Organizational culture and climate are closely linked to service quality, employee morale, staff turnover, the adoption of innovations, and overall organizational effectiveness (Glisson, 2007). Distrustful and negative cultures can cause serious problems for individuals, as well as organizations. Verbeke, Volgering, and Hessels (1998) conducted a comprehensive literature review that revealed more than 50 definitions of organizational culture and more than 30 definitions of organizational climate. The authors found that culture describes the way things are done in an organization, and climate describes the way people perceive their work environment. Baker (1992) described climate as the answer to the question, “What is it like to work here?” These definitions of culture and climate were used by the Organizational Culture and Design Team (OCT) to assess the culture and climate of the Boise State University (BSU) School of Nursing beginning in 2003. This article describes the development, implementation, and preliminary psychometric testing of the Culture/Climate Assessment Scale (CCAS), designed and used by a school of nursing to identify and measure factors related to organizational culture, climate, and work satisfaction over an 8-year period.
Organizational culture and climate are critical elements to the performance and success of an organization (Shim, 2010). These elements are detailed in the study by Springer, Clark, Strohfus, and Belcheir (2012) and are used to describe an 8-year process to transform the culture and climate of the BSU School of Nursing, a public metropolitan university in the northwestern United States. This corresponding article describes the development of the CCAS that was designed to measure the culture and climate in the BSU School of Nursing.
Before development of the CCAS, the OCT in the BSU School of Nursing identified four tools used to conduct studies on culture and climate in a variety of nursing practice and higher education settings. Two tools measured organizational climate in practice settings: the Work Quality Index (Whitley & Putzier, 1994) and the Nurse Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire (Duxbury, Henly, & Armstrong, 1982). Two tools were identified for use in nursing higher education settings: the Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire-Higher Education (OCDQ-HE) (Borrevik, 1972), and the Work Environment Scale (WES) (Moos, 1986). Although these tools used in nursing practice were helpful in understanding organizational climate in practice settings, the OCT selected the OCDQ-HE and the WES for closer review because both tools were used to measure culture and climate in nursing programs in higher education.
Description of Measurements in Academic or Higher Education Settings
The Organizational Climate Description Questionnaire has been used since the 1950s to measure organizational climate in elementary and high schools (Halpin & Croft, 1963). In 1972, Borrevik revised the OCDQ to create the OCDQ-HE for use in higher education settings. The OCDQ-HE measures open climates (faculty having more control and freedom) and closed climates (authoritarian administration) and contains six constructs (and coefficients of reliability) of consideration (0.92), intimacy (0.83), disengagement (0.70), production emphasis (0.74), student involvement (0.08), and detachment (0.37).
The OCDQ-HE or modifications have been used three times in schools of nursing. Due to the low reliability coefficients in the constructs of student involvement and detachment, this instrument was modified to the OCDQ-HE (Partial) and contained 42 items and four constructs including consideration, intimacy, disengagement, and production emphasis (Edwards, 1984). Edwards used this tool to measure faculty perceptions of deans’ leadership behaviors and climate in baccalaureate nursing schools. The intimacy and disengagement scales were loaded on the same factor and analyzed as intimacy disengagement. The other scales were combined into climate consideration and climate production emphasis, and a three-factor model was used in analysis of the final data (consideration, 0.91; intimacy and disengagement, 0.82; and production emphasis, 0.71). A significant relationship was found between participative or supportive leadership and instrumental leadership and climate. Leadership behaviors accounted for 42.5% of the variance in climate. In 1991, Lewis used the 42-item form of the OCDQ-HE (Partial) that contained four subtests addressing the constructs (and reliability coefficients) of consideration (0.93), intimacy (0.84), disengagement (0.68), and production emphasis (0.71). Lewis measured climate in colleges or schools of nursing. No significant relationship was found between power orientation and organizational climate. In 2000, Mosser also used the OCDQ-HE (Partial) to also examine climate in baccalaureate nursing programs. Mosser’s (2000) study revealed a positive correlation between leadership and organizational climate in schools of nursing, specifically relating to motivation, production, and satisfaction. Psychometrics for the OCDQ-HE (Partial) based on Mosser’s sample were not presented.
