Heather K Adams
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Content + Copy Writer

Here's a hypothetical: Let's say you run a successful company, one that offers positions with flexible hours, competitive pay and excellent benefits. Why, then, might your turnover rate be so high, and your retention rates so low? 

The answer could be your organizational climate.

Organizational climate is the "feel" of your workplace, the atmosphere as experienced by your employees. It reflects their perception of how their work environment helps, or hinders, their ability to do their job. It takes into account their sense of purpose and involvement, for example, and it affects both the attitude and the efficiency of every one of your employees. 

While organizational climate is in fact a part of the organizational culture of a company, it's a more quantifiable factor than culture. This means that with the right tools, and the right degree of awareness and flexibility, you can not only assess the organizational climate of your company, but also enact changes necessary to improving it.

Main features of organizational climate.

The organizational climate of your company has a direct effect on your employees' level of involvement with their work, and their motivation to do that work well. 

Here are the main characteristics to keep in mind when considering your own company.

1. Perception

Organizational climate is all about the perception of the work environment by the employees themselves. You might think your company is performing at a very high level, in terms of employee satisfaction. On the ground floor, however, that picture might look very different.

2. Measurable

As noted, climate, unlike culture, is something more easily quantified. For example, a climate survey related to the benefits packages offered by your company can give you a clear picture of the overall satisfaction (or lack of) your employees have with their options.

3. Related to structure

Whereas organizational culture can involve interpersonal aspects of a workplace, the organizational climate is more directly related to the structure of a company. Some people may very well prefer to be a cog in the machine, plugging and chugging through their days. But most would rather work in an environment where their voices are heard, and supported. Most people want to feel like they're part of a team.

How to create a desirable organizational climate.

Organizational climate is a mirror, reflecting a company from its employees' point of view. Once you begin to measure and evaluate your own climate, there are actionable steps you can take to improve it, and therefore your employees' experience.

1. Ask for feedback.

The most basic evaluative measure you can take is simply to ask: How do you, as an employee, feel about X, Y or Z. Face to face interviews, of course, aren't the best way to get the most honest answers. Instead, utilize climate surveys, which encourage open (anonymous) feedback.

2. Listen to your team.

Once you administer and receive your climate surveys, pay attention to what they tell you. You might be surprised about what's working and what isn't, in your employees' minds. For example, maybe those Free Lunch Fridays aren't as inspiring a reward for meeting a goal as, say, a fancy new coffee machine in the break room. You can tailor your climate surveys to ask questions as simple as something like that. The point, of course, being that you're going to pay attention to the answers you get.

3. Make changes.

Once you ask, and they answer, show your employees you're really listening by implementing changes that reflect their needs and wants. Small changes are easier to make than large ones, of course, but even if you're only at the research phase of enacting a big change, keep your employees in the loop. Let them know you really are listening.

Benefits of a healthy organizational climate.

You already know how important it is for you, personally, to feel involved in your job, to be motivated every day to go in and do your best. Your employees aren't any different. And the right organizational climate can make or break the attractiveness of the jobs you offer. This will affect not only the people who choose to work for you today, but also those who choose, or then again choose not, to work for you tomorrow.

1. Increased retention and career development.

Customer loyalty is a wonderful thing, of course, but have you ever considered the benefits of employee loyalty? Someone happy with their work environment is, of course, more likely to stay. But that same person will also happily talk up your company whenever a job hunt or career topic comes up in conversation. This is also known, ahem, as free advertising.

2. You create an admirable brand. 

That free advertising is positive word of mouth, and this is still the best way to get your company's name out there. Once that happy little ball starts rolling, more and better quality job seekers will come knocking at your door. We all know how difficult it is to find the right fit for the right job. Having a well-known, positive organizational climate will make your staffing job that much easier.

3. Improved efficiency and productivity.

Happy employees are productive employees. If your organizational climate is one in which employees feel seen, heard and valued, there is no doubt you'll see an uptick in efficiency and productivity. Encouraging more employees to come forward with pitches or concepts, for example, might help them feel more involved than simply assigning tasks, and boost the overall positive vibe of your workplace.

How to be aware of your organizational climate.

Climate surveys are the most useful and efficient tool you can use to evaluate your organizational climate. 

You can tailor them toward any number of subjects, from the smallest (satisfaction with lunch cart options, for example) to the quite large (like whether or not employees feel their work has meaning or value). Heflo.com has an awesome post about preparing your own climate survey questions. The results of your surveys will reflect the relationship between your company and its employees, from their own point of view. And they can tell you where you might need to do a little work.

Organizational climate is a crucial element in the overall health of a company. Who wants to work in an unhealthy environment? Smart companies listen to what they're being told about their organizational climate, and take actions accordingly. Actions that will pay themselves back ten-fold. After all, happy employees make for the happiest, and by no coincidence also some of the most successful, companies.

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Heather Adams is a freelance storyteller. Visit her at Adams ArtCo, and follow her on [email protected].

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