The importance of the organizational climate
There are many different definitions of what the organizational climate of a company is. Perhaps the most simple and helpful is that provided by a renowned specialist in the field, Robert Stringer, who, in his 2002 publication Leadership and Organizational Climate defined organizational climate as the collection and pattern of environmental determinants that arouse motivation. Following this definition, the final aim of the organizational climate is to explain the reasons why people working in an organization feel more or less motivated when carrying out their professional obligations.
It is very important to be aware of the underlying motivational reasons so that we can work to improve them. All studies certify the strong relationship between motivation of employees and company results. Companies, and this is true for both SMBs and large companies, must measure and manage the work environment in order to achieve better economic results. In the case of small companies, the human factor is often even more important, since in many cases these companies do not have the same economic potential, market inertia or brand power as large corporations.
As we already explained, as well as measuring the climate, you can and should manage it in order to modify it in the way that suits you best.
Thus, once we have the results that explain the current situation, we can create a plan for the organizational climate that we want for the year to come and then influence the underlying factors that will help you to reach your objectives. During the next years, you can adapt your goals and correct your direction according to the development of the company.
The method for managing the organizational climate is similar to that used to draw up the budget for the coming year except that in the case of the work environment you are dealing with intangible elements that cannot be measured, interpreted or managed in the same way as that used for more tangible aspects of business.
The evaluation and management of the organizational climate is an essential component of business management and an indispensable part of the most respected business management methodologies (Balanced Scorecard, EFQM, etc.).
Work environment surveys
The usual method for evaluating the organizational climate involves the use of surveys for employees (sometimes these can be complemented with personal interviews).
Since it can be complicated to design and implement organizational climate surveys (requiring knowledge on work environments, psychology, statistics, and survey methods), and so, many companies decide to subcontract this task to specialised service providers who already have the know-how, tools and software needed to carry out projects of this type.
One of the key aspects when carrying out a work environment survey is the anonymity. The methodology used must preserve the anonymity of the people surveyed, which is important if we wish to ensure that responses are as honest as possible. Externalizing the project to a service provider is an additional guarantee of anonymity for employees.
In general, organizational climate questionnaires are made up of three types of questions:
1.- Demographic and segmentation questions: These give us information on the person surveyed which can then be used to enrich the group analysis of results.
2.- Work environment questions: Allow us to evaluate the factors that determine motivation. This is the most important part of work environment surveys, and must contain questions that will evaluate the factors that make up the company’s work environment. Most companies that carry out work environment studies already have certain survey questions which can be adapted to the individual needs of their clients.
2.- Open questions: These allow companies to obtain more qualitative information on the work environment which helps to adapt the results obtained from other questionnaires.
Companies often use an organizational climate survey to ask other questions that many not be strictly related to work environment but also help to improve organizational management.
Organizational climate surveys often include questions and factors for evaluating employee satisfaction regarding various departments (e.g. IT or HR), and other matters of interest to the company.
It is important to set out clear temporal objectives when starting an organizational climate survey.
An organizational climate evaluation project can rarely be completed in less than one or two months since there are various stages to be completed:
Survey design phase:
The factors, questions, answer scale, sample (if used), segmentation variables and format (e.g. anonymity) must be established. It is also helpful to design the dashboards that the company will use to manage the work environment. These dashboards will explain the relationship between the questions and motivational factors.
Setting out and implementing the employee communication strategy. This is an important stage in order to make the employees co-participants in the work environment project. This also maximises participation in the survey and eliminates possible fears regarding anonymity.
Questionnaires used to be printed on paper. Today these are being replaced by electronic surveys which allow for greater speed, comfort and cost savings. Survey software makes it easy to combine questions on paper with online data capture, through websites created to answer questionnaires.
Employees can access websites with private ID codes from their place of work or any online access point.
Analysis and communication of results:
Get results, produce reports and set out the strategy to follow. Once management has analysed the results it is important to inform all employees about them. This helps to keep them involved in the project, providing additional information and perhaps better participation in future surveys.
Interpreting results and work environment management
The software not only automates the survey itself but allows the results to be viewed on request both during and after the survey.
The response statistics are automatically calculated, as is the dashboard with the indicators (factors, calculated based on answers) which provides an added-value view of the results.
Organizational climate surveys often contain a lot of questions (often more than 50) which makes it difficult to locate and visualise possible strong or weak points in the work environment. It is therefore important to implement a system of automatic indicators (KPIs) which make it easier to see results and understand how to improve the organizational climate.
The technology can generate reports automatically (e.g.: Word or PDF format) and can analyse data by sections. This means that differences in groups can be seen, allowing us to dissect problems and opportunities.
This also allows us to see evolutions, which help us to understand ROIs (return of the investment): knowing if the strategies we have followed (e.g. investment in a certain aspect of the work environment that was bad the previous year) have taken effect or have improved staff motivation levels.
Organizational climate software must also guarantee anonymity of those who participate in the survey.
This involves hiding the information that may jeopardise anonymity, allowing for visualisation of data above the anonymity threshold (e.g. for groups of over six people).
This can all be done in comfort and online, without the need to install anything on the company computers.
As well as analysing the results using the software it is important to perform a qualitative analysis on the content of the open-answer questions as well as ad-hoc statistical calculations. This qualitative analysis should be carried out by the company and an organizational climate expert, usually from an external company.
The participation of management is necessary in order to situate results in an appropriate context.
The organizational climate expert will provide the necessary HR and statistical expertise, and provide the option of comparing results obtained with other cases and companies (benchmarking), which allows for a deeper comprehension and analysis of the motivational factors that lie behind the work environment model.
Both parties can cooperate in designing the strategy to follow in order to achieve the organizational climate objectives going forward.
In today’s business world, organizational climate is indispensable for strategic planning, allowing companies to manage employee motivation in order to achieve better economic results.
Thanks to modern technology which allows companies to carry out surveys at a reasonable cost, and to view results quickly and easily, organizational climate surveys are becoming increasingly common among companies of all types.