Workplace culture is a living thing. In a way, it affirms the old saying, you are what you eat. If you feed aspects of culture well, they will grow and thrive – and vice versa. Contributor Chris CEO – PeopleG2, and author of The Power of Company Culture
In my research on what makes top companies tick, I compiled some basics about great culture as well as seven distinct pillars that support it. Developmental programmes for your staff automatically contribute to these cultural elements, from how you satisfy workers’ fundamental needs to how your organisation handles pillars such as transparency, effective communication, et cetera. The question is, are you providing good nutrition or risking vitamin deficiency?
Your staff could probably answer that fairly easily, but they’re not likely to come out and tell you. They know that training is supposed to be “good for you,” and after all, the boss is paying for it. Do continue to ask for employee input and feedback about the programs you offer; but analyze the responses in light of your overall cultural structure. Here’s how.
Feed Your Cultural Foundation
Culture should boost the business, and business practices should boost the culture. I group foundational issues as those surrounding an organization’s mission, vision, and values, as well as the company’s focus on how it serves its employees and its customers. In other words, how does what you do forward the company’s practical and ethical goals? How does it help the workers who help you? And how does it ultimately serve customers?
All of your educational investments (and other important decisions) should be made with these cultural objectives in mind. How your company selects training topics and programs, and how you choose to implement them, directly affect your cultural foundation. Suppose you’re considering anti-harassment instruction. That’s a go if, say, your mission and vision are inclusive, and you have a core value centered on personal respect. If you prevent or address abuse issues in training, you contribute to a more secure environment for workers. When you do that, your customers may benefit from the better service that confident employees can provide.
But what about topics that are not considered mandatory for the whole team? Or the wiggle room in how you ask staff to engage in learning? This is where you consider feeding workers as individuals by addressing their shared human needs as well as their wish to distinguish themselves. Make work and learning positive experiences by addressing the universal desire for autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
Some measure of self-control motivates people to engage in their jobs. Build autonomy into your training rationale by giving your staff some kind of choice—whether it’s a particular subject that interests them, online versus in-person instruction, or even just when or where they fit training into their day.
Likewise, the desire to master a pursuit creates enthusiasm to do well, even for job tasks that are less attractive. Include mastery in your developmental plan with well-crafted lessons that allow for step-by-step learning, followed by a practical module in which folks can test out their new knowledge. You might offer targeted training so that employees can choose to learn more about what they’re already good at—a sure way to satisfy the desire for mastery.
Tying discrete assignments like tutorials to a larger goal is also a motivator to do good work. Add purpose to theoretical learning, like anti-harassment protocols, by informing participants what that training means to their jobs, their coworkers, and the company. Considerate treatment of others removes the drama from office politics, keeps colleagues safe and happy, and relieves the company from liability problems that might make the business less profitable and employment less secure.
Considering these basics in your training decisions will have a trickle-down effect. With their needs taken into account, employees feel valued and return that trust through good work. When they do their best, your customers will be well served, adding to a positive business image.
Strengthen Cultural Supports
Most business leaders meet with some resistance when inviting staff to learn new things. Tying learning to a positive workplace culture shows people what’s in it for them. Tap into the support pillars and turn them to your advantage. For instance, if you want to promote transparency, you can employ training to further that effort.
Suppose your goal in being transparent is to encourage workers to understand how their performance impacts the company’s bottom line. You can train your team to read and interpret profit and loss statements, departmental accounting, or market share reports so they can see where greater or lesser efficiency or accuracy on their part affects the company financially.
If you’re training folks in a new software program, you might leverage your cultural stance on handling mistakes. Businesses with good culture and faith in innovation welcome rather than punish mistakes. Learning a new computer program is fertile ground for this issue, so use those awkward failures that are bound to arise as teaching moments toward improvement. This will help you reinforce the position that honest mistakes are grounds for learning, growing, and finding the next big opportunity that might push your company ahead of the competition or meet a humanitarian goal.
The remainder of my seven pillars – positivity, measurement, acknowledgement, uniqueness, and listening – can all be highlighted in any developmental program. By bringing them up in concert with job-related education, you’ll remind your employees of your commitment to the things that help form an enjoyable and productive culture. To reinforce these elements, keep them in mind as you make your decisions on what to teach and how your people can best learn.
Since any type of tutorial you offer is going to feed your culture, you may as well choose to nurture these supports. A lack of thought or lack of attention to basic needs will only cause you to miss this opportunity. Instead of highlighting transparency issues, which show people the relevance of information to their jobs, for instance, the junk-food approach might be to tell them to learn something new because you said so. If that doesn’t work with your kids at home, it surely will not fly as a motivator for employees who serve your customers.
Of all the choices you make in investing your developmental funds, choosing to underscore your cultural values as you teach your team new things will vastly increase your ROI. Not only will your employees gain skills and experience, they’ll gain a better understanding of why they should and what the benefits will be. That goes a long way toward getting people on board with yet another training session, and toward creating a culture of learning in your organization.