Climate Surveys and the 360° “Deep dive”

 In Articles

Thornhill has noticed an increase in the number of companies and organisations wanting to conduct climate surveys. This is a welcome response to what is, in South Africa, the most trying of times.

Anecdotally, it seems that anxiety levels are at an all-time high. This is true of individuals and in companies, whether they be large or small, commercial, non-profit or state owned.

Instinctively we know the reasons for this increase. COVID-19 has affected our physical, mental and economic health and disrupted the normal working of society. The South African economy was already stumbling and losing jobs before the pandemic arrived and made everything worse. Those who have jobs worry if they will keep them, and those without jobs worry each day about food and rent and their children’s future.

Everywhere we look there is uncertainty about our future, from a political, economic and public health point of view. This is true worldwide, but South Africa seems to have perfected the art of concentrating these anxieties even more, with criminal and personal violence an additional concern for far too many citizens.

Employees not engaged in direct service delivery or manual labour have ridden the rollercoaster from lockdown to work from home, to back at work or “hybrid” work, sometimes at the office and sometimes at home. Each of these changes has brought its own complexities and anxieties.

Perhaps we should all give ourselves a little credit for not having simply collapsed in a heap.

It makes sense, then, for responsible managers to be asking: “How are our staff doing? What is the mood at work?” Climate and engagement surveys are one important way of getting answers to those questions. Conducting the survey is a good start. Developing a plan that responds to what the survey tells us, is an absolutely essential next step.

Thornhill has both a climate and an engagement survey available for immediate online use. It is a simple matter to customise these surveys to meet a company’s particular requirements. We also have organisational development and analytical capacity to help companies understand what the survey is telling them, and to develop and implement any developmental or remedial steps to improve the atmosphere in the company.  

While staff surveys are important, especially in large companies with many staff, we would like to suggest that the 360° feedback process can be used as a supplementary, or even alternative tool to assess what is going on in your company.

The 360° Deep Dive – An additional tool
Usually, 360° assessments are used for personal understanding and development – giving individual managers feedback on how their colleagues experience them as leaders, thinkers, supporters and doers. This gives managers an opportunity to reflect on using their strengths more effectively and finding key areas where personal development might benefit themselves and their company.

Thornhill has a way to add deep organisational insight into the benefits that 360° assessments can deliver to the company. We do this by unpacking the link between leadership behaviour and the prevailing climate. It works like this:

Step 1

Thornhill administers 360° assessments for the company’s senior and middle management, using our standard questionnaires, which can be modified to meet the company’s specific requirements.

Step 2

Thornhill provides 360° feedback coaching to each participant receiving a report. It is our experience that during these sessions a variety of issues that affect the company climate will surface. For example, managers may indicate that their workload is so heavy they don’t have sufficient time to support their staff. Those giving feedback to the managers may indicate that there is an authoritarian culture in which staff are not encouraged to contribute their ideas to making the work more efficient, or that they are not provided with enough information about the company’s strategic direction. These, and many other such insights can help us to understand “what is going on” in the company.

The coaches take careful notes of all such issues as they arise (ensuring anonymity by removing any identifying information) and look for patterns that emerge over many feedback sessions.

Step 3

Thornhill produces a written report for the company that is drawn from two sources. The first is the Group Summary Report that is automatically generated and aggregates the results of all the 360 feedback. The second is the collation of insights from the coaches who facilitated feedback coaching sessions. This report is then presented to and discussed with the company’s senior management. If required Thornhill can work with the company to produce a strategy for improving the climate based on that discussion.

A deeper analysis
Climate surveys will tell you a lot about the mood in the company and can present useful information about differences between different levels of staff, and between different departments or locations. In large companies a survey makes it possible to get to all levels of staff.

The reports, drawn from the 360° feedback process described above, tell you about more than the climate. They will give you important insights into why the climate is what it is, the role of management in creating that climate, and changes in leadership behaviour that could lead to improvements in the climate.

The climate survey and the 360° feedback deep dive can be used to complement and enrich each other, or be used in alternative years in the company. Smaller organisations planning to conduct a 360° feedback process may choose to add this deep dive as an alternative to doing a climate survey as well.

Please contact Thornhill to discuss which option would work best for your company, and to learn how we might assist you to understand and then improve the climate in your company.

What lessons have you learnt from conducting climate surveys in your organisation?

For information on Thornhill’s various products and services, please contact us on admin@thornhill.co.za.

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