'Over the past twenty years, we have seen a major transformation in our organisational culture. Sustainability and innovation are now the core of it'. We spoke with Agnes Bosmans, Director of HR & General Services at VITO, about the results of the most recent cultural values survey.

First of all, VITO carries out a cultural values survey every four years, in collaboration with an external party. What is the point of this screening? 

Agnes Bosmans: ‘To measure is to know. Only once you can measure something can you then manage it. This is no different from the cultural values embodied by an organisation and that determine the day-to-day business operations. We want to know how the VITO values are perceived in the workplace, and to what extent they are aligned with the personal values of our employees and their expectations of the organisational culture. Based on the results, we can then take action. And because we redo this study every four years, we also get an idea of the impact of these actions'. 

What are the most noteworthy highlights of the latest study carried out in June 2020? 

Of the values we embody, sustainability stands out in particular, both in the current culture - as experienced by our employees today - and in the culture they would like. That is important, because it provides intrinsic motivation for our employees: they are part of an organisation that is involved in sustainable development on a daily basis. 

On the organisational level, we see that a work/life balance scores very high. And again, in both the current culture and the culture people would like. Another improvement compared to 2016: employees indicate that there is less bureaucracy within VITO'. 

The results also show that the 'cultural entropy' within VITO is currently at 15. What does that mean? 

Like in physics, entropy is a measure of the disorder of a system. Cultural entropy says something about the chaos within an organisation. This value should therefore decrease ideally, which also means that the existing culture would conflict less with the desired culture. 

Twenty years ago, in the first study in 2001, the entropy was 35. Today it is at 15. So there has definitely been a real transformation here, and we are of course delighted about that'.

For its cultural values survey, VITO has collaborated with the Antwerp-based consultancy and training company Zenit for twenty years. 'Of course, everything starts with a baseline measurement, otherwise you don't have a reference point,' explains Zenit director Marcel Van der Avert. ‘We already measured this at VITO in 2001.' 

The measurement method consists of three values lists where employees choose ten values online that best express who they are (personal values), ten values that best describe how VITO operates (current cultural or organisational values) and ten values that they believe are essential for an extremely effective organisation (desired cultural values). The more alignment between these three lists of values, the stronger the organisational culture. 

Some noteworthy results of the 2020 cultural values survey, in which 67 % of VITO employees participated.

  • Employees and management are on the same wavelength for the desired culture 

  • The differences between current culture and desired culture are narrowing 

  • The five VITO core values are reflected in the current organisational culture, in which innovation and sustainability have become strong values 

  • The same trends reappear in all units, indicating that each unit is also developing a strong culture