some insights

  • A combined list of all the demographic breakdowns, sortable by Culture Marker

  • A Net Employee Promoter Score, which gives you one metric that is about engagement, rather than culture, which is useful for interpreting your culture scores

IT’S A VALID AND RELIABLE MODEL

After we designed the model and articulated the definitions of traditionalist, contemporary, and futurist for all 64 of the Building Blocks and each of the 8 Markers, we spent six months validating the model with beta clients. During this time, we relied on “face validation,” we listened to and watched as our beta clients responded to their individual Workplace Genomes. Did our findings resonate, did they appropriately characterize what it was really like to work there? We adjusted and refined our model accordingly.

We then enlisted the help of a third party to use our beta data set and to analyze whether our model is both valid (that it measures what it purports to) and reliable (that it does so consistently). The validity of our Workplace Genome model has been tested and retested since inception. Using an Internal Consistency test (the Cronbach’s Alpha), the reliability of our model has proven—based on the 250,000 beta data points and the related 464 correlations (continually measured)—to be either “Good” or “Excellent” as follows.

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TAKE A LOOK

Here’s a quick six-minute video that shows how the Platform works in real life!