Want a more productive company culture? Take in a movie!


Have you noticed that when people ask questions today, they really don’t want answers?

I really don’t care what you think about that question.  I’m going to write what I want anyway.  And that’s my point.

How companies assess their employees’ performances seems to follow this same idea.  They ask a lot of questions. There are “180 studies,” “360 studies,” engagement studies and employee satisfaction studies.  They ask managers to rate their staff.  They ask employees to rate other employees.  They even ask customers to rate employees.

However, they don’t ask the questions that would lead them to do anything radically different. This is understandable because they don’t want to change anything anyway.  They just want confirmation to continue on as usual.

It’s no wonder that companies complain about the level of employee talent.  The same companies that talk about fresh thinking or innovation are also reluctant to challenge the status quo or hire employees who might come in and rock the boat.

A challenging look at employee assessments

I recently looked at an employee survey conducted by an organization struggling with innovation.  It asked such riveting questions as, “Does this employee return emails within 24 hours?” “Is this person positive and enthusiastic?”  “Is this person patient, responsive, and competent?” There were many more, all in the same vein.

These questions remind me of an elementary school report card with the bottom line comment, “Johnny plays well with others.”  If this is the primary expectation, it’s not surprising only 15% of employees believe their jobs lead to achieving great results (according to Leadership IQ).

If the company truly wants to measure an employee’s contribution that matters, it might ask, “Does this person always put the customer first?”  “Does this person bring effective, innovative ideas to the company?” “Does this person support and even challenge others to be more effective?”

Some companies may not be ready for these questions.  As Jack Nicholson said in A Few Good Men, some companies “can’t handle the truth.”   But “a few good companies” recognize the need for a culture of constant change and improvement.  For them, business is exciting and growing.  They attract progressive and innovative employees.

Bring the movies to your company

Speaking of movies, it’s been said movies reflect a culture.  And perhaps companies should use that fact to get to the truth about their own internal culture.  In your next employee survey, ask your employees to identify which movie best describes your company.  You’ll get feedback that strikes a chord.  You’ll also create a water-cooler buzz from employees excited that you are serious about their true perceptions.

Consider adding this question to your next employee survey.

“What best describes our company’s work environment? “  Then provide a list of titles and descriptions such as:

It’s a Wonderful Life:    Everything is great.  Our vision is clear and aspirational. We always put the customer first.  We have great people.  Management are all servant-leaders.  I’m fulfilled and empowered.

The Avengers:  Our vision is clear. We bring in exceptional talent.  We motivate high performance and we’re breaking down silos to create innovative teamwork.  The future is promising.

Breaking Away:  We’re getting there. We’re starting to challenge the status quo.  We’re recognizing the idea that everyone shouldn’t fit the same mold.  But old ideas die hard.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:   Good: We have talented people with huge potential.  Bad: there’s a strong resistance to change.  Ugly:  we are run by politics with a culture of favoritism and conflict aversion.    You hang yourself by stepping out.

Apollo 13:  Our biggest sense of accomplishment is our ability to react to and fix problems, even though we may cause many of them ourselves.  We’re stuck in the present.

Titanic:   We seem to focus more on activity than making sure we’re on the right course.  It’s quantity over quality.

Clueless:  We seem to lack an aggressive vision, yet management wonders why we don’t present new ideas, why we lose the best people, and why we lose customers.  We’re at continuous conflict with ourselves.

Understanding your true culture is the first step to creating an environment of innovation and customer dedication. This is certainly true for companies dedicated to effective marketing, product development, and communications.  But, in truth, every department can provide a competitive advantage if it has the best people working in the best environment. Challenge your people. Challenge your culture.  Challenge your leadership.  Then sit back, pass the popcorn, and enjoy the show.

Want to rock the boat without getting fired?