You’re more than likely already familiar with the term organizational culture, but do you know what organizational climate is? The terms are often used interchangeably, but they are actually slightly different concepts.
The climate of an organization is more about how your employees feel about your company – your policies and your practices. By focusing on developing a positive climate in your company, you can boost employee engagement and satisfaction and create a more productive work environment. And this gives you a powerful competitive advantage.
But what exactly is organizational climate? How can it help you build strong relationships with your employees? Do you know how to measure the organizational climate in your business?
What is organizational climate? A definition
Organizational climate is all about how your employees feel about the working environment in your business. It is a direct reflection of the policies and procedures you have created, and how they impact the employee experience.
How do your employees feel about working at your company? Are they happy? How do your business practices, management decisions, and leadership style affect the general mood? Have you created a workplace culture that encourages communication, collaboration, and organizational commitment? Do you promote job enrichment?
The aim of organizational climate is to create a work environment where your employees feel engaged, loyal, and intrinsically motivated. This is important because the climate of an organization has a direct impact on your culture. It’s important to create an environment founded on workplace motivation, recognition, and shared values. This will help you develop a productive workforce where employees enjoy what they do and strive to perform to the best of their abilities for the common good of the business.
However, this is not always easy in practice. It’s one thing to create a mission and a series of incentives aimed at promoting a ‘good place to work’ on paper, but the climate that results doesn’t always reflect the culture you are trying to create. Instead of promoting soundbites, it’s important to get to the core of what your workforce really needs in order to be happy and productive. In other words, your reality needs to hold up to what you have promised.
Organizational climate vs culture
Before we look at what you can do to create a positive organizational climate in your business, let’s pause for a moment to look at the difference between organizational culture vs climate.
What is organizational climate and culture? How do they impact each other?
Put simply, organizational culture is your company identity. It’s your values and the norms that have arisen organically over time. It’s who you are as a business, and what message you want to transmit to your employees and to the wider community. For example, your culture might be founded on values of innovation, quality, or striving for continuous improvement.
Organizational climate is actually a subset of organizational culture, which is why the terms are often confused. However, culture is a much broader term. It’s about the image you want to promote, whereas climate is the resulting environment that you actually create. In other words, culture is your environment in practice – the identity you are striving to develop – and climate is how your workforce feels about this culture, and this is more transient.
Think of organizational culture as the “personality” of your business, and organizational climate as its “mood”. Your culture is more likely to be a fixed philosophy, whereas your climate can change from one week to another based on external factors (such as financial stability) or the behaviors that are encouraged or discouraged internally.
How to improve organizational climate
Now that we’ve answered the question ‘What is an organizational climate?’, let’s take a look at a few strategies you can use to create a positive and nurturing environment in your business.
Evaluate your current organizational climate
The first step, before you can implement any improvement initiatives, is to evaluate the current climate in your organization.
A good tool for measuring the climate of an organization is sharing an employee satisfaction survey or, more specifically, an organizational climate survey. These handy forms give employees the opportunity to provide feedback on matters relating to management, training, compensation, working environment, and recognition, amongst other areas. You can then use the results you collect to gain an insight into your current climate so that you know which areas you need to work on. We’ll discuss this in a little more detail below.
Improve your working environment
Another important area that has a direct impact on your organizational climate is the environment you provide your employees with. Make sure you are offering all staff, whether remote or in-house, a healthy working environment. This doesn’t necessarily mean buying them top-of-the-range technology and devices. Rather, it means creating a comfortable workspace that inspires creativity and is conducive to work. For example, think about the furniture you have and the color schemes you use in your office.
It also means nurturing the employee experience at your company by developing a growth mindset and promoting a sense of psychological safety at work. For instance, how user-friendly are your internal processes? Are you using the right HR software to promote a positive experience at every stage of the employee lifecycle?
Create an employee recognition program
An employee recognition program is another creative strategy for showing appreciation to your employees and boosting your organizational climate. Recognition can take the form of a public shoutout, a small gift, a day off, or a monetary bonus, for example. This can help you communicate how much you value employee empowerment and provide your workforce with the emotional salary they need to be happy employees. This is also a great way to create a healthy sense of competition in your departments.
Develop a strong leadership style
There’s a strong link between your emotional intelligence leadership style and organizational climate. It’s therefore crucial that you nurture a leadership style that supports your goals and promotes transparency and communication. After all, your leaders have perhaps the biggest impact on how inspired and motivated your employees feel. Make sure you offer regular training to your managers so that they have the skills and tools they need to create a positive environment for their teams.
Finally, encourage autonomy and praise employees who work proactively and use their initiative. Make sure everyone understands how their individual performance contributes to the company’s mission and goals. When employees are encouraged to think for themselves and have clear guidelines relating to their roles and responsibilities, they are far more likely to feel motivated to perform well. They will also get a sense of satisfaction from knowing that what they do has a direct positive impact on the company: that they matter.
Organizational climate survey
As we mentioned above, an organizational climate survey is a great way to identify the needs of your organization. Similar to an employee engagement survey, you can use it to collect valuable feedback from your employees on a variety of issues such as the quality of their working environment and the level of communication they receive from management. This helps you to gain an overall understanding of how your employees perceive the organizational climate and whether or not they are happy. You can then use this feedback to make adjustments and improve the employee experience. For example, if employees appear to lack motivation, it might suggest you need to work on improving your systems for rewards and recognition.
An organizational survey usually contains a series of multiple-choice questions relating to a range of dimensions in your company. You might include questions such as:
- Do you always receive the information that is needed to do your job?
- Is it fair to say that you believe you will have career growth opportunities in this company?
- Are you always learning new things in your job?
- How is conflict managed in your department?
- Does the organization encourage a sense of belonging?
- What degree of autonomy do you have in decision-making?
Aim to carry out these surveys on a regular basis and remember to compare your results from one period to another to determine if identified issues have been resolved. It’s also important to make sure that your employees know that these surveys represent a safe space to voice any concerns without fear of negative repercussions.
If you’re not sure where to start, then you can check out our employee engagement survey for inspiration.
Tips for a positive organizational climate
Let’s finish this post by taking a look at a few tips and best practices to help you create a positive organizational climate:
- Strive to build solid relationships with all your employees. This involves nurturing an environment of trust between management and employees, with clear channels for internal communications. This will help you create an environment that fosters the development of work, which in turn leads to increased workplace productivity.
- Implement an employee recognition program to help your employees feel valued.
- Promote training and development at all levels of the company.
- Create a positive working environment and encourage employees to develop a healthy work-life balance.
- Foster healthy competition.
- Focus on promoting diversity, inclusion and belonging. This will help you develop a stronger sense of team morale and improve your organizational climate. Make sure all your managers lead by example.
- Encourage teamwork, collaboration and cross-departmental communication.
- Share regular feedback with employees relating to performance. Let them know what they’re doing well and where they can (and should) improve. Be constructive and provide clear actions. This will help you create a healthy bond between the organization and your employees, boosting retention levels and helping you grow as an organization.