BLOGS  >  MAY 24, 2022

Clarity Around Climate and Culture – Part One

BY SVETLANA POPOVIC


Any time organizations prepare to implement any change in the work environment, their primary consideration is the impact on their employees. The first steps organizations take are to create clarity and communicate early, identifying standard terms or vocabulary specific to the implementation.

Establish a common language.
When I coach clients around the work of organizational climate and culture improvement, I find that there are various definitions, perceptions, and iterations of the same terms. Before looking at climate and culture data, the organization needs to understand the terms and how to apply them to their work, celebrating and improving their climate and culture. Establishing a common language is cited by many organizational leaders as being a fundamental cornerstone to successfully implementing any sustainable change in an organization.

Clarify terms.
I coach and consult in education districts and special education consortiums in Illinois. School districts are unique not only in how they are governed by state, local, and union laws, but also by the product they produce – children of all ages and abilities who are educated, well-rounded, contributing members of our society prepared to thrive in trade or undergraduate settings. I am honored to be a member of this profession. Regardless of your organization’s purpose, product, or specialty, what we all have in common are great employees who make the magic happen! Let’s start to clarify the terms “climate” and “culture” to move on to why these ideas are essential to our success and how they’ll lead to change.

Consider the physical work environment.
We often hear about climate described as a tone or feeling and something that is constantly changing. The changing part is correct, but not so much the tone or feeling. Here’s why. When you think about your organization’s climate, think about the environment you ask your employees to work in. How does it set them up for success to complete the work they are asked to do effectively and efficiently? The environment could mean everything from the cleanliness of the space to materials, supplies, tools, technology needs, Wi-Fi bandwidth, furniture, lighting, and everything they need to do their jobs. That’s the climate. I often use the analogy of a rainy day as the climate (no pun intended) and ask, what do you need to succeed in the rain? Answers are simple: raincoat, rain boots, and umbrella are essential to weather the rain successfully. When I have everything that I need to navigate the rainy day successfully, the climate is set.

Your climate will need to adjust yearly.
Let’s now address the always-changing aspect of the climate, which is very important to recognize and address. Every industry has its cadence for how its profession changes and updates itself due to innovations, laws, environment, and supply and demand, among many other factors. In the education industry, because its business is developing children of all ages and abilities to be educated, well-rounded contributing members of our society prepared to thrive in many trades or undergraduate settings, the climate must change every year based on new research in child development, mental health and psychology, learning and brain research, curriculum/publishing advancement, technology accessibility and innovation, post-graduate industry opportunities, and careers not yet identified and the list goes on for why each year, as an industry, climate changes occur.

Create a tool for review.
Because teachers and staff are asked to learn, adjust, and implement according to these industry changes, the employer needs to think about what climate needs (materials, resources, environment space) are necessary to support their employees in being high-performing educators. For this reason, the climate is also the easiest to correct and adjust. If you don't have it, get it, find it, order it, ask for it, train it, and move on. Although not an easy task for any organization, there is one thing that does make this substantially easier, healthier, and more satisfying: the culture. To get you started on this journey, I created a checklist that administrators can download and use to review climate needs in their buildings or districts. Please stay tuned for my next blog when I dive into what culture is and is not.

Get started with this checklist.


Svetlana Popovic
Systems Coaching and Development
Humanex Ventures

Svetlana Popovic is a dynamic educator, leader, and regional education coach. She currently works for Humanex Ventures, a company that supports more than 24 Chicagoland-area districts, from rural to urban. Her specialty areas are culture and climate systems coaching, team or group facilitation, and professional development design. Her work at Humanex encompasses the selection of talent, talent or team growth and development, and implementing goals responsive to culture and climate data. She works with superintendents, boards of education, administrators, and teachers, bringing about a whole-systems approach to her work. Svetlana holds a BA in Psychology and Early Childhood Education from Elmhurst University, a master’s degree in reading, and an EdS in Administration and DEI certification from Northwestern University. Her career path started as a full-day kindergarten teacher and progressed to reading specialist, K-8 instructional coach, and elementary administrator. Her passion is to inspire and equip others to lead and effect change to improve access to learning for all children.

Twitter @SvetsThinkTank   @Humanex 

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