Assessing and Managing Organizational Climate in Healthcare Organizations: An Intellectual Capital Based Perspective

Assessing and Managing Organizational Climate in Healthcare Organizations: An Intellectual Capital Based Perspective

Daniela Carlucci (University of Basilicata, Potenza, Italy) and Giovanni Schiuma (University of Basilicata, Potenza, Italy, & Cranfield School of Management, Bedford, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/jisss.2012100103
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Abstract

During the past two decades a renewed interest about the role of intangible resources in determining performances of public services organisations has risen. This is particularly valid for HealthCare (HC) services, as they are knowledge intensive services and their performance are closely related, as the vast majority of their outputs, to intangible resources. Recently, scholars have examined the relevance of organisational climate for gathering outstanding performance in HC services. Literature suggests that organisational climate is a multifaceted concept deeply rooted in the intangible domain of an organisation. Several intangible resources intervene to shape organisational climate. Following this, the study shows how Intellectual Capital (IC) provides a useful and fresh frame for analysing intangible components of organisational climate and planning initiatives for their effective management. Especially, the examination of organisational climate through IC lens is proposed both as diagnosing tool for identifying elements which are hindering productivity, effectiveness and quality of HC services, and as tool for supporting managers in designing management initiatives aimed to enhance organisational performances by leveraging organisational climate. The study is based on the Action Research (AR) methodology and illustrates the results of an AR project, carried out at a public hospital.
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Introduction

The reform of Healthcare (HC) sector that encompassed most OECD countries in the last 15 years and the diffusion of the New Public Management philosophy (Kettl, 2000; Pollit, 1995), has called and continues to call HC organisations for improved service quality, accountability, autonomy, contracting mechanisms, performance measures, targets, cost reduction and competition (Habersam & Piber, 2003; Wall, 2009).

In this dynamic scenario, HC organizations have increased their interest towards the effective assessment and management of organisational intangible resources. This is because HC services are knowledge intensive services and their performance are basically founded, as the vast majority of their outputs, on intangible resources. Recently, several scholars have examined the relevance of intangible resources for gathering outstanding performance in HC services (e.g., Habersam & Piber, 2003; Zigan et al., 2008). However the studies are still few and more knowledge is needed about the role and the value of intangible resources in HC organisations (Van Beveren, 2003).

Research has suggested organisational climate as an intangible factor which significantly affects performance of HC organisations. Several studies have stressed the link between climate and a variety of important performances at the individual, group and organizational levels within HC organizations (see e.g., Appelbaum, 1984; Jackson-Malik, 2005; Mok & Au-Yeung, 2002; Wienand et al., 2007). In fact organisational climate exerts a powerful influence on the behaviour of employees in workplace and plays a crucial role in any organisational process improvement.

From the analysis of literature it emerges that organisational climate is a multifaceted concept which is related to employees’ shared perceptions of their organization, with respect to several features such as autonomy, trust, cohesiveness, support, recognition, innovation, and fairness, people interactions and structural aspects. These features are basically related to the intangible and knowledge domain of an organisation or, in other terms, to the Intellectual Capital (IC). In light of this, this study addresses organisational climate adopting an IC perspective. In fact, as several intangible resources shape organisational climate, it is believed that IC provides a useful and fresh frame by which to analyse organizational climate.

Adopting IC lens to examine organizational climate encompasses several strategic and managerial advantages. First, it can facilitate the strategic integration and alignment between the initiatives concerning the assessment and management of organizational climate and the actions of assessment and management of IC. This supports the understanding of how organizational climate and its management relate to strategic objectives and initiatives aimed to assess and manage IC within the organisation.

Additionally, having a detailed view of intangible elements which found organizational climate, allows planning, in a more focused way, the management initiatives directed to improve climate. In other terms, knowing the building blocks of climate facilitates their assessment and the identification of those elements which undermine a satisfying climate and, then, require to be improved by targeted management initiatives. These initiatives, in turn, can be more easily aligned and, generally, related to the strategic management of organisation’s IC. Finally, looking at organizational climate through IC lens, allows to better understand how the management of certain components of IC can influence organizational climate.

Adopting IC lens to disentangle and examine organisational climate can then usefully support the assessment and management of this “enduring organisational characteristic.” In fact IC provides a valuable frame for analysing intangible components of climate and planning initiatives for their effective management. In other terms, looking at climate through IC lays the foundation for exploring in details the intangible components of organizational climate and, also, a basis for their assessment and management.

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