How to Positively Influence Your Organizational Climate

April 1, 2024

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“Organizational culture” and “organizational climate” are often used interchangeably, but they’re as distinct as macro and microeconomics.

Organizational culture encompasses the big-picture mission, values, image, and branding that your company broadcasts to the general public. Cultural dynamics is a major field of study in the business world, with many researchers finding strong connections between culture and performance. 

Organizational climate, on the other hand, is a much smaller subset of the overall culture. It reflects how employees perceive that culture.

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, said, “To change ourselves effectively, we first had to change our perceptions.” So how can you change employees’ perceptions of your organization, and in turn, positively change your organizational climate?

Organizational Climate Types

To change a system, you must first understand it. There are four dominant types of organizational climates, each with a different focus or orientation. Every business will be a hybrid of these, and depending on the size of your company, there may even be dominant types that shift among departments. However, most organizations will identify with one of these types.

  • People-oriented climates place a primary emphasis on the relationships between employees.
  • Rule-oriented climates are most concerned with adherence to company policies and values.
  • Innovation-oriented climates promote independent thinking in service of creativity and new ways of working.
  • Goal-oriented climates place the highest value on achieving results and refining pathways to attaining business objectives.

All four of these climate types are part of a self-perpetuating cycle, both defined by and defining three dimensions of your business:

Structural dimensions – How is your organization structured? Is power centralized or decentralized? How much personal responsibility are individual employees afforded?

Interactive dimensions – How do employees interact? How are conflicts most frequently addressed and resolved? How are new employees onboarded?

Perceptual dimensions – How do people feel about their work and the organization? Is risk-taking encouraged? Do employees feel like policies are fair and applied consistently?

Once you understand your business’ dominant type and have trained your eye on the areas of influence to watch, regarding organizational climate, you can undertake the process of improving that climate.

4 Ways to Improve Organizational Climate

Survey, Survey, Survey

Do you recall when we said, “to change a system, you must first understand it.” You can’t simply intuit your employees’ perceptions. You need to ask them. Directly. Survey tools are widely available on the web, including tools that allow for anonymous responses, which can be very beneficial for increasing honesty and avoiding social desirability bias.

There is no limit to the number and type of survey questions you could ask, but here are a few key areas to consider for deep dives:

  • Do you feel supported by your peers?
  • Do you feel supported by management?
  • Do you feel that policies are clear?
  • Do you feel that policies are applied consistently?
  • Do you feel safe at work?

One key to developing useful survey questions is to look beyond the question to potential resulting actions. In other words, don’t ask for feedback, unless you are prepared to take action based on that feedback. Otherwise, you will leave people feeling like their time has been wasted and quickly erode their trust.

Translate Values Into Behaviors

You can plaster your mission statement on every mousepad and coaster around the office, or hang posters with motivational quotes, but it really is true that actions speak louder than words.

How do you translate value statements into behaviors? Let’s say your company has identified “collaboration” as an organizational value. To translate this into behavior, a company could initiate a process where new projects are assigned cross-departmental team members to make sure that new ideas are being shared and new office relationships are being built.

Another option could be starting a peer recognition program, where employees identify team members whose collaborative input has been especially valuable.

Employee Recognition

Whether recognition comes from peers or leadership, incentive and rewards programs are a time-tested method for boosting organizational climate. Employees’ perception of their value to the organization naturally increases when they are rewarded for their efforts.

Who offers the recognition also matters. According to a Gallup workplace survey, the most memorable recognition comes from an employee's manager.

Promote Autonomy

The power of certain rewards may diminish over time, which is why you should be equally invested in promoting autonomy. By setting clear expectations and offering support without micro-managing, you can build a working environment that is flexible, productive, and agile.

Increased autonomy leads to increases in job satisfaction – there are those perceptions again – and when employees feel they have ownership over their product, those feelings of ownership can transfer to an investment in further improving the organizational climate.

Organizational climate depends on a complex system of comingling factors, but if you can bring your culture and your climate into harmony with satisfied employees, then it will surely mean sunny days ahead for your business.

Reach out

 To truly transform your environment, you'll need the right people on your team. An organization needs leaders whose values and behaviors promote a healthy work environment. To learn more about how The Overture Group can assist you in building a strong leadership foundation, reach out.

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