Change That Lasts: A Grassroots Approach to Improving Organizational Culture in the Weather Service (24)

Elyse Hagner, National Weather Service Office of Organizational Excellence, Silver Spring, MD

 

Abstract:

Numerous studies document the influence organizational health and culture has on the ability to implement change. The National Weather Service recently established an organizational health and culture program under the NWS Office of Organizational Excellence (OOE) to better understand organizational health and culture at the NWS. Since then, OOE has conducted several surveys across the NWS to baseline the current health and culture of the organization, including an Organizational Health Index survey in 2015 and 2017 and an Organizational Culture Inventory survey in 2016.

These surveys have shown that NWS employees are extremely motivated by the NWS mission and enjoy the work that they do, have generally high job satisfaction and customer orientation. Yet, the studies also show that NWS employees are risk averse, employees feel that NWS is not keeping up with innovation, and that trust, belonging, and employee empowerment can be improved.

Where do we go from here? Research has proven that change needs to be ground up to be successful and lasting. The National Weather Service recognizes that a large percentage of the workforce is widely distributed across the country. We recognize that any attempt to transform organizational health and culture for the better needs to be a grassroots approach. Not only is this approach more successful in the long run, it is also more efficient. Many times there's great things already happening to improve and sustain a healthy culture at one office that we can expand upon and share with other offices -- why start over from scratch when you can be building off ideas already developed?

To start building this groundwork, OOE put together a team of volunteers from the field to complete a rotational detail. This detail formed a culture team that focused on learning more about weather service culture, identifying best practices, communicating ideas with the field, and providing resources on culture. Positive outcomes from this team include an upcoming web-based Culture Portal with a repository of culture resources and best practices from across the weather service, methods from improving employee engagement relating to the future of the weather service, and most importantly an avenue to get individuals within the weather service aware and talking about organizational culture. The entire concept was so successful that we plan on having a second iteration of the team to expand on these projects and explore new avenues for facilitating culture change.