“Climate tells you how you are functioning as an organisation, Culture tells you why your organisation is functioning that way.”

(Human Synergistics Australia)


Climate, engagement, morale, pulse, are these terms interchangeable and where do they fit with Culture?  Are they the same as Culture? This article is the second in a series focusing on the Human Synergistics (HS) White Papers and draws from the “Organisational Culture: Beyond Employee Engagement” White Paper.  I have taken a practical approach to breaking down organisational Climate and articulating where it fits with Culture.

The first article in this series focused on Culture and outlined the HS approach to measuring current Organisational Culture and providing specific data to develop a Constructive Organisational Culture.

The HS organisational level diagnostics (OCI/OEI) measure both Culture and Climate:

Ideal Culture – Causal Factors (Perceptions)  – Operating Culture – Outcomes (Feelings)
(OCI)                          (OEI)                                      (OCI)                           (OEI)

*Note: OEI is the Organisational Effectiveness Inventory and is the HS diagnostic tool that measures Organisational Climate.  OCI is the Organisational Culture Inventory and is the HS diagnostic that measures Organisational Culture.

A critical consideration when differentiating Culture and Climate is that the Outcomes (feelings) of the current Climate in an organisation are the symptoms of the organisations Current Culture.  Whilst easier to see (as per Iceberg model in White Paper), we don’t address the Outcomes (Climate) to bring about desired change.  We focus on specific Causal Factors (Perceptions) to develop a Constructive Operating Culture and this approach will drive high engagement levels within an organisation. As this White Paper points out, it is possible to have high engagement levels and a poor Culture, therefore it is important to focus on developing a Constructive Culture to improve Climate to ensure the organisation is well placed for long term sustainable success.

Following points taken from the White Paper provide a good summary of how Climate might play out in an organisation:

Perceptions (*OEI – Cause):

  • Are ideas listened to?
  • Adequate training?
  • Remuneration system
  • Talent Management
  • How effective are supervisors, management and leadership rated?
  • Role clarity and expectations
  • Extent to which members believe they can influence how things get done

Feelings (*OEI – Effect)

  • Job Satisfaction
  • Employee Engagement
  • Motivation
  • Team Collaboration
  • Stress
  • Job Security
  • Work/life balance

Grounded in the experience and evidence base HS has developed over a long period, the following points establish an understanding around Climate from a HS standpoint:

  • Engagement is a measure of Organisational Climate, it is not Organisational Culture.
  • Culture causes engagement, therefore, to address engagement, develop Culture.
  • Climate is an indicator of short-term performance, Culture is a better predictor of long-term performance.
  • Engagement is a symptom, Culture is the cause, a focus on Climate looks at ‘what’ is happening, not ‘why’.
  • Experience shows organisations can have high engagement and a non-constructive Culture.
  • Climate is the 10% of the iceberg above the surface, Culture is the 90% of iceberg below the surface.
  • Climate is an indicator of current effectiveness, Culture tells you how well your organisation can sustain that effectiveness over time.  They are not alternatives, they each tell part of the story.

A personal story to provide an analogy highlighting the cause and effect relationship between Culture and Climate is through my daughter who has issues with food intolerances. Symptoms include skin rashes, sneezing, coughing, blocked sinuses, and lethargy.  There was a period we treated these symptoms as they presented, using strong steroid cream for the rashes and asthma medication for some of the other symptoms.  Once we pinpointed the food intolerances as the primary cause (Causal Factors) of the symptoms (Outcomes), we could address the cause (Levers for Change) and provide long term relief from the symptoms (developing a Constructive Culture).

A key benefit for organisations when using the HS OCI (Culture) and OEI (Climate) simultaneously is that it provides a clear story of how Culture and Climate are playing out specific to the organisation.  This measurable data enables organisations to identify where efforts can be best placed to further develop Constructive Organisation Culture and high levels of engagement.  This is significant as the OCI is the only diagnostic of its type that provides a measurable indication of on organisations current Culture.

To see the HS framework in action, follow the link to see a BRS Case Study outlining the provision of leadership, team and organisation coaching services to the City of Tea Tree Gully. This involved the implementation of a customised leadership development program and executive coaching to meet the unique needs of the client and ensure all leaders were accountable for their development.

Whilst BRS are advocates of the HS framework for use with clients, as an organisation, since its inception, BRS has used HS diagnostics internally to measure and inform the development of Constructive behaviours and effectiveness at an individual and organisational level.  The Case Study below outlines the internal application of the HS diagnostics.

Human Synergistics Case Study October 2014
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