Books@Work: Measuring Impact
November 27, 2018 | Ann Kowal Smith
At the end of the day, we measure action by its impact. When we seek to measure the impact of actions designed to strengthen or support culture, however, it’s tough to know where to start. Books@Work is no exception. As an experience designed to invite people to bring more of themselves to work – well, it’s not something you can gauge with a thermometer.
But the impact of Book@Work can be measured. It starts with listening.
In the early years of Books@Work we had no idea how to demonstrate impact. But we knew that our participants held valuable information that could help us. We began with interviews with as many participants as could find the time to talk with us. We asked very open questions, listened to their stories, invited their surprises. We shaped and refined the program based on their feedback, but we also noted consistent themes to surface a set of theories on how – and why – Books@Work works.
Hundreds of interviews later, the qualitative research is very clear: Books@Work fosters genuine human connection, the kind of connection that give people the comfort to let down their hair around each other, to speak up with new and even controversial ideas, to take risks. Participants remind us that there are few opportunities like Books@Work, moments to reflect, compare notes, share perspectives and challenge assumptions. To simply be themselves.
And although we continue to interview participants, we also survey participants at the beginning and end of each program to gauge changes in their perceptions of their workplace relationships, as well as their comfort levels along certain dimensions. Two years ago, we began to code the instruments so that we could match the entries and the exits, retaining confidentiality but matching respondents.
The early results are really exciting. Of 159 respondents that took both the entry and the exit survey, we see major changes in willingness to contribute, psychological safety, and a sense that people see them for who they really are.
Open and respectful organizational cultures require people to feel safe to be themselves, to contribute new and different ideas, and to be truly heard and respected. Table stakes for inclusion and belonging, these elements are nevertheless elusive and challenging, taking time to develop and mature. Books@Work shows measurable promise in helping these conditions develop and deepen, among colleagues across every level of the organization.
Image Credit: Astrolabe of ‘Umar ibn Yusuf ibn ‘Umar ibn ‘Ali ibn Rasul al-Muzaffari, c. 1290, Metropolitan Museum of Art, [Public Domain] via Wikimedia Commons.
Ann Kowal Smith
Ann Kowal Smith is the Founder and Executive Director of Books@Work.