The WES (Moos, 1986) is a one of many Social Climate Scales developed by Moos (2003) during the late 1960s to the 1990s. The Social Climate Scales were developed to describe relationships, personal development, and system maintenance and system change dimensions by measuring perceived social climates, environment stimuli, and individual differences among people in various settings (Moos, 2003). The WES compares employee and manager perceptions of the current work settings with those of their preferred work settings. The WES consists of 10 subscales organized under three domains of relationships, personal growth, and system maintenance and system change. The subscales include involvement, peer cohesion, supervisor support, autonomy, task orientation, work pressure, clarity, control, innovation, and physical comfort with internal consistency ranging from 0.69 to 0.84 (Moos, 1986).
The WES (or modifications of the WES) has been used in schools of nursing (Fong, 1993; Lubbert, 1995). Fong (1993) used three instruments—a modified version of the WES, Mueller Role Overload Scale, and the Maslach Burnout Inventory (MBI)—to examine the causal relationship between role overload, social support, and burnout of nursing faculty over time. Fong (1993) used three subscales of the WES (time and work pressure, supervisor support, and peer cohesion). Cronbach alphas for the scales ranged from 0.69 to 0.80. The findings revealed that the lack of supervisor support and emotional exhaustion from a demanding job may negatively affect student relationships and compromise feelings of competence, which may affect future faculty success (Fong, 1993, p. 29). Lubbert (1995) used a modified version of the WES to assess the relationships between structure and climate variables in a nursing school. Lubbert used nine subscales from the WES (involvement, peer cohesion, administrative support, autonomy, task orientation, work pressure, clarity, control, and innovation) with reliability estimates ranging from 0.57 to 0.95, with an overall instrument reliability of 0.92. The findings revealed a significant relationship between decentralization and a favorable climate in the schools of nursing.
Decision to Develop the Culture/Climate Assessment Scale
Each study and tool reviewed measures various aspects of organizational climate in nursing practice and university settings. In 2003, the BSU School of Nursing experienced a number of significant challenges in rapid succession, including a change in leadership, developing and implementing a new curriculum that integrated nursing faculty from three distinct programs into one cohesive nursing program, designing and launching a new graduate program, and designing and implementing a new shared governance structure. These changes led to widespread dissatisfaction among faculty and staff (Springer et al., 2012), which resulted in increased stress and conflict, ineffective communication and teamwork, and a general lack of feeling supported. In addition, morale was low and the turnover rate was prohibitively high. Thus, the OCT chose to develop a tool that could measure concepts of organizational culture and climate that reflected the considerable amount of change occurring in the BSU School of Nursing. Rather than using multiple tools or reducing the integrity of a current tool by manipulating the variables, the OCT decided to develop one tool to measure culture, climate, change, stress, and morale—and to construct a tool that could be used longitudinally to assess the progress in transforming the culture and climate of the BSU School of Nursing.
In the spring of 1999, the administration and faculty of the BSU School of Nursing voted to revise the curriculum and to redesign the department’s governance model to support the revision. These changes were expected to be complicated, broad based, and dramatic (Springer & Clark, 2007). The curriculum changes were projected to be challenging given that the BSU School of Nursing would merge three distinct nursing programs (Practical Nursing, Associate of Science degree in Nursing, and Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing) into one seamless program with multiple entry and exit points, called the One Front Door Program. It was a substantive undertaking and a primary driver for the creation of a survey to evaluate the faculty and staff satisfaction and to determine their readiness for a new shared governance model.
For the curricular and governance changes to be successful, the organizational culture needed to be reengineered and its organizational structure redesigned. With this kind of change, each person’s role is affected and the potential impact on the organization is substantial. To prepare for the changes, the OCT conducted a comprehensive review of the literature on organizational culture and climate. The team used relevant and timely books and articles, examined various cultural assessment tools, and collected anecdotal information about how faculty and staff perceived the culture and climate of the BSU School of Nursing. The team created a 26-item organizational assessment survey that included quantitative and qualitative items to measure faculty and staff perceptions of organizational trust, conflict management styles, and leadership preferences. The purpose of this original survey was to assess the feasibility of implementing a shared governance model to provide a decision making framework as the BSU School of Nursing implemented the comprehensive curriculum change.
