kununu Culture Compass: Methodology and scientific background

kununu has been providing job seekers and employees with real, user-generated company reviews for more than 10 years, providing transparency into what worklife is really like inside companies. Our reviews, unlike those you might find on other company review sites, cover 18 individual workplace categories which include company culture, teamwork, diversity, support from management, career development and more – that means we can offer more depth and substance than a single number rating.

To layer on even more depth to the insights we can provide on specific companies, on January 2020, kununu will release a new product feature that specifically measures company culture in a data-oriented in a way: The Culture Compass. 


How it works (methodology) 

The kununu Culture Compass is an online survey on a company’s internal workplace culture. It works like a camera that takes a linguistic snapshot of a workplace culture, but instead of pixels in a digital camera, there are a total of 160 value terms that survey respondents select from that work together to give a full picture. 

The value terms that survey respondents select most frequently across four different categories of culture is the basis upon which the Culture Compass can determine “what the company culture is like” at that company. Those categories of culture in the Culture Compass survey are:

  • Work-life balance
  • Working together
  • Leadership
  • Strategic direction 

Each of the categories has its own traditional to modern scale, and you’ll be able to see where the organization’s company culture falls along those scales in the Culture Compass’ presentation of results. (Try the culture survey yourself – assess your own culture here)


A closer look at data collection
Participants are asked about four topics of workplace culture, one at a time, in separate survey blocks.

For each of these topics, a total of 40 value concepts are presented (so 160 in total) and participants indicate which five to ten value concepts they perceive most in their company.

The number of mentions of selected value terms forms the basis for the presentation of results.

Here is an example of how The Culture Compass results would look on a company’s profile:

See what the full presentation of results would look like on
AdventHealth’s kununu profile 


A proven data model

The kununu Culture Compass uses a web-based data method for diagnosing corporate culture called the NEO Value Dialogue, developed by Dr. Timo Meynhardt, professor of Psychology and Leadership at HHL Leipzig Graduate School of Management and Timm Richter, a mathematician and former Chief Product Officer at XING SE. Both serve as Managing Directors and Founders of NEO Culture, an organization that provides digital tools for culture and value analysis for companies. 


The Culture Compass vs traditional employee surveys

In organizational research, there are some common practices that use different questionnaires to illuminate different aspects of organizational culture. Many of the procedures and findings are years or even decades old and they are mainly used for internal purposes.

A Culture Compass survey for kununu, on the other hand, is intended to provide a brand new and exciting framework while also serving the purpose of providing true transparency around a company’s culture to job seekers, employees and companies. 

Because kununu’s mission is to provide workplace insights that matter, we created the Culture Compass survey to gain valuable and authentic culture insights from those who know it best: current and former employees.


Highlights about the kununu Culture Compass:

Scientific foundation: The kununu Culture Compass uses decades old scientific knowledge and combines proven concepts in a new way. We based the feature’s data model on sociological theory, while ensuring it was practical to use and understand.

A helpful description of company culture that benefits employees: Many culture analyses that exist today are focused on the management perspective and primarily benefit the company (e.g. “culture fit” tests as a means for employee performance optimization). This means that most culture fit assessments are something companies use when screening candidates, not the other way around. By contrast, the kununu Culture Compass is designed as a tool for the employee (or job candidate). The focus is on the actual culture of the company itself, so employers – as opposed to candidates – are made transparent.

Quick, engaging survey: The time it takes to complete a culture assessment on kununu takes only eight minutes on average. Respondents must simply choose which words best describe the workplace culture at their company from a selection of terms presented in a visual word cloud format. 

Easy-to-understand presentation of results: The presentation of results is designed to be accessible to users and easy to understand. While the culture survey that employees take is based on 160 value terms that help define the organization’s culture, the results have a streamlined structured: whatever value terms from the survey are most dominant will indicate how far in which direction – traditional vs. modern – the Culture Compass will display for each of the four categories of culture. 

This very simple but effective approach that is still rooted in decades of organizational research. Read on for the scientific basis for the Culture Compass. 


More on the scientific foundation

The objective of the Culture Compass is to help uncover corporate culture within an organization – but what does corporate culture mean? 

Edgar Schein, a former professor at the MIT Sloan School of Management, came up with a definition and an Organizational Culture Model in the 80s that has become widely accepted as a standard. What he determined was that the corporate culture of a company lies in the recurring patterns of feeling, thinking and acting that make an organization successful and that become self-evident; culture thus manifests itself in repeated actions. 

Timo Meynhardt developed this approach further in his dissertation (Meynhardt, 2004). He describes such patterns of feeling, thinking and behavior as value knowledge and distinguishes them from expertise. Expertise includes insights that people gain independently of each other and that are consistent in their environment (e.g. objective facts, laws of nature, etc.). In a complex world, organizations must operate with a combination of these types of knowledge in order to operate. Some different types of knowledge that an organization might have to develop to operate effectively include value knowledge, heuristics (mental shortcuts for problem solving), simplistic rules of conduct, guiding values ​​that allow them to make decisions under uncertainty (e.g. repeating the tried and tested, giving employees room to work, being personal and warm-hearted, being able to be themselves, etc.).

Accordingly, the kununu Culture Compass asks its participants which value-based behaviors and attitudes they particularly perceive in their company.


Thematic grouping using organizational theory (why “traditional” and “modern”?)
Geert Hofstede (Hofstede, 2011) established that the main criterion when assessing national cultures is the degree of tradition or modernity. The situation is similar with corporate cultures. Many corporate culture theories look at the relationship between stable performance and innovative change. This is reflected in today’s public debate on the question to what extent corporate cultures follow the Taylorist machine model or a relationship-oriented network model. This approach is what informed the two ends of the scale in our data model: “traditional” and “modern”.


Traditional vs. modern company cultures in the Culture Compass
All signifiers of traditional and modern company culture on the kununu Culture Compass are positive values; in other words, neither traditional nor modern equals “bad” when it comes to the Culture Compass. A panel survey was used to verify this as well, and to ensure that the assignment of opposing positive value terms to the four company culture categories corresponds to general usage.

Below are the four company culture categories, along with their opposing positive value terms for traditional and modern (respectively) and a few questions that help illuminate what that category uncovers within an organization: 


Work-life balance
Work vs. Life
What does day-to-day work at this company mean when it comes to your time at work as an employee vs. time at home or on personal matters? How are the needs of your role and your holistic personal needs reconciled?

Working together
Task-oriented vs. People-oriented
How are the horizontal relationships between colleagues designed? Is the focus on the work that needs to be accomplished and on individual performance that relates to that performance? Or are relationships, the community and mutual respect in the foreground?

Direct vs. Empower
How are vertical relationships shaped? Does the leadership of the company make all decisions around direction-setting and scope? Or are the employees more involved and have more input and autonomy around their own work?

Strategic direction
Stable vs. Progressive
Are the company’s business actions more about security and maintaining steady growth, or on scaling up and discovering new possibilities? Do you see clear rules that value tradition or do you see more emphasis on visionary thinking and taking advantage of the opportunities?


These four topics are also considered in science. Incidentally, these are precisely the topics that kununu users considered to be predominantly relevant in a survey.