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What Is A Cultural Assessment? | Rainbow Colored Measuring Tapes

How to Conduct a Cultural Assessment

Conducting a Cultural Assessment at Work | Diversity Tips

A cultural assessment is one of several mechanisms that an organization will need if they are to make improvements in diversity, equity and inclusion. There are several options as you move forward. You can obtain one from an outside vendor (free or paid for) or you can create your own. Our obvious preference is for you to use an outside vendor because it gives you the best chance of getting statistically valid and meaningful data to help you move forward.

This article provides you with some tips and guidelines as you work on your strategy.

Neurocognitive Differences | Diverse employees in a meeting

What is Culture?

The arts, beliefs, laws, morals, customs, habits, symbols, institutions, and transmitted behavior patterns of a community or population. It is:

  • Shared by all or almost all members of some social group
  • Something that older members try to pass on to the younger members
  • Something that shapes behavior or structures one’s perception of the world.

What Culture is NOT

  • Not right or wrong – culture is relative. There is no cultural absolute. Different nationalities simply perceive the world differently.
  • Not about individual behavior – culture is about groups. It refers to a collective phenomenon of shared values and meanings.
  • Not inherited – culture is derived from the social environment. We are not born with a shared set of values and attitudes; we learn and acquire as we grow up.

What is a Cultural Assessment?

A cultural assessment is a measurement of employees’ perceptions of their organization.  In the case of a governmental probation office – the culture may be a control culture. A control culture would be one with a clear set of command and control – like the military. Orders come from the top and are rarely questioned (at least not in public).  Another type of culture is a competitive culture. This may be one in which the sale is everything. Employees compete with each other for more sales. Departments may compete with each other for resources or ROI.

The optimum type of culture to create a sense of belonging and all the benefits that come with it, is an inclusive culture. According to Deloitte, an inclusive culture is:

  • 2x more likely to meet or exceed financial targets
  • 3x more likely to be high performing
  • 6x more likely to be innovative and agile
  • 8x more likely to achieve better business outcomes.

The Value of Cultural Assessments | Employees looking at data charts

Types of surveys and assessments

It is a common practice to add a few questions onto an annual employee survey and consider that good enough. However, it is not good enough to just add a few questions/statements to existing surveys – because each survey has a separate purpose and resulting information.

Satisfaction survey: A satisfied employee could be one who likes the pay, the short commute and that they have friends at the office. The satisfied employee may not be a high performer but is no doubt a loyal employee.  They care about their fellow employees.

Employee Engagement survey: An engaged employee could be one of your high performers, who always asks for the career stretching projects and is the high-output employee. They may also be learning as much as they can at your organization and will jump ship at the earliest opportunity. They care about themselves – not the organization.

Diversity and Inclusion survey (aka cultural): The inclusive employee recognizes the value of diversity, equity and inclusion. They are a team player and often a role model. If they are not in an underrepresented group – they are an ally to those who are. They care about the organization and all its employees.

Self-assessment surveys: You may have taken the Myers-Briggs (personality) or DiSC (communication styles) assessments in the past. These self-assessments give you a profile of where you are in relation to others. The Spectra Assessment includes a self-assessment report on an individual’s beliefs and interpersonal skills related to DEI.

Cultural Assessment at Work – Diversity Tips

Anonymity. The assessment must be anonymous. This can be harder to do if you’re creating your own assessment, although it is standard procedure for an outside vendor. Reports should go directly to the employee – and not delivered through the management chain.

Clear and non-ambiguous. Questions/statements should:

  • Mean the same thing to all respondents (clear language, avoid colloquialisms, consider ESL respondents)
  • Evoke the truth (the deeper meaning you are seeking to uncover)
  • Be written at an 8th grade reading level to include all employee levels and ESL employees
  • Be able to be answered in only one dimension (one topic per question only)
  • Accommodate all possible answers (each respondent should be able to comfortably select a response from the choices presented)
  • Follow comfortably from the previous question.

Statistically validated. This is very important. When an assessment or survey has been statistically validated by a psychometrician, the results are such that they would not be duplicated by chance. Select a measurement tool that has been statistically validated, like the Spectra Diversity and Inclusion Assessment. If you ask an assessment organization for their “psychometric report” and they say “huh?” or “we have one from 20 years ago” – then move on. A statistically validated survey is highly valuable in terms of reliable insights and accurate data.

Measurement is key to successful diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy. More than half of all organizations have been attempting to do something DEI related for at least four years. One of the areas which has been tracked consistently by Human Resource departments is workforce demographics. This tells an organization about diversity but does nothing to measure inclusion. Not all cultural assessments or employee engagement surveys are created equal. Look carefully before you leap.


Indeed, “Cultural Assessments: What They Are, Their Principles and How To Conduct Your Own”, May 13, 2021

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