Employees Don’t Experience Strategy: Crossing The Culture Perception Gap


There is a customer experience (CX) phenomenon known as “Bain’s Delivery Gap,” which the founders of the Net Promoter Score — Bain & Company — cited as follows:

“Most companies assume they’re giving customers what they want. Usually, they’re kidding themselves. When Bain & Company surveyed 362 firms, we found that 80 percent believe they deliver a ‘superior experience’ to customers. But when we asked customers, they say only 8 percent are really delivering.”

This discovery was made years ago, and organizations are still investing in improving customer experience through innovative solutions to close the CX gap.

According to a recent report from PwC, the culture gap is a persistent — and growing — issue for organizations as well. In 2013, 51 percent of respondents reported that their workplace culture needed to change to achieve growth in the next three to five years. In 2018, 80 percent of respondents reported the same.

the culture perception gap

Within the report, PwC revealed that 71 percent of executive respondents said culture is a top priority, but only 48 percent of general employees agreed.

PwC also reported that 63 percent of executives said their culture was “strong” — but only 41 percent of employees agreed.

Enter: The Culture Gap

A strong majority of employees believe their organization’s culture needs to change. But a much smaller percentage of those employees felt it was a priority for leaders in their company. There’s another gap between what executives think they’re doing — or what they intend to do — and the outcome of perception by employees who live with culture initiatives every day.

It can feel productive to be doing something, even when what we’re doing isn’t achieving the desired outcome. Culture strategy: check. Investment: check. Change Management plan: check.

Even with the proper elements of strong culture, organizational leaders don’t always have connection with the experiences employees have with those initiatives.

Giving a fresh, new look at what employees really think about working for your organization can offer opportunities to make small, strategic changes that can improve employee experience — as well as opportunities to make broader changes part of a long-term strategy. It’s important to develop a feedback process that works long-term for your employees to offer input so you can continue to evolve and develop the company’s culture over time.

If you know you’re having a disconnect between culture intents and outcomes, PwC recommends that organizations “step into the ‘show me’ age.” As the phrase goes: Show me, don’t tell me.

Employees don’t experience strategy. Your culture strategy can be a roadmap, but it can’t change culture by itself. Consider the tangible interactions employees have with your culture initiative. If your culture strategy exists on paper alone, employees aren’t having experiences that are changing the way they perceive the organization.

What can you do in the immediate term to take a concrete step that will be noticed by employees? What can you do to show employees they are valued and that you are investing in a better experience for them at work?

Culture must be manifested. As you are taking real steps and taking action to make your culture come alive, really listen to the feedback from employees and incorporate their input in the next tangible step you take.

Culture has been a buzzword for a long time. Over time, buzzwords can lose their meaning and we can forget why we set out to improve employee experience. In the process, we can lose sight of the gap between what we promised and what we delivered. Addressing the culture perception gap will require a renewed focus on the reality of perception in the employee experience.

Kimberly Lanier