Last week marked the inaugural Culture Research Forum, which brought together professors from the University of California at Berkeley, the University of Texas at Austin and Emory University. All three presented exciting new research projects they are developing on topics that include matching corporate values to behaviors, creating psychologically safer work environments, and how to give more effective feedback. Once these projects are completed, they will offer practical takeaways for HR and leadership teams and advance academic knowledge around management philosophy.

The Cultivate platform provides unique data about digital communication behaviors of users in the real world, and we’re excited to be partnering with leading experts to put them to use. These three studies are in the planning phase, so if you’re an organization that wants to participate, or a researcher interested in partnering with Cultivate, we want to hear from you!

For those that couldn’t make the online forum, here’s a summary of the three research projects.

Do companies’ espoused values around collaboration or individualism match reality?
Professor Andrea Dittmann from Emory University studies how companies’ espoused values (the values they claim to hold and talk about in mission statements and presentations) match their enacted values (how they actually communicate and get work done). Specifically, she focuses on the values of collaboration versus individual work. For example, a company that claims to value individual success and competition but requires most of its employees to work together collaboratively in teams has a disconnect between what it’s telling employees and how it’s asking them to work. In her new study, she plans to work with Cultivate to examine how employee’s perceptions of collaboration and individualism match their actual digital behaviors.

Professor Dittmann’s earlier research found that companies with matching espoused and enacted values have higher employee fit and retention. The benefit is greater for organizations with congruent (matching) values of collaboration. Organizations with congruent values of individualism saw smaller benefits and those with mismatched values tended to struggle. She also found that companies that preach and practice collaboration are rare—only 31% of organizations in one study fell into this category. This suggests most organizations could improve retention and employee satisfaction by focusing on collaboration both in words and in actions.

Upcoming research will look at real-world data from Cultivate paired with data collected directly from employees to see if companies’ espoused values toward collaboration and individualism match the values being enacted through behaviors. In the future, her findings can lead to more effective interventions and feedback to help organizations become more collaborative and capture the benefits of congruent collaborative values.

Read more about the research project here.

Do employee perceptions around psychological safety match their digital behaviors?
Professor Ethan Burris from UT Austin studies employee voice and how it can be encouraged or discouraged. His past research has found that employee voice is very important—employees that give feedback to managers who act on it were less likely to leave—but it’s easy to discourage employees from speaking up. At a given company, between 40 and 70 percent of employees feel reluctant to bring up new ideas with their boss. He’s found that a psychologically safe environment (an environment where people feel secure speaking up honestly without fear of judgement or retaliation) helps encourage employees to share ideas. He’s planning to work with Cultivate to dig into how to create a psychologically safe workplace.

Cultivate data can show behavioral markers of a psychologically safe environment (like managers asking for feedback or using inclusive language in emails and chat messages). Professor Burris plans to conduct a correlational study, examining how employee’s feelings about their psychological safety sync with their actual behaviors (measured through Cultivate). Then Cultivate can deploy nudges to reinforce behaviors that improve psychological safety. This feedback loop can create a playbook for how to increase psychological safety at organizations.

Read more about the research project here.

Is feedback more effective coming from cognitively similar or dissimilar individuals?
Professor Sameer Srivastava from UC Berkeley and the Computational Culture Lab plans to study ways to help managers give more effective feedback. In general, people tend to be more receptive to advice from those who they perceive as similar to them. Professor Srivastava’s research has found that, while that may be true for identity markers, the opposite seems to hold for similarity of thought.

So far it seems that people actually change behavior more when hearing new ideas from people who think differently than they do. The project with Cultivate tests if these results hold for giving effective feedback. The study presents a group of Cultivate users (who have opted in) with tips on giving feedback. Some people receive tips from people who are cognitively very similar to them on the topic of feedback, and some receive tips from people who are cognitively very different from them. The study with Cultivate will extend these findings into the field, testing whether users are more receptive to tips from people who are cognitively dissimilar to them in regards to giving feedback. Using Cultivate’s data, we can further examine whether these tips actually change behavior, rather than the intended behavior measured in the lab. Leveraging cognitive differences to offer advice could have ramifications for coaching platforms like Cultivate and many other forms of coaching and employee training.

Read more about the research project here.

To watch the Culture Research Forum on-demand, you can find it here.

If you’re interested in participating in any of these studies or partnering with Cultivate on other research, please reach out to us here.

Rachel Habbert, PhD
Rachel Habbert, PhD

Rachel is the Senior People Scientist at Cultivate. As a psychologist, she’s always been interested in people: how we think, grow, evolve, and interact. She is excited to help Cultivate users interpret their behaviors through a scientific, research-based lens.