What is the Culture Index and what are the alternatives?

two people working together by using culture index as a tool for organization

Could a simple two-page list of adjectives help determine the best candidate for a job? For employers who use the Culture Index Survey, the answer seems to be yes.

More than 65% of employers use assessments during the interviewing process, according to Talent Board's 2021 Global Candidate Experience Benchmark Research Report1. And with more and more companies relying on pre-employment tests to hire top talent, it’s crucial to know if they work.

So whether you’re a candidate asked to take the Culture Index Survey, or you’re a hiring manager using it during interviews, this article is for you. Below, we’ll go over key features of the Culture Index. Plus, we’ll explore some Culture Index alternatives that are backed by science.

Table of contents
What is the Culture Index test?
What are the Culture Index categories?
Can you fail a Culture Index Survey?
Culture Index reviews
Is the Culture Index Survey evidence-based?
Culture Index alternatives
How to decide between the Culture Index and another assessment
Is the Culture Index the best fit for your organization?

What is the Culture Index test?

First, let's clear up some confusion. 'Culture index' is also a term organizations use to refer to an assessment taken by current employees to measure the company culture. This is not what we will be talking about here.

Culture Index is a Kansas-based executive advisory firm that administers assessments to improve employee performance and optimize hiring2. This assessment is what many refer to as a Culture Index (CI) test or Culture Index Survey. The one used for job candidates in the interview process takes the form of a two-page online survey.

The first page shows a list of adjectives. Candidates are asked to select the words that best describe them. On the second page, they are presented with another list of adjectives and asked to select ones that best describe what it takes to be successful in their current position. On average, it takes 8-10 minutes to complete the Culture Index Survey.

Employers use the Culture Index Survey in the interviewing process to assess new candidates. Candidates who take the test will see a screen showing brief instructions and information about the test. They'll also see the job description for the role they're applying for. Then, it asks for their first and last name, email address, and birthday (month and day, without the year).

A Culture Index Survey is a psychometric test, meaning it measures psychological attributes, not cognitive abilities. The survey instructions even state that it does not measure intelligence.

Employers use the Culture Index Survey as one method of assessing whether a candidate is a good fit for the position they’ve applied for. It goes beyond the traditional self-reported methods, such as a resume or cover letter.

Beyond hiring, employers also use the survey for optimizing team performance, increasing profits, success planning, and more.

In addition, organizations that work with Culture Index also collaborate with an executive advisor who can provide further insight into the data, and tailor a strategy based on organizational needs.

What are the Culture Index categories?

The Culture Index Survey measures personality across seven categories:

  1. Autonomy
  2. Social-ability
  3. Patience
  4. Conformity
  5. Energy units
  6. Logic
  7. Ingenuity

Can you fail a Culture Index Survey?

Because the Culture Index Survey is a personality test, a candidate can’t fail it. There is no right or wrong personality. The results of a Culture Index survey are one way that a hiring team determines if a candidate would be a good fit for the position and employee culture. A person could be taken out of the running for a job if the hiring team determines that their survey results and other attributes don't align with the role.

Culture Index reviews

From a candidate perspective, Culture Index reviews are mixed. Many candidates get turned away after they’ve taken a CI survey. If all their experience and talent comes down to two lists of adjectives, it can leave a bad taste in the mouth.

Without much context from the employer, candidates may be left without closure, and feel confused as to why they were removed from the candidate pool after taking the CI survey.

However, many candidates do feel that the CI results they received accurately reflect their work preferences.

If you’re interested in the Culture Index survey for your organization, its website allows you to request a free team diagnostic so you can try it out first.

Is the Culture Index Survey evidence-based?

This is where the writer ran into obstacles while researching the Culture Index Survey – there is noinformation to be found on the Culture Index website about how and why the CI Survey was developed.

However, there is a PDF3 explaining the validity of the survey. The PDF states:

“VALIDITY means that the instrument measures what it purports to measure. For instance, the Culture Index measures the trait or construct called autonomy (or assertiveness) and there are 21 words in each section which reflect the construct. In order to prove all 21 words do, in fact, measure autonomy a construct validity study was conducted using a statistical technique called factor analysis.”

The PDF reveals that the survey "underwent five years of research" and was administered four different times between 1999 and 2004. The sample size ranged from 180 to 493 respondents each time. The PDF details how the survey avoids bias, and indeed measures what it claims to measure. However, it does not explain the science behind how the results can enhance performance, or help find the right candidate.

Culture Index alternatives

If you're looking for tools to use applied analytics to improve performance and enhance the hiring process, there are many Culture Index alternatives. We'll also discuss how the science of each stacks up.

Fingerprint For Success

Of all the assessments in this article, Fingerprint For Success (F4S) is the only one that is not a personality test. What’s the difference? Well, personality tests measure traits that are generally believed to be static. Instead, F4S grants you insight into what drives a person across 48 different motivational traits. Motivational traits are dynamic – meaning they can change. And all this is based on more than 20 years of research by leading professional coaches, behavioral scientists and data scientists on motivation.

The Culture Index Survey consists of two pages of adjectives. In contrast, the F4S assessment asks questions and takes respondents about 15-30 minutes to complete. The questions seek to understand how a person prefers to work, and what motivates and demotivates them on the job. F4S results are available immediately, allowing you to see where a candidate’s scores fall on a spectrum for each of the 48 traits.

F4S dashboard shows workplace preferences to help with hiring
F4S dashboard

It also shows you how they stack up against industry top performers, and even others on your team. This benchmarking is particularly useful when making decisions about candidates.

F4S benchmark shows where employees rank in their motivations
F4S benchmark insight

In addition, you can compare each candidate’s results against the research within F4S to better understand how they might interact with members of your existing team. These valuable insights eliminate bias and improve hiring success by showing how well a potential candidate fits into the role and the team culture.

F4S shows team culture for example their respect for leadership
F4S team culture insight

Offering even greater benefit to candidates and organizations, F4S then provides AI and human-based coaching that specifically addresses a candidate’s results. Through F4S coaching, candidates can target specific motivations they wish to strengthen or roll back. For instance, a job seeker may want to land a role within your organization that requires high attention to detail. Their F4S assessment may show that is a blind spot for them. The job seeker can then strengthen this trait with our Attention to Detail online coaching program.

Accelerate understanding between teams

Breadth

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Motivated by macro big picture thinking, these teammates value moving quickly to connect dots between abstract ideas to 'get the gist' of things.

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Depth

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These teammates value being concrete and specific, getting into details to understand the steps or tasks required.

Chart showing rage from Average, High and Ver High.

See the different work styles in your team

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This chat-based program is led by AI Coach Marlee. Marlee guides participants through two sessions per week. These sessions will help them notice the little things in areas such as their behavior, instinctive responses and unconscious biases, and to grow in accountability. Participants can even retake the F4S assessment after coaching to see in a quantifiable way how much they've grown. It is important to realize that hiring decisions aren’t based entirely on F4S assessments. Rather, F4S is one of many critical data points used to determine who would be the best fit for a particular role.

Predictive Index

Many people looking for Culture Index alternatives turn to the Predictive Index. These two are similar concepts. The Predictive Index (PI) website reveals that its assessments are based on 65 years of behavioral science. They have been validated by more than 400 job performance studies. Ninety-four percent of these studies have shown a significant link between PI measures and job performance.

The entire PI platform can be used to enhance hiring, management, talent strategy, and employee engagement. It has many assessments, but the Predictive Index Behavioral Assessment is the one most similar to the Culture Index Survey. It too consists of two pages of adjectives. The first list asks you to select the adjectives that "describe the way you are expected to act by others at work.” The second list asks you to choose adjectives that “you yourself believe really describe you as you are.”

This test measures four key factors:

  1. Dominance
  2. Extraversion
  3. Patience
  4. Formality

The PI Behavioral Assessment also assigns the test-taker with one of the 17 “Reference Profiles.” Think of these as personality types that speak to how a person might act in the workplace. They consist of the following:

  1. Analyzer
  2. Controller
  3. Specialist
  4. Strategist
  5. Venturer
  6. Individualist
  7. Scholar
  8. Altruist
  9. Captain
  10. Collaborator
  11. Maverick
  12. Persuader
  13. Promoter
  14. Adapter
  15. Craftsman
  16. Guardian
  17. Operator

Keep in mind that the Predictive Index has some personality-type labels that overlap with the Culture Index labels, which can be confusing.

DiSC

DiSC is another assessment of personality and behavior that many employers use. According to its website, the assessment is used by more than one million people per year, and by organizations such as Apple, the U.S. Air Force, and Nestlé. “DiSC” stands for the personality profiles in the test's model: (D)ominance, (i)nfluence, (S)teadiness and (C)onscientiousness.

According to the DiSC website4:

“DiSC profiles describe human behavior in various situations – for example, how you respond to challenges, how you influence others, your preferred pace, and how you respond to rules and procedures. It measures tendencies and preferences, or patterns of behavior, with no judgment regarding value or alignment with a skill set or job classification.”

In the Everything DiSC assessment, test-takers are presented with about 80 statements (e.g., "Accuracy is a priority for me") and asked to rate themselves on a five-point scale ("Strongly disagree," "Disagree," "Neutral," "Agree," "Strongly agree").

DiSC is based on a theory5 developed by American psychologist William Moulton Marston. He wrote about "primary emotions" (dominance, influence, steadiness, and conscientiousness) in his 1928 book, Emotions of Normal People.

SAP SuccessFactors

SAP SuccessFactors differs markedly from the other Culture Index alternatives in this list. It is not an assessment tool, but actually a robust HR platform. It can optimize current employee performance and engagement as well as help with recruiting, such as with an Applicant Tracking System. SAP SuccessFactors does, however, integrate with the third-party assessment vendor SHL6.

SAP SuccessFactors is best for an employer looking for an all-in-one HR platform that can handle:

  • Employee surveys
  • Real-time dashboards to monitor the employee experience
  • Performance assessments (such as 360-degree feedback)
  • Employee benefits
  • Candidate experience ratings

SAP SuccessFactors has a lot to offer to help with employee retention and satisfaction. However, it’s not a strong choice for an organization that simply needs a reliable way to assess a potential employee for culture and role fit.

CliftonStrengths assessment

Developed by Gallup, (the now rebranded) CliftonStrengths (CS) assesses talents, and pinpoints areas where a person can build their strengths.

In the CS assessment, candidates see 177 items that pair two statements on the opposite ends of a spectrum. For example, "I get to know people individually" and "I accept many types of people" would appear at the opposite ends of a graph. Candidates choose which statement best describes them. Each item has a 20-second timer. At the end, the system automatically moves on to the next item.

The CS has 34 themes, which Gallup defines as "a category of talents". These are defined as "recurring and consistent patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior”.Some examples of CS themes are Achiever, Command, Futuristic, Harmony, and Woo.

According to the Gallup Clifton StrengthsFinder 2.0 Technical Report7, CliftonStrengths is based on research by educational psychologist Donald O. Clifton. Clifton conducted interviews focusing on what is "right with people". He developed a philosophy that it is more beneficial for people to build on their greatest talents than focus on fixing their weaknesses. Pairing up in the 1990s, Clifton and Gallup then designed the CS.

HireVue

HireVue is another Culture Index alternative, but with a unique twist. It is not a text-based online assessment. HireVue allows candidates to record video answers that the recruiter watches later. For each question, the potential employee is given 30 seconds to prepare, and up to three minutes to answer.

HireVue's website reveals that these video-based assessments are science-backed. More than 20 industrial and organizational psychologists and data scientists developed them. HireVue claims to minimize bias. It offers a fairer way of finding out if a candidate fits the job description.

HireVue's Industrial-Organizational (IO) psychologists collaborate with your organization to create the talent assessment. It is a video interview and skills assessment that the candidate completes independently in under20 minutes.

Much like Pymetrics, HireVue also offers game-based assessments. Now for the science behind HireVue: in 2021, the company worked with a third party, Dr. Richard Landers (a professor and the CEO of Landers Workforce Science LLC). Landers audited HireVue's technology and assessments8, and determined the following:

“In general, HireVue reaches or exceeds industry standards for the creation of high-stakes assessments, and this audit exposed no weaknesses that critically undermine HireVue’s approach."

How to decide between the Culture Index and another assessment

By now, your head is probably swimming with all the options for pre-employment assessments to enhance your hiring process. Answering the following questions can help you decide whether Culture Index is the right choice, or if another assessment would better serve your organization’s needs.

What exactly are we trying to assess?

The Culture Index and its alternatives measure different things. It's crucial to know what you're trying to assess. The Culture Index Survey measures psychological attributes. DiSC measures static personality traits. F4S assesses dynamic traits that determine how an individual prefers to work and communicate. Make sure the test you choose measures the attributes that are most important to your organization.

How will this impact the candidate's experience?

Asking a job candidate to take an assessment will affect how they view your hiring process. The way they receive and interpret the results, and how decisions are made will affect the candidate experience. It's crucial to think about how this could affect a candidate's view of your company. Consider an assessment’s potential to leave a negative impression on candidates. If a candidate believes they've been given the boot because they didn't score ‘correctly’ on a test, it's not a great experience.

How much are we willing to spend on assessments?

Pre-employment assessments can be pricey, so have a clear idea of your budget when considering your options. The F4S assessment is free for individuals, and F4S offers many free online coaching options as well.

Is the Culture Index the best fit for your organization?

Recruiters and hiring managers want the best technology that can help them hire the best candidate for the job. But sifting through all the assessments out there can be overwhelming.

We hope that by providing this overview of the Culture Index and its alternatives, you’re better prepared to make an informed decision based on your organization and hiring needs.

F4S can be used for talent acquisition. It's free for individuals and is evidence-based. F4S can be supplemented with free online coaching to build on the strengths uncovered in the F4S assessment. Our people analytics platform provides actionable insights. You can use these to lean into strengths and improve on blind spots through expert coaching.

Go deeper than a personality test with the F4S workplace motivation assessment

Take the assessment to find out how you can leverage F4S to improve your hiring success and eliminate bias. Or become a better candidate by learning your own motivations and strengthening your blind spots.

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  1. https://3cmsd11vskgf1d8ir311irgt-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/2021-North-America-CandEs-Research-Report_12-14-2021.Final_.pdf
  2. https://www.cultureindex.com/
  3. https://global-uploads.webflow.com/5e2af363941c930d78b72db4/637c6af4eb2c7a70fd9dfcb0_Culture-index-validity.pdf
  4. https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/How-DiSC-Works
  5. https://www.discprofile.com/what-is-disc/research-reliability-and-validity
  6. https://api.sap.com/package/SuccessFactorsRCMwithThirdPartyAssessmentVendorSHL/overview
  7. https://www.gallup.com/file/services/176321/clifton-strengthsfinder-technical-report-development-validation.aspx
  8. https://www.hirevue.com/blog/hiring/independent-audit-affirms-the-scientific-foundation-of-hirevue-assessments

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