During a time of rapid change, fear of the unknown, and a lack of clarity about the future, this newly created survey was administered in 2000 using TurningPoint® technology for the quantitative items. The survey revealed a significantly high level of distrust among faculty, staff, and administrators.
Academic year 2000–2001 was a time of unforeseen and profound change. It marked the retirement of the then-current chairperson and the arrival of a new chairperson for the BSU School of Nursing. In the midst of these changes, faculty and staff resistance swelled, workload increased, and faculty turned attention to tasks that needed to be accomplished rather than the broader context of organizational change. Addressing these issues fell largely on the shoulders of the chairperson, the associate chairs of each nursing program, and the OCT. Cultural norms were developed but mostly laid dormant and unused as each individual pursued his or her own agenda to meet the growing needs of the BSU School of Nursing.
Between 2000 and 2003, in the midst of ongoing and persistent change, the overall culture of the BSU School of Nursing continued to be one of cynicism, doubt, and mistrust. The chairperson, the associate chairs of each nursing program, and members of the OCT were deeply concerned about the low level of faculty and staff morale and troubled by the lack of collaboration and teamwork. In addition, students reported increasing levels of incivility and dissatisfaction. A consultant was hired to assist the OCT in cultural assessment and organizational trust by conducting an institutional assessment. An attempt was made to develop an evidence-based tool to assess the culture of the organization. Unfortunately, the assessment was never fully developed or conducted due to sinking levels of organizational trust and some faculty members’ outright refusal to participate. Given these grim circumstances, the consultant was released, and the academic leadership and OCT considered other options.
In 2004, the OCT conducted another comprehensive review of the literature on organizational culture and climate. Again, the team used relevant books and articles, examined various cultural assessment tools, and collected anecdotal information about how faculty and staff perceived the culture and climate of the BSU School of Nursing. Based on this collective information, the OCT developed the CCAS, which included quantitative and qualitative items. Three faculty members with expertise in organizational leadership reviewed the CCAS for content validity, readability, and logical flow. After their extensive expert review, the CCAS was pilot tested by five nursing faculty and two staff members. Revisions to the CCAS were made based on feedback from the pilot testing and critique from a panel of nurse educators. The CCAS was also reviewed by two statisticians for content validity, internal consistency, and logical construction. Following this review, the CCAS was successfully administered for the first time in 2005.
Administration of the Culture/Climate Assessment Scale
In 2005, the CCAS was administered to all members of the nursing faculty and all but one staff member who was not available (47 of 48, 97.9%). Results for the quantitative items confirmed the BSU School of Nursing was in distress, whereas a qualitative analysis of the open-ended items both confirmed and provided additional details on the current culture of the BSU School of Nursing. Qualitative findings revealed a perceived lack of trust within the BSU School of Nursing, a general sense of being overworked, feeling unsupported, worry about the significant level of faculty turnover, and dissatisfaction with the current shared governance model. Faculty and staff complained of being stressed out, underpaid, and disrespected.
The instrument administered in 2007 (45 of 48, 93.8%) and in 2009 (39 of 54, 72.2%) was identical to the 2005 instrument except that two quantitative items and one qualitative item related to workload were added. A total of 131 responses to the instrument are included in this analysis.
To ensure the surveys were completely anonymous, a scannable paper format was used with no ties to identity, and the only identifier requested was whether the respondent was a faculty or staff member. The CCAS was administered in a group setting and collected by an external evaluator as respondents completed the surveys. The few BSU School of Nursing faculty and staff members who were not present during the group administration were given surveys in an envelope delivered, completed, and sent directly to the external evaluator. The written narrative responses were typed by the external evaluator and returned to the OCT for qualitative analysis. Analyses of the quantitative items were undertaken by the external evaluator.
Description and Scoring of the Culture/Climate Assessment Scale
The overall purpose of the CCAS was to identify which areas within an academic culture and climate may be sources of strength or weakness to the optimum functioning of the academic environment and to accurately measure changes across time. The current version of the CCAS consists of 24 items combined into 5 scales, three context items, and eight open-ended items. The five scales were communication, decision support, level of conflict, teamwork, and general work satisfaction. The scales were developed based on item content and the fit of the item, with the scale using item-total correlations and changes in coefficient alpha if the item were removed from the scale. Responses to the items were summed, and each scale was standardized with a mean of 20 and a standard deviation of 4 to make the scale scores comparable (Table 1). To score the instrument, each individual scale score was summed except for the two-item scale on general work satisfaction on which both items had to be answered to produce a score. The higher scale scores corresponded to more positive perceptions from the respondents. The three context items measured personal level of stress, perceived level of change in the BSU School of Nursing, and rating of overall departmental morale.
