Culture has been a buzzword of corporate training and development for the last decade, largely because it is such an important issue to executive teams. Good culture is a highly effective way to retain talent, works as an excellent recruiting tool, and keeps teams engaged in their work. Bad culture, of course, has the opposite effect. So creating and maintaining a great culture is a key business initiative for every HR department and management team.
At first, training culture seems like it would be an easy thing to do. Get an executive or two on camera, have them talk about what’s important to them about the company and culture, and presto, you’ve got your culture video. But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Training culture is one of the most dangerous tasks a company can take on. Do it wrong and it can actually be worse than if you hadn’t done anything at all.
A group of people will naturally settle into some form of culture. It’s the way humans work. So the purpose of training culture is to direct this “settling” in a way that matches the company’s desired outcome. This is most successfully done through a series of nudges rather than one giant push.
The risk comes when the behavior of middle management, line managers, key positions, and long-time employees doesn’t match the culture being trained. Or worse, when those people speak out against it. One store manager can destroy hours of culture training with just a few words.
The first, and most important, tip on training culture is this: start from the top down. Make sure every person on the executive team is completely aligned with the culture and how it will be presented. Then move to the next level of management, then the next, and so on. This might necessitate multiple methods of culture training if a big shift is desired, where the trainers put together an event just for top management, then a different event with different content for line staff. The key is complete buy-in from the top down. Otherwise, you are wasting your time.
The second tip is to be authentic. Employees will see right through a talking head that doesn’t believe what they are saying. If the folks delivering the culture training can’t be authentic, then they haven’t bought into the culture yet. This is a problem you need to root out before you move forward. If the un-authentic person is your CEO, you may need to rethink the basis of your culture and figure out what he or she really believes.
Third, it doesn’t need to be produced at a high level. It is possible to get more authenticity out of a cell phone camera than from a fully produced video shoot. It’s been successfully done across many industries. If you aren’t sure what production level to go for, seek the advice of experienced videographers and trainers. Given the importance of the subject matter, it is worth the money.
Finally, expect slow change and provide constant support. Culture shifts are like turning a giant ocean liner with an undersized rudder. It will eventually lumber around, but it always takes longer than you want it to. It’s not enough to run one training program and think things will change. Company culture is like gardening – it takes pruning, weeding, fertilizer, watering, and constant care.
Talk