Mission Climate Measurement: a new validated scale
Despite the level of interest surrounding mission statements and their internalization in organizations, there is a lack of a valid construct to measure the sense of mission in organizational climate surveys. The aim of this exploratory study is to define and validate an instrument to assess the perception of the implementation of the mission in everyday routines. A sample of 132 employees from two companies completed the questionnaire to probe the scale’s reliability and validity. A principal components analyses (PCAs) were conducted, taking the three dimensions separately. Later, a confirmatory analysis of the entire scale, which was a factor analysis using structural equation modelling (SEM) techniques, taking into accounts the three aforementioned dimensions. The scale is composed of ten items arranged in three dimensions: sensemaking of the mission, employee mission engagement, and organizational alignment. These scales provide clues to human resources managers about how to define and implement the mission to ensure that it will be interiorized by all members of the company. This new scale provides scholars with a comprehensive way to measure and assess the presence of the mission in the organizational climate and provides human resources managers with a useful kit to apply within their organizations.
While managers pay ample attention to determining the correct strategy for the company, they often lack a basic understanding of the perceptions, feelings and attitudes of their employees (measured by the organizational climate). This ignorance frequently provokes organizations to lose effectiveness and motivation in their employees, who are their most valuable resource. Therefore, it is relevant for organizations to measure and understand the organizational climate to effectively apply human resource development policies and practices.
Actually, some pioneering studies introduced and developed the organizational climate concept in the 1960s (Likert, 1967 & Kaczka & Kirk, 1968). According to Hellriegel & Slocum (1974), the organizational climate refers to “a set of attributes which can be perceived about a particular organization and/or its subsystems, and that may be induced from the way that organization and its subsystems deal with their members and environment”. The more recent definition of Patterson et al. (2005) considered the climate to be “employees’ perceptions of their organizations”. The psychological climate is referred to as an individual level of analysis, but most recent research focuses on the aggregate level (departmental or organizational climate constructs).
In sum, the organizational climate refers to a set of characteristics that can be perceived about a specific company. It shows the employees’ shared perceptions of their work environment. Many previous studies have worked to conceptualize, measure, and use organizational climate constructs. There have been several different data-based studies published in important journals to identify the appropriate construct for climate surveys (Litwin & Stringer, 1968; Payney et al., 1976; O’Sullivan, 2007; Thumin & Thumin, 2011, among others) and its relationship with other constructs, such as that of McMurray et al. (2004), who studied the relationship between organizational commitment and organizational climate. Additionally, other studies have focused on some aspects of the climate instrument, such as the ‘Transfer Climate Instrument’ of Holton et al. (1997) and the ‘Open Innovation Climate Measure’ of Remneland‐Wikhamn & Wikhamn (2011). However, after a literature review, there are few well-validated measures that consider mission statement aspects (Payne et al. 1992 or Patterson et al., 2005, among others). For instance, Patterson et al. (2005) measure the “clarity of organizational goals”, a topic related to the mission statement; however, no previous studies have focused on the employees’ perceptions of the mission deployment in their regular activities.
Indeed, one cannot forget that the mission becomes visible to employees in different ways. The mission statement is just a declaration of the organization’s reason for being, revealing what it wants to be and who it wants to serve (David, 1989; Bart, 2001), but the sense of mission is something different. The sense of mission is commonly understood as the employees’ commitment to the company’s mission (Campbell & Yeung, 1991; Davies & Glaister, 1997; Baetz & Kenneth, 1998; Bart et al., 2001). This commitment is necessary to fuel a real effect on employee behavior (Bart et al., 2001); on the other hand, without this commitment, defining a mission can even be counterproductive (Ireland & Hitt, 1992).
Currently, there is a need to measure the organizational climate while keeping in mind the employees’ sense of mission. Therefore, the objective of this paper is to present and validate a scale composed of three dimensions (sensemaking of the mission, employee mission engagement, and organizational alignment) to propose an integral approach to measuring the organizational climate. This measurement is theoretically grounded and empirically validated in a new mission-based managing framework. Our paper demonstrates the usefulness and adequacy of our climate measures in terms of reliability and discriminant and external validity. This new scale offers researchers and practitioners an original approach to evaluate the organizational climate from the point of view of the mission statement. We hope that human resource managers will improve their policies and practices toward the better development of their employees.
To achieve this objective, the second section offers a literature review of organizational climate measures. In section three, three dimensions are proposed to compose the entire scale. Next, in section four, the methodology and results are shown. Finally, the last section offers a discussion and some managerial implications.
2. Organizational climate measures
The first publication about the concept of climate and the relevance of measuring the climate construct was published in the early 1960s (e.g., McGregor, 1960; Litwin & Stringer, 1968). One of the best known definitions of organizational climate comes from Reichers & Schneider (1990), who defined it as the shared perceptions of employees concerning the practices, procedures, and behaviors that are rewarded and supported in a work setting. More recently, Hong & Kaur (2008) defined organizational climate as the global impression of one’s organization and the personal impact of the work environment, which influence the individual’s work behaviors and job-related attitudes.
According to Neal et al. (2000), the psychological climate refers to individual perceptions of organizational attributes, practices, and procedures. When these evaluations are shared by numerous people within a firm, they are referred to as the organizational climate. As Patterson et al. (2005) state, most empirical studies have applied an aggregate unit of analysis, and now general research focuses on aggregate rather than physiological climates. Therefore, this research proposes a scale measurement of organizational climate that takes into account the employees’ perceptions about the mission’s implementation in the management of the company. We are particularly interested in the way that the mission inspires the employees’ behaviors.
At this point, describing the relationship between climate and culture is required because they are close concepts and might lead to some misunderstandings. James et al. (2008) suggest that climate is behaviorally oriented and represents the patterns of behavior of something specific (e.g., safety or services). Meanwhile, organizational culture refers to when employees are asked why this pattern exists. According to Svyantek & Bott (2004), organizational culture is a set of shared values and norms held by employees that guide their interactions with peers, management, and customers. In contrast, the organizational climate is more behaviorally oriented; in other words, the climate for innovation, safety, or service is the surface manifestation of culture.
The most important and widely used organizational climate measures and their dimensions are summarized in table 1. A wide range of dimensions can be found: from a one-dimension construct to a scale composed of fifteen dimensions. There is also a great variety in terms of the type of dimensions. Moreover, no mission-related dimension is found.
Author(s) and Year
Litwin and Stringer (1968)
Organizational Climate Questionnaire
Campbell et al. (1974)
1. Individual autonomy; 2. Degree of structure imposed on the situation; 3. Reward orientation; 4. Consideration, warmth and support.
James et al. (1981)
1. Role stress and lack of harmony; 2. Job challenges and autonomy; 3. Leadership facilitation and support; 4. Work groups, cooperation, friendliness and warmth.
1. Leader’s psychological distance; 2. Managerial trust and consideration; 3. Communication flow; 4. Open-mindedness, 5. Risk orientation; 6. Service quality; 7. Equity; 8. Centrality.
Koys & deCotiis (1991)
1. Autonomy; 2. Cohesion; 3. Trust; 4. Pressure; 5. Support; 6. Recognition; 7. Impartiality; 8. Innovation.
Payne et al. (1992)
Business Organization Climate Index:
1. Customer service; 2. Impact of information quality; 3. Ability to manage culture.
Patterson et al. (2005)
Organizational Climate Measure (OCM):
1. Autonomy; 2. Integration; 3. Involvement; 4. Supervisory Support; 5. Training; 6. Welfare; 7. Formalization; 8. Tradition; 9. Innovation and Flexibility; 10. Clarity of Organizational Goals; 11. Efficiency; 12. Effort; 13 Performance Feedback; 14. Pressure to Produce; 15. Quality.
Thrush et al. (2007)
Organizational Climate for Research Integrity (OCRI) Survey: (64 survey items):
1. Organizational inputs; 2. Structures; 3. Processes; 4. Outcomes.
Thumin & Thumin (2011)
Survey of Organizational Climate.
Suarez et al. (2013)
Organizational Climate Scale (CLIOR):
One-dimension construct (50 items)
Table 1. Some organizational climate measures and their dimensions.
There is a pressing need for well-grounded measures of the level of the mission’s implementation in companies. Therefore, this study seeks to partially bridge this gap by suggesting a measure of the sense of mission climate. Measuring certain aspects of the organizational climate can reveal some improvements to help successfully internalize the mission and hence improve the alignment of the people’s behaviors regarding the mission’s values. The internalization of the mission refers to the way in which employees assume the mission as their own and allow it to become a part of their personal beliefs and values.
3. Measurement of the Mission Organizational Climate
According to previous studies in this field (Bart et al, 2001; Suh et al., 2011; Wang, 2011; among others), we propose three dimensions related to different aspects of the sense of mission in companies: (1) sensemaking of the mission, (2) employee mission engagement, and (3) organizational alignment.
Sensemaking of the mission
In recent decades, many companies have conducted the exercise of defining institutional principles or mission statements. These principles, commonly defined under headings such as mission, vision, values, credo, and philosophy (Abrahams, 1999; Leuthesser & Kohli, 1997, Blair Loy et al., 2011) capture an organization’s ‘reason for being’ and identity (Wang, 2011). The mission considers the organizational purpose and enables the sensemaking of the business and its processes and practices. These statements are of great relevance to the company, as they facilitate consistency in the definition and implementation of its strategy (Drucker, 1974; Ireland & Hitt, 1992; George, 2001; Vasconcellos e Sá et al., 2011). They are also a source of motivation and emotional security for employees (Kanter, 2009; Rey & Mas, 2013) and sometimes have an impact on the performance of the company (Bart et al., 2001; Desmidt et al., 2011).
However, publishing the mission and values on a website or hanging up posters around the office is one thing; getting employees to truly internalize these principles is quite another (Campbell & Nash, 1992). To increase the mission sensemaking (hereafter, SM), many companies put great effort into carrying out communication actions. However, quite often, these initiatives do no produce the expected results (Bart, 1997; Bart and Baetz, 1998; Bartkus & Glassman, 2008). To stimulate employees to truly understand the mission, we need a combination of various types of communication actions, which integrate the mission into everyday practices and into the reality of company employees.
Following the sensemaking theory of communication, sensemaking is crucial because it is the principal site where meanings emerge that inform and limit identity and action to human behavior (Weick et al., 2005). According to Wang (2011), the SM of the management philosophy is ‘the process through which individuals develop cognitive maps of the management philosophy’. Therefore, SM is related to the process through which individuals understand the company’s mission. SM is especially relevant because normally the philosophy and mission are abstract concepts, and employees do not know how to act to incorporate these concepts. Therefore, SM is the first step in really knowing how to put the mission into practice and to achieve the company mission (Wang, 2011).
To expand their knowledge of the mission and to encourage its internalization throughout an organization, employees must have explicit knowledge of the mission’s content (Nonaka, 1994) to the extent that they are able to explain the mission in their own words (Wang, 2011). In fact, although implicit or tacit knowledge of the mission is an option (Nonaka & Tokoyama, 2003), several studies advise that the mission be formally communicated by members of the organization (Hirota et al., 2010), with special attention paid to the denotative and connotative aspects of the message (Cochran et al., 2008). The denotative aspect refers to the correct interpretation of the meaning of the message, and the connotative aspect refers to the feelings and emotions that emerge in the process of its transmission.
If there is no explicit knowledge of the mission or if it is poorly communicated, the general result will be a lack of awareness or ambiguous or contradictory messages. For this reason, the informative communication of the mission should be an initial step to ensure that employees know the content of the mission and are able to explain it in their own words. To sum up, to know and understand the company’s mission statement is a basic state for a mission-driven organization.
Employee Mission Engagement
In the past two decades, there has been a great deal of interest in employee engagement in organizations. However, there has been little academic and empirical research on this popular topic (Robinson et al., 2004). Employee engagement refers to the individual’s involvement and satisfaction with the company as well as his or her enthusiasm for work (Harter et al., 2002). According to Maslach et al. (2008), engagement is related to involvement, energy, and efficacy—the direct opposite of burnout. In the academic literature, engagement is said to be related to but distinct from other constructs in organizational behavior, such as organizational commitment or job involvement. According to Saks (2006), we can consider employee engagement as “a unique construct that consist of cognitive, emotional, and behavioral components that are associated with individual role performance”. Macey & Schneider (2008) state that employee engagement refers to psychological states, traits and behaviors, as well as their antecedents and outcomes.
Following to Suh et al. (2011), employee engagement can be adopted in mission statement literature. They define employee mission engagement (hereafter, EME) as ‘a psychological state in which an employee desires to exert effort and devote careful attention to ensure the fulfillment of a mission that he or she perceives as significant or meaningful’.
Previous studies have highlighted the motivational nature of the EME concept (Saks, 2006). Employee motivation is one of the main reasons that an organization should define its mission statement (Bart et al., 2001; Ireland & Hitt, 1992; Campbell & Yeung, 1991; Klemm et al., 1991). Previous studies have proposed a relationship between employees’ motivations and mission statements, for instance, in the public sector (Wright 2007) or in non-profit organizations (Kirk, 2010). However, other researchers have suggested that a mission that is truly interiorized and fulfilled within a company instills a strong capacity to contribute to something or to someone, constituting a source of prosocial motivations (Wang, 2011, Mas & Rey, 2013). The potential of this type of motivation (prosocial motivation based on mission statements) is reflected in the concept of EME. Moreover, central to the motivational nature of EME is the notion of an employee’s willingness to invest personal effort and attention to fulfill the mission (Salanova et al., 2005). Therefore, employees with high EME tend to commit to and continue to work toward firm goals. This is an important concept to measure within a climate survey.
In recent decades, several authors have submitted proposals on how to define a mission (Lundberg, 1984; Cochran et al., 2008 Jones & Kahaner, 1995; Collins & Porras, 1996; Abrahams, 1999; Levin, 2000) and to ensure the alignment of the mission and the company’s processes and systems (Bart et al., 2001; Crotts, 2005; Cardona & Rey, 2008). In practice, the mission is implemented from a communicative perspective (Williams, 2008), but it frequently is not integrated into the strategy and management systems that govern day-to-day organization (Bart, 1997). Therefore, companies that already work with the mission must have and use a number of tools to help effectively manage the company’s mission.
The company’s mission should be present in the knowledge and information possessed by all members of the organization. To assure the proper implementation of the company’s mission, its managers should systematize and apply the sense of mission to all aspects of the company. It is therefore important to align the company’s management systems with its mission (Drucker, 1974; Pearce, 1982; Campbell & Nash, 1992; Hirota et al. 2010.).
According to Bart et al. (2001), management systems and processes must be aligned with strategy to achieve a successful mission. When managers design and plan their management systems, they have to align them with their mission statements. Therefore, it is important to consider this variable to measure the influence of the mission in the company’s daily decisions and management processes. A real and active mission must be present in the company’s management systems and decisions, such as budgets, recruitment, planning and employee assessments or rewards (Williams et al., 2014).
On the other hand, to enhance their commitment to the mission, employees need to believe that the organization’s decisions and practices are aligned with its mission (Bart, 2001; Cardona & Rey, 2008; Suh et al., 2010). This aspect is especially relevant when a mission is tested, which may occur, for example, if a company faces the need for layoffs or a client’s costly claim (Jones & Kahaner, 1995). The way that the company acts in these situations, and, more importantly, how this performance is perceived by its employees, is essential for the development of true mission internalization (Campbell & Yeung, 1991; Jones & Kahaner, 1995; Collins & Porras, 1994). If employees do not perceive coherence between a company’s policies and its practices, the mission will gradually lose its credibility. Such a credibility loss may occur due to a lack of coherence or due to ignorance or poor communication, especially among employees who have limited visibility and access to information about the company’s general operations. Therefore, the company must frequently carry out actions to present how the organization manifests its commitment to the mission through evidence, tools, events and company decisions. Such actions promote the employees’ awareness of how the company’s everyday practices are coherent manifestations of the practical applications of the company’s institutional principles.
In this study, the label used for mission-organizational alignment is OA.
4. Method and results
As discussed earlier, empirical and theoretical research on mission statements emphasizes the need for a mission climate measure. There is no measurement of organizational climate that is specifically designed to measure the level of the sense of mission in the company.
A series of meetings with the managers of two companies was conducted to explain the aims of this study. Established in Spain, the first company is a market leader in spare auto parts distribution that now operates in Europe. This company has worked intensively on mission-based management for more than seven years. The second company operates internationally in engineering construction activities, and its headquarters is located in South America. This company has defined its mission statement and has tried to be a mission-driven organization. Before the questionnaire was launched, some pilot managers completed it and suggested some changes to enhance its understanding. Five managers from different companies agreed to participate in the definition and assessment of the questionnaire.
The questionnaire included a section to collect 10 items to assess the constructs explained before. These items were based on previous quantitative studies of the mission statement literature. All of them were measured on a five-point Likert scale. In the last section, the respondents’ socio-demographic information was collected.
The survey was launched in January 2015, and 156 questionnaires were collected, from which only 132 were retained for our analysis (61 from the first company and 71 from the second company).
The data were analyzed in a two-step process. First, any array of three principal components analyses (PCAs) were conducted, taking the three dimensions separately. The unidimensionality construct was proved. The second step was the confirmatory analysis of the entire scale, which was a factor analysis using structural equation modelling (SEM) techniques, taking into account the three aforementioned dimensions. The 6.2 EQS software was used.
Assessing the three dimensions
Table 2 shows the Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin (KMO) measure and Bartlett’s test of sphericity for the three dimensions. These statistics only gave rise to a slight concern with the results from the second PCA, but no special problems were detected. The results confirmed a linear dependence between the variables for each dimension and supported our view that the results were sound.
Bartlett’s test of sphericity
Degrees of freedom
Table 2. KMO indices and Bartlett’s test of sphericity for the three dimensions.
Consequently, the three EFAs (through CFA) were conducted. Table 3 shows the loading factors for each item, proving the individual consistency of the items (0.767 – 0.885). The reliability (internal consistency) of the dimensions is confirmed by the Cronbach’s alphas and the composite reliability (CR), all above 0.7 or near this threshold (Hair et al., 2006). When the state of art is still not consolidated, as is the case when an exploratory analysis is performed, these thresholds can be relaxed to 0.6 (Malhotra, 2004). In addition, the variance extracted for each scale was greater than 0.5.
Scale adapted from
Sensemaking of the mission
Cronbach’s α: 0.820
I could make sense of my company’s mission very well.
I am able to interpret my company’s mission in my own words.
I can explain the mission to people outside the company if required.
Employee mission engagement
(Suh et al. 2010)
Cronbach’s alpha: 0.746
I am motivated by the mission to do my work.
I work hard to ensure X is successful in carrying out our mission.
I carry out the mission when I do my work well.
(Bart el al. 2001)
Cronbach’s alpha: 0.808
To what extent is your current mission statement taken into account when setting up and managing your firm’s operating planning system?
To what extent is your current mission statement taken into account when setting up and managing your firm’s budgeting system?
To what extent is your current mission statement taken into account when setting up and managing your firm’s performance evaluation criteria?
To what extent is your current mission statement taken into account when setting up and managing your firm’s system of rewards?
Table 3. Reliability analysis for the three constructs.
Discriminant validity was analyzed using the linear correlations or standardized covariances between latent factors by examining whether inter-factor correlations were less than the square root of the average variance extracted (AVE). Table 4 shows that the square roots of each AVE were greater than the off-diagonal elements. Discriminant validity was guaranteed.
Diagonal elements are the square roots of average extracted (AVE).
Table 4. Correlation matrices of the three dimensions.
Confirmatory factor analysis for the entire scale
Once the unidimensionality for each dimension was assessed, the second step of the analysis was lunched. It consisted of a confirmatory factor analysis with the 10 items from the three dimensions.
The model was estimated using the robust maximum likelihood method from the asymptotic variance–covariance matrix. The fit indices obtained in the measurement model estimation showed that the variables converged towards the factors established in the CFA (see Table 5). χ2 Satorra–Bentler was 57.84, with 32 degrees of freedom and a p-value of 0.00341. χ2/df was 1.81, which was below the acceptable limit of 5. RMSEA was 0.079, and the comparative fit index (CFI) was 0.915. Bollen’s (IFI) fit index was 0.919, and McDonald’s (MFI) fit index was 0.907. Being cautious about the significance of the robust χ2 statistic and noting the global indicators, the global fit was acceptable. Table 4 shows the standardized solution.
Table 5. Confirmatory factor analysis for the climate scale.
To proceed to a benchmarking exercise between the two companies, the aggregated responses on a scale from 1 to 5 were calculated for each dimension (figure 2). The first company scored higher in the three dimensions. It was expected that the company that scored better in one dimension would also score better in the other two dimensions because of the correlations among them. The findings show better results for the first company because it is a company that has been working since 2008 to implement mission-based management via the policies and practices within the company.
In addition, a multiple group analysis among the two companies has been performed to test the invariance of the correlations of the dimensions across the two companies. The data fit reasonably: the scaled χ2 Satorra–Bentler was 88.31, with 67 degrees of freedom and an associated p-value of 0.042, a CFI of 0.926 and a RMSEA of 0.070. The only correlation that does not operate equivalently in the two companies is the correlation between SM and EME. It shows the differences in the relationship between employees’ understanding of mission and their engagement with it.
Figure 1. A comparison of the mission climate indices of the two companies.
5. Discussion and managerial implications
Successful organizations understand the needs and attitudes of their employees and seek to develop their capabilities. Human resource managers try to create a positive environment where people can work happily and feel that what they do contributes to some personal aims through their engagement with the mission values. Consequently, the company’s performance indicators improve alongside the empowerment of their employees. To assess the fit between personal values and the mission, organizational climate surveys are a powerful tool. The results of these surveys also provide a basis for effective action planning for employee development and organizational change. The climate survey is an important tool to help organizations understand their employees’ perceptions of their working environment. The proposed scale can assess the different dimensions that affect people’s behaviors. Although the working environment in organizations is a topic studied by different authors, it has not been addressed from the perspective of the company’s mission. Organizations’ mission statements are basic starting points that will enable the development and implementation of corporate strategies. In this sense, having indicators that measure the degree of the mission’s internalization, the level of mission-based motivation and the effectiveness of mission-derived management tools is important and useful for making management decisions.
The proposed scale includes three dimensions. The first one (consisting of three items) captures the knowledge of the mission and the sense of this particular mission, which is employees’ first step in internalizing the mission; hence, it is a starting point for assessing the climate. This first dimension provides an answer to “what” the mission in this company is and to what extent the employee knows it. It is not enough to have only superficial knowledge of the mission; it must be fully understood to the point that every employee is able to explain it (Nonaka & Tokoyama, 2003, Cochran et al., 2008, Hirota et al., 2010).
The second dimension (employee mission engagement) relates to the employees’ motivation to feel that they are contributing while they stick to the mission. It provides an answer for “why” an employee should work at this company, which has this explicit statement mission. This dimension is assessed using three items. What are the values that make the employee adhere to the mission and hence feel that it is worth working at this company? This is the conceptualization of the second dimension.
It is not enough to simply know the mission statement (the first dimension); the mission has to motivate employees (the second dimension), and it should be aligned with the company’s management (the third dimension). This third dimension ensures that the management system and processes enable the accomplishment of the mission statement. This last dimension is assessed using four items. To strengthen commitment within the company, employees must believe that the day-to-day decisions are aligned with the mission. Consequently, employees know the reward deserved according to their behaviors. Employees thus have to assess the alignment between actual personal work and the mission statement. Such assessments provide feedback to the employees, which helps them know how their work is valued; hence, they can make any necessary adjustments.
Overall, the scale provides clues to human resources managers about how to define and implement the mission to ensure that it will be interiorized and shared by all members of the company, thus yielding profits in terms of overall performance (financial and non-financial). Nevertheless, this extreme has still not been probed in empirical studies. Future research is needed in this line. These results need to be confirmed using a larger and more representative sample, which would make them more generalizable.
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