John Mautner takes a look at corporate culture and its affect on employee/manager relations.

Do you know what your corporate culture is? Do you know what the term "corporate culture" means?

Let's look at an example of two companies in this industry. Company A is known to enforce a high-performance culture, and is also an industry profit leader. The company has empowered all of its employees to find problems and make improvements.

Company A's employees focus on teamwork. They find ways to improve the bottom line and increase levels of service and quality to the company's customers - and they share in that success.

Company B, on the other hand, has no formal management systems or training. The company lacks clear and open communications between departments, and costly mistakes are often left unattended until they become critical. The result: Company A is producing 10 times more profit than Company B. As you walk into their offices, you can feel the different cultures each company instills within their corporation.

Gauging Employee Attitudes

I define corporate culture as the real attitude of the employees, managers and owners. My grandfather once told me, "Your altitude is controlled by your attitude."

The employees touch everything inside the company. They can make it or break it very quickly. They are one of the largest costs when running a company; consider that 30-40% of the operating costs in most companies are geared toward the employees. Yet 70% of productivity gains come from the employees, not new computers or machinery. Having a high-performance culture is crucial.

I have a sample survey that is a valuable tool for gauging your corporate culture. Thousands of employees have completed this survey. Through their responses, managers and company owners have discovered some real gems of information to enable improvements that save millions of dollars every year.

Administering and Evaluating the Survey

Include a cover letter with the survey that explains the rationale behind it. Stress that participation is voluntary, and allow employees to fill out the survey anonymously. Encourage everyone to be open and honest. You want to know the good, the bad and the ugly.

Once the surveys have been returned, managers and company owners should review each of them, starting with questions 1-3. Make a detailed list to identify any costly problems that could be corrected, and begin addressing the top 10 items that seem to be repetitive. The answers for questions 4-29 should be combined to see the company-wide opinion for each question (i.e., 100 employees answered the question, 20% said yes and 80% said no).

The best-managed companies have an 85% or above yes rating (except for question 9). If the yes response for a particular question is below 50%, this indicates a problem that is most likely having a direct impact on the bottom line of the company. Management should make this survey an annual program to track improvements in the employee culture.