Purposeful Talent Development: 5 (of 9) Dimensions of Organizational Climate

playful coworkers chairs
Lesley Sears Photo
VP/Consulting Services

4 minutes

How does yours measure up?

Culture is a word much bantered about in organizational and talent development settings. It refers to deep-seated organizational traits rooted in the work and priorities of the organization’s founders. In contrast, climate is what everybody experiences at work every day. It’s the interactions between people. It’s the feeling you get when you’re working at a credit union. 

Culture could take a decade to really shift. Climate, in contrast, is easier to repair every couple of years. If you have good focus and understand what you need to focus on, you can really shift the climate in amazing ways.

To help you better understand your climate and how you might want to shift it, let’s talk about the first five of the nine dimensions of climate that are present in every workplace. I’ll give you some perspective on how to assess how you’re doing on each. In my August Purposeful Talent Development blog post, I’ll cover the remaining four. 

1. Challenge and Involvement

This is just what it sounds like. Get a read on how this dimension is at your credit union right now by asking yourself: Are we challenged? Are we involved? Do our team members feel like they are working toward our bigger purpose? When you have good challenge and involvement, people feel motivated, energized and committed to making contributions. If challenge and involvement are lacking, you might see reduced interest in professional development. If you think you’re lacking a bit here, make sure your team members understand the credit union’s vision and goals.

2. Freedom

Freedom refers to the degree to which your team members feel they can act on their own within the scope of their positions. Are your employees being micromanaged, or can they make decisions on how things are accomplished? If they understand the overall objectives, employees having the freedom to accomplish their objectives in a way that feels natural to them rather than being forced to do it a particular way is key to a good workplace climate where team members feel engaged.

3. Trust and Openness

How much do your people trust each other? How much emotional safety do they feel? When you answer these questions, you need to consider your leadership peers, middle managers, front-line folks as well as hybrid and remote staff. When your trust and openness score is high, your people will not only trust each other but count on each other to be there when needed. They also will demonstrate sincere respect for one another. If you notice that employees are suspicious of other team members, try giving people a voice. If they have a voice, they will be much more committed to the work at hand.

4. Idea Time

If you want your people to innovate, you must make sure they feel they have time to develop new ideas. To support innovation, consider offering times when people are encouraged to work on brainstorming new ideas and planning for how to implement them. Look at people’s schedules to see what time constraints are holding people back. Are there meetings that don’t need to be taking place? Are meetings too long? Are you having 30-minute meetings that could be 15-minute meetings? You’d be amazed at how much time a week you can pull out just by rethinking the meeting structure.

5. Playfulness and Humor

Playfulness and humor are among the most obvious byproducts of a healthy workplace climate. Look around. Are your people laughing about appropriate things with each other and able to have strong enough relationships that they can be humorous with one another and not have fall out from it? Remember, it’s not just your employees that will feel this one. Members will, too. If you want to promote this dimension of culture, consider designating places for sharing jokes or funny stories, and encourage silly times. Provide time for team building; the more your team enjoys working together, the more lighthearted the climate will be.

So those are five of the nine key dimensions of culture to get you started. Next month I’ll bring you the remaining four. In the meantime, if you feel that your climate needs some work to create a stronger credit union, schedule a call, I’ll be glad to have a conversation with you about how to improve it.

Stepping into the gap between corporate complacency and organizational excellence is where Lesley Sears strives to be. Now VP/consulting services for CUES. In her role at CUES, Lesley leads CUES Consulting, which provides talent strategy support to credit unions of all sizes. Lesley is passionate about helping leaders find their company’s superpowers in talent development through a holistic approach: identify–develop–document-repeat. She’s a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, a certified executive leadership coach and has over 20 years of experience consulting with organizations across many industries to strategically develop their talent’s best selves. When she’s not working to help organizations maximize their potential, you can find her digging in her flower beds, reading or watching classic movies. Maybe, on a good morning in the spring and fall, you’ll find her running—really slowly.

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