As the Foundation’s Human Resources Director, I occasionally engage our employees in surveys. As you can imagine, watching for replies to come in can feel like waiting for an encore on a Monday night. So when we were ready to launch our annual Cultural Health Survey, I decided to insert a little fun and creativity into the process. Over the years, I’ve found that this can dramatically increase people’s motivation to participate.

The Cultural Health Survey is something we do every year to evaluate staff engagement and report to the Board of Directors. Knowing that 69% of employees who are heard and recognized work harder, we highly value this feedback. And traditionally, our scores have always been very high.

The most important aspect of cultural surveys is engagement. If you can’t gather the information, you can’t set a benchmark, nor can the few speak for the many. The most accurate results come from a complete cross-section of data that includes every employee on the organizational chart. High levels of participation allow a company to gauge internal systems, teamwork, managerial styles, technology, and commitment to values, just to name a few.

Because it’s so important, we always set a goal of 100% participation. This year, as part of the survey announcement, I decided to activate one of our core values (Fun!), which is the typical tone of our working environment. I sent out the following email:

Hello friends!

I’m sure it comes as no surprise to you, but great organizations like this one have to be keenly interested in gathering feedback from their staff. With that objective in mind, OCF has again chosen to work with MindSet LLC to perform a review of the cultural health of our organization.

On Monday, September 25, you will receive an email from MindSet. That email will include a link to a survey that has been specifically designed for OCF. The survey will take only 10-15 minutes to complete. Please answer all the questions thoughtfully and truthfully.

We are requesting that every employee complete the survey by Friday, October 6. Our goal is 100% participation! In fact, we’re so committed to this goal, that Stacey has agreed to a sing a celebratory song when we hit that number. If everyone completes before October 6, Yvette and Diane will also back-up dance.

If you are new to cultural surveys, please remember that your responses will go directly to MindSet and remain completely anonymous. If you have any questions, feel free to ask. I’m also accepting song suggestions for Stacey’s performance.

I hadn’t actually asked my coworkers if they were willing to sing or dance because I didn’t think that anyone would take it seriously. I just thought it would be something clever to include because, in a world of too many emails, hidden gems inspire people to want to read yours.

As I sat in my office, I could hear people start to giggle as the email was read. About a week later, I sent a reminder to please complete the survey. I had also hung a special poster all around the office.

Okay. So we’re at 99% completed Mindset Surveys. That means only one person has not completed theirs. If that’s you, please git r done. Stacey needs a little rehearsal time if we’re going to make this happen!

Our completion rate of 99% had everyone trying to figure out who the holdout was. And this is the point: especially good culture is something that can be driven by a few but must be maintained across the organization. What started as an “email nugget” was now becoming a practice of shared cultural responsibility.

The most impressive part of this story? The three women I called out in the beginning actually consented to a private concert for the staff once we hit our goal. And one of the staff requested “Let It Go” from the Disney movie Frozen.

I’ve spent a lot of years looking at the key aspects that contribute to a successful corporate culture. Great benefits, flexible scheduling, and competitive pay are all excellent places to start, but if your staff doesn’t feel engaged and recognized, these perks won’t inspire long-term commitments. Companies who are looking for modern ways to appeal to the workforce are finally recognizing the importance of real-time feedback and the accurate choices this information can drive.

Long story short, we made our goal, served up some popcorn, and improvised a brief performance in the upstairs conference room. We came together to celebrate the achievement of reaching a goal and collected all the data we will need for another year of sound decision-making.

Our people were so happy, they were literally singing (and dancing) about it.

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