Organizational Climate

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organisation effectiveness and development

Organisational Climate Survey

Leadership Tools
Organisational Climate: A proven tool for improving business performance

© OED Consulting Ltd 2006 All Rights Reserved

What Is Organisational Climate? The term “organisational climate” can be used in either a technical or a colloquial sense. As a technical term, it is defined as “a set of measurable properties of the work environment, based on the collective perception of the people who live and work in the environment and demonstrated to influence their motivation and behaviour.” As an everyday term, it describes the way it feels to work in an organisation. People use “climate” as a catchall phrase to describe the overall “tone” or “work atmosphere” of an organisation. Simply stated, climate is people’s perceptions of the environment in which they work. Why Study Climate? According to either the technical or the everyday definition of the term, climate seems to play an important role in determining how people behave in an organisation. Different climates attract and motivate different kinds of employees by subtly or blatantly defining the “rights and wrongs” and “dos and don’ts” for each organisational member. If people perceive that certain kinds of behaviour will be rewarded, they will be motivated to engage in those behaviours. Similarly, if there is a feeling that other behaviours are punished (“that’s not done around here”), these will be avoided. Research and experience have shown that organisational climate has a long-term impact on an organisation’s productivity and performance. For example, climates characterised by informality, few procedures, independence and high responsibility tend to motivate creative R&D professionals. This same kind of work environment might prove extremely frustrating to other employees, who would be most productively motivated by a more structured and predictable climate. The study of climate is important because it helps explain employee motivation, employee behaviour and organisational performance. It provides managers with insights into the “people side” of the business. Another reason for studying climate is that it seems to be determined primarily by the practices of the leaders of the organisation. Climate, then, can become an active and useful tool for managing the people side of the business.

Note: this note was originally prepared by Harbridge House Inc. (© 1990) based on portions of work by George H. Litwin and Robert A. Stringer Jnr., Motivation and Organisational Climate (Boston: Harvard Business School Press 1968). It was subsequently amended as a result of doctoral research undertaken by Fred Cannon, Director, OED Consulting Ltd., 2000 – 2004.

A Proven Tool for Improving Business Performance

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How Is Climate Measured? In order to use climate as a management tool, managers need a simple, straightforward way of measuring climate. OED uses an easy-to-administer questionnaire, which has been validated and tested, to assess organisational climate.1 All data collected by means of the organisational climate questionnaire are kept strictly confidential unless otherwise agreed. A personal climate report can be generated for each manager who participates in the survey. This report describes how the manager’s people perceive the climate and the manager’s practices. All responses are averaged so that no individual questionnaire responses are revealed. The climate report is divided into three sections. The first section deals with employees’ perceptions of the climate, the second deals with their view of the manager’s personal leadership while the third asks for open-ended comments. The description of climate is organised into six categories, or dimensions that research has shown to be the most important predictors of employee motivation and performance. The Dimensions of Climate Clarity Scores on this dimension reflect employees’ sense of being well organised and of...
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