Office Climate Assessments: The Nitty-Gritty

February 2, 2022 Kami Ehrich

Women pointing at charts

With contributions by Teresa Kline

This article is part of a series Summit Consulting is releasing in collaboration with Huron, a Global Consultancy. In this series, we look at how an office climate assessment is a valuable tool to gain insight into employee perceptions of company policies and procedures. We talk about data collection techniques, engagement in a remote workplace, and a case study of a real organization. Check out the whole series:

  1. New Year, New You, New Office
  2. The Nitty-Gritty
  3. Tactics to Keep a Remote Workforce Engaged
  4. Benefits of Engaging Your Remote Workforce

Last week, we talked about what office climate assessments are and why they’re important. In this post, we’ll discuss how these assessments are conducted. And it all starts with data collection.

Data collection is a climate assessor’s best friend! At Summit, our preferred approach is to deploy a staff survey in tandem with in-depth interviews. Each methodology by itself supplies useful information, but using them together provides the best of both worlds. Surveys allow you to collect a large number of responses from a variety of staff and offer a diversity in job titles, seniority levels, demographics, and more. Meanwhile, interviews collect depth and nuance that provide much-needed context to the survey data. For more information on surveys or in-depth interviews, check out this series of posts by the Summit team.

Let’s start with surveys. A staff survey on office climate will provide a broad, holistic understanding of employee perceptions, and it reaches more individuals than interviews alone. Survey questions should target observable policies, practices, and procedures that employees and managers experience in the workplace. The survey may include questions on performance management, communication, teamwork, and training.

Now onto in-depth interviews. These interviews ask questions on the same topics as the survey but provide the flexibility to go deeper, answering the “why” and “how.” Two examples of research questions that interviews can help answer are “How do organizational policies on criteria for promotions and raises promote a transparent workplace?” and “Why are staff under the age of 35 less likely to report the company supports their professional growth and development?” Because interviews allow respondents to explain their answers and provide additional details, the resulting data includes crucial context and nuance. Without this, the survey data cannot tell the whole story.

For both data-collection methods, ensuring confidentiality of participants is crucial to promote high response rates and candid feedback. Participants must feel they can provide their honest views and opinions confidentially and that there will be no repercussions for their participation. While this is important for all office climate assessments, it is particularly important when there are areas in an organization that are poorly functioning or need improvement. Data collectors can take several steps to ensure confidentiality and encourage candor, such as:

  1. Including consent language at the beginning of the survey and interview, as well as in all recruitment communications, that informs respondents that their comments will be reported in the aggregate and not attributed to specific organizations or individuals.
  2. Including consent language at the beginning of the survey and interview that informs respondents that their participation is voluntary, which means they may end the interview at any time and can skip any questions they do not want to answer.
  3. Using an anonymous link for online surveys that cannot identify individual respondents and turning off collection of IP addresses (some survey platforms may have a default setting to collect this information) to demonstrate organizational commitment to anonymity.

So we’ve done everything we can to ensure candor and completed our data collection—what’s next? Now it’s time to synthesize our findings in a process called triangulation. By searching for convergence and corroboration across our survey and interview findings, we can identify key findings. The final step is to make specific recommendations based on each finding. These recommendations can include additional training, improved communication, or improved performance-measurement tools.

By taking the pulse of the company or organization, employers can ensure that their employees remain engaged, happy, and rewarded for their work. In our next post, we’ll discuss building intentional connections in a remote workplace to operationalize it.

Photo by UX Indonesia on Unsplash

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