Table 1: Descriptive Statistics for Scales and Context Items
The communication scale consisted of four items that assessed the overall effectiveness of communication, as well as effectiveness of communication by e-mail, voicemail or telephone, and face-to-face using a 5-point scale ranging from 1 (poor) to 5 (excellent). The decision support scale also consisted of four items. The first item assessed respondents’ perceived authority to make decisions using a 5-point scale that ranged from 1 (never) to 5 (always). Follow-up items assessed how well supported faculty and staff felt when they made a decision in their area of expertise and for issues that affected the entire BSU School of Nursing. The CCAS also included an additional item that is not included in the decision support scale but is helpful in diagnosing where support is or is not occurring from faculty, staff, teams, and formal academic leadership. However, as a “check all that apply” item, this item did not fit with the structure of the decision support scale. The level of conflict scale consisted of three items that assessed the level of conflict within the BSU School of Nursing as a whole, between the respondent and other employees, and between students and faculty or staff. The teamwork scale is the largest scale, with 11 items. The scale included items that assessed how well the BSU School of Nursing works as a team, how often the respondent feels listened to and understood, whether the respondent has a clear sense of job responsibilities, whether workload is reasonable and equitably distributed, others’ understanding of the respondent’s role in the department, the effectiveness of current governance model, and the level of trust felt from core leadership, faculty, and staff. Note that two workload items for this scale were not added until the second administration of the survey. Mean values were substituted for missing values for 2005 when calculating scale values so that the development of the scale could include data from all three administrations. The general work satisfaction scale included two items. The first item asks about general level of satisfaction with working in the department, and the second item asks if the respondent would recommend the BSU School of Nursing to others as a place to work. Three context items were included to help measure the general context within which the instrument is administered, including a rating of personal level of stress due to employment, amount of change the respondent perceives in the department at the current time, and an overall rating of morale among employees. Finally, eight open-ended, qualitative items garnered additional explanation related to the quantitative scales.
The open-ended items were designed to deepen the understanding of the quantitative ratings and were scattered throughout the instrument. The items provided opportunities for respondents to report concerns or observations regarding communication, conflict, or decision making authority; to elaborate on the amount of work and distribution of workload; to describe the positive attributes of work and the work environment; to provide suggestions to improve the work environment; to comment on levels of trust and style of governance within the BSU School of Nursing; to explain the basis on which they made their ratings of employee morale; and to make any additional comments about working in the BSU School of Nursing.
The following sections highlight the overall analysis of the CCAS, including reliability, scale independence, and prediction of work satisfaction validity. The scales were analyzed using Cronbach’s alpha as a measure of internal consistency (inter-item) reliability. The internal reliability of the scales were as follows: communication (four items, alpha = 0.79), decision support (four items, alpha = 0.87), level of conflict (three items, alpha = 0.49), teamwork (11 items, alpha = 0.85), and general work satisfaction (two items, alpha = 0.79). Although adequate levels of reliability vary depending on the use of the measure, for a low-stakes use such as measuring climate and culture, initial reliabilities of 0.70 or higher are considered adequate (Netemeyer, Bearden, & Subhash, 2003; Nunnally & Bernstein, 1994).
The independence of scales and items was also analyzed. Table 2 provides the individual Pearson product–moment correlations among the scales and items. The scales were significantly correlated with one another; the highest correlation was r = 0.77 between the teamwork scale and the general work satisfaction scale, whereas the lowest correlation was r = 0.37 between level of conflict and general work satisfaction. The correlations of the context items (level of stress, amount change, and overall morale) were decidedly lower compared with the correlations among the scales. A striking exception was the item measuring BSU School of Nursing morale, where several correlations were in the 0.70 range. The item measuring amount of change in the department appeared unrelated to most of the other scales and items.
Table 2: Pearson Product–Moment Correlations Among Scales and Items (N = 131)
The extent to which the scales and items explain work satisfaction was also considered. Because one major reason for assessing climate and culture initially was to ultimately improve satisfaction with the working environment, one measure of validity of the scales is the extent to which the instrument items and scales explain or predict the general level of satisfaction with the work environment. Several studies have shown that organizational climates are related to individual employee satisfaction (Glisson, 2007; Johnson & McIntye, 1998; Schulte, Ostroff, & Kinicki, 2006). A linear regression model predicting general satisfaction scores based on all four scales and the three context items revealed that 70% of the variability in satisfaction scores could be explained by the combination of scales and items, F(7, 118) = 39.27, p < 0.001. Table 3 displays the regression model coefficients. The decision support scale, level of conflict scale, teamwork scale, and rating of overall morale were the most important predictors of work satisfaction, as indicated by highest beta weights.
Table 3: Coefficients for Predicting General Work Satisfaction Using Scales and Context Items
Discussion and Recommendations
The CCAS was first used to identify problems within BSU School of Nursing. It was subsequently used to chart progress over the next 5 years as academic leadership implemented changes to improve the organizational culture and climate of the BSU School of Nursing. The model and processes for transformational change used by academic leaders are discussed elsewhere in this issue. The purpose of this work is to document the psychometric properties of the instrument used to measure culture and climate change over time.
The CCAS includes five scales (communications, decision support, level of conflict, teamwork, and general work satisfaction), three context items (level of stress, amount of change, and overall morale rating) and eight open-ended items help administrators better understand responses to the other items and amplify the quantitative results. Cronbach’s alpha was used to measure internal consistency reliability of the scales. Results indicated that all of the scales except level of conflict had adequate levels of reliability.
Using linear regression, the combination of the four scales and three context items were able to explain 70% of the variability in general work satisfaction scores, an important finding if a goal of measuring organizational culture is to improve work satisfaction. In addition, Pearson correlations showed that the scales and items were related in almost all cases (the level of change item being the exception), but each scale or item also retained a unique measurement component of the BSU School of Nursing culture.
Although the initial psychometric analyses were promising, a number of issues need to be addressed. First, the data are limited to a single school of nursing in the northwestern United States, so testing must occur at other institutions in schools of nursing and other academic departments to determine whether the instrument remains useful in other settings. In addition, the level of conflict scale had a low internal consistency reliability (alpha = 0.49), so further work is needed to determine other items that might be included to improve the reliability of this scale. The question about perceived amount of change in the BSU School of Nursing did not relate to other scales and items, so further work is needed in this area as well. Because the CCAS is a relatively new instrument, further psychometric testing is needed to confirm or improve validity and reliability estimates reported in this article.
Validating an instrument is always a work in progress and includes questions such as:
- “Are there other elements of departmental culture and climate that need to be included on the instrument?”
- “How sensitive is the instrument to cultural and climate changes?”
- “Are there some areas that appear to be more critical to cultural and climate change compared to others?”
Further efforts are needed to address these questions.
- Baker, G. (Ed.). (1992). Cultural leadership: Inside America’s community colleges. Washington, DC: Community College Press.
- Borrevik, B.A. Jr.. (1972). The construction of an organizational climate description questionnaire for academic departments, colleges and universities (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from WorldCat Dissertations and Theses database. (Order No. 27311559)
- Duxbury, M.L., Henley, B.A. & Armstrong, G.D. (1982). Measurement of the nursing organizational climate of neonatal intensive care units. Nursing Research, 31, 83–88. doi:10.1097/00006199-198203000-00005 [CrossRef]
- Edwards, D. (1984). An analysis of faculty perceptions of deans’ leadership behaviors and organizational climate in baccalaureate schools of nursing (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (AAT 8420871)
- Fong, C.M. (1993). A longitudinal study of the relationships between overload, social support, and burnout among nursing educators. Journal of Nursing Education, 32, 24–29.
- Glisson, C. (2007). Assessing and changing organizational culture and climate for effective services. Research on Social Work Practice, 17, 736–747. doi:10.1177/1049731507301659 [CrossRef]
- Halpin, A.W. & Croft, D.B. (1963). The organizational climate of schools. Chicago, IL: Midwest Administration Center, The University of Chicago.
- Johnson, J.J. & McIntye, C.L. (1998). Organizational culture and climate correlates of job satisfaction. Psychological Reports, 82, 843–850.
- Lewis, J.H. (1991). An analysis of the relationship between the power orientation of deans and organizational climate in colleges and schools of nursing (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (ATT 9205403).
- Lubbert, V.M. (1995). Structure and faculty perception of climate in schools of nursing. Western Journal of Nursing Research, 17, 317–327. doi:10.1177/019394599501700307 [CrossRef]
- Moos, R.H. (1986). Work environment scale manual (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologists Press.
- Moos, R.H. (2003). The social climate scales: A user’s guide (3rd ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Mind Garden.
- Mosser, N.R. (2000). A study of the relationship between the perceived leadership style of nursing chairpersons and the organizational climate in baccalaureate nursing programs (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from ProQuest Dissertations and Theses database. (ATT 9999952)
- Netemeyer, R.G., Bearden, W.O. & Subhash, S. (2003). Scaling procedures: Issues and applications. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.
- Nunnally, J.C. & Bernstein, I.H. (1994). Psychometric theory (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.
- Schulte, M., Ostroff, C. & Kinicki, A.J. (2006). Organizational climate systems and psychological climate perceptions: A cross-level study of climate-satisfaction relationships. Journal of Occupational & Organizational Psychology, 79, 645–671. doi:10.1348/096317905X72119 [CrossRef]
- Shim, M. (2010). Factors influencing child welfare employee’s turnover: Focusing on organizational culture and climate. Children and Youth Services Review, 32, 847–856. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2010.02.004 [CrossRef]
- Springer, P.J. & Clark, C.M. (2007). “Go live in ‘05”—From hierarchy to shared governance in higher education. Academic Leadership: The Online Journal, 5(1). Retrieved from http://www.academicleadership.org/search/q:go%20live
- Springer, P.J., Clark, C.M., Strohfus, P. & Belcheir, M. (2012). Using transformational change to improve organizational culture and climate in a school of nursing. Journal of Nursing Education, 51, 81–88. doi:10.3928/01484834-20111230-02 [CrossRef]
- Verbeke, W., Volgering, M. & Hessels, M. (1998). Exploring the conceptual expansion within the field of organizational behavior: Organizational climate and organizational culture. E-Journal of Management Studies, 35, 303–329. Retrieved from http://www.tinbergen.nl/discussionpapers/96150.pdf doi:10.1111/1467-6486.00095 [CrossRef]
- Whitley, M.P. & Putzier, D.J. (1994). Measuring nurses’ satisfaction with the quality of their work and work environment. Journal of Nursing Care Quality, 8(3), 43–51. doi:10.1097/00001786-199404000-00008 [CrossRef]
Descriptive Statistics for Scales and Context Items
|Scale or Context Item||No. of Responses||Mean||SD||Minimum||Maximum|
|Decision support scale||131||20.00||4.00||8.05||26.79|
|General work satisfaction scale||129||20.00||4.00||8.47||24.38|
|Overall morale among employees in the department||128||4.03||1.48||1.00||6.00|
|Personal level of stress due to employment||129||2.28||0.90||1.00||4.00|
|Amount of change perceived in the department at the current time||130||1.71||0.89||1.00||5.00|
|Valid N (listwise)||126|
Pearson Product–Moment Correlations Among Scales and Items (N = 131)
|3. Decision support||0.41||0.56||0.21||−0.15||0.35|
|6. Personal stress||0.28||0.47|
|7. Change in department||0.06|
|8. Morale in department|
Coefficients for Predicting General Work Satisfaction Using Scales and Context Items
|Model||B(Unstandardized)||Standard Error ofB||β (Standardized)||tTest||Significance Level|
|Decision support scale||0.27||0.07||0.27||4.00||< 0.001|
|Personal level of stress due to employment||0.30||0.28||0.07||1.10||0.273|
|Amount of change perceived in the department at the current time||0.14||0.25||0.03||0.57||0.572|
|Overall morale among employees in the department||1.04||0.22||0.38||4.73||< 0.001|