Culture and climate

Sep 25, 2017

They go hand in hand, and both need regular maintenance if they are to be positive. Take a look at your firm and make adjustments if necessary.

A company with a great culture can, and usually will, attract great talent. The culture of a company is typically their shared beliefs, identity, or common purpose. A company with a great culture celebrates achievements and embraces its collective history. A company lacking culture can be perceived as hollow and sterile. It’s a place where people come for the paycheck and nothing more.

A company with a great climate is similarly appealing, because it exudes a positive vibe. A climate is all about attitude, energy, and how a company “feels.” If the climate is good, people feel good. Conversely, employees in a company with a negative climate know something is happening, and they can sense that something is wrong.

What if the climate is good, but the culture is poor? In other words, what if people enjoy their work environment and their coworkers, but they feel no connection to the company? Those employees will go out of their way to help their coworkers, but will do as little as necessary to grow the company.

Similarly, what if people love the company for what it stands for, but they feel no connection to the company? Those employees will put forth a great effort and produce great results, but at the end of the work day, they can’t leave the workplace fast enough.

Workplaces have long been the primary social gathering spot for many people. It’s where we spend most of our time, meet similar-minded people, share otherwise-ordinary details of our lives, and it’s where we create bonds that help strengthen our communities.

A company with a great culture and positive climate fosters those ties between us.

Here are a few techniques for fostering a great culture:

  • Build a common rally point. This is the “why” of an organization. It’s why you exist. Whether it’s a strategic goal, a community partnership, or simply a mascot, a common idea brings people together.
  • Celebrate milestones and successes at all levels. Celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and contract wins with a hand-written note, cupcakes, or a company-wide announcement. These don’t have to be extravagant affairs. A simple acknowledgement will pay huge dividends.
  • Ping-pong flop. Nobody cares if you have ping-pong or foosball tables in your building if you never use them. Schedule monthly tournaments. Create a company-wide leader board to show who’s the reigning champion. These events will bring people together.

Here are a few techniques for fostering a positive climate:

  • Review your policies. Administrative policies are the number one killer of an organization’s climate. It’s very likely you have some policies that make people dread an aspect of their workday. Your employees know exactly what those unnecessary policies are. Ask them. A common one that comes to mind is the requirement that your employees must work until 5 p.m. Sure, they’re at their desks at 5 p.m., but five minutes later the parking lot is empty.
  • Transparency is a rumor killer. Communication is key. We recommend adopting open-book management as a way to show your employees the status of your firm’s finances, so there’s no guessing about how the company is performing.
  • Spread no fear. If your employees run when they see you walking toward them, it’s probably a good sign your climate is not good. Micromanaging instills fear in your employees and tells them you don’t trust their work.

Spend some time understanding not just why your company is performing as it is, but rather what’s driving its performance. You might uncover that your culture needs a kick start or that your climate could use a bit of maintenance.

Bill Murphey is Zweig Group’s director of education. Contact him at

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About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.