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How to assess your association's culture

Heather Nolan
September 8, 2020
How to assess your association's culture

If your association has seen high employee turnover, declining membership numbers and overall poor productivity, it might be time to step back and take a hard look at your organization’s culture.

But before you can do that, you need to take a closer look at how you respond to negative constructive feedback. 

Are you able to take feedback into account when making changes, or do you tend to dismiss it and carry on as usual? If you are defensive when faced with criticism, you won’t be able to take an honest look at your organizational culture. 

Taking criticism is not easy for anyone, and in many ways, it’s a learned skill.

Once you are capable of incorporating feedback into decisions, you’ll be ready to assess your organizational culture.

To begin your assessment, start with these questions:

What are your weaknesses? 

You can generally identify weaknesses as goals that have consistently not been met, areas that have caused a lot of member complaints or areas in which your competition outperforms you. There also might be individual weaknesses in each department or team, so you can invite your employees to have an honest discussion about what they are struggling with.

What are the areas that are causing problems? 

You can ask for feedback from your team on this one. What is causing the most frustration? What are some blocks that keep coming up and what seems to be in the way? Is it communication related? How can people be more collaborative?

Where do you see these problems creating friction? 

How are the problems you’ve identified affecting the organization? Which departments seem to be facing the brunt of the impact?

Why are people leaving?

Is it because of the culture? Hold exit interviews with each departing employee to find out why things didn’t work out. The vast majority of people quit their jobs because of problems with leadership. Bad bosses create dysfunctional cultures.

Once you’ve gathered this information, create a gap analysis of where you are. Then identify how you would like things to be. Maybe you want more collaboration, more engagement, or more ideas being contributed.

Once you have your gap analysis, plan out a vision for where you want to be in the future, based on the company values. Look to your organization’s core ideology for guidance.

Is your organization fulfilling its purpose? Is it serving the people you set out to serve? Is it making the intended impact? If not, where is it falling short?

An organization’s culture is only as good as its people, so your employees must be heavily involved with assessing the culture and determining what the future should look like. Everyone’s values, areas of interest, and passions should be taken into account.

Making a cultural transformation involves changing attitudes, habits, training, hiring practices, and daily agendas. Assessing the current state of your organizational culture is only half the battle, but it is a vital starting point for change.

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Ashley Neal

Ashley joined the Sidecar team as Community Coordinator in 2020 and spends her working hours focused on providing value to our members. In her free time, Ashley enjoys DIY crafts and playing with her puppy, Scooby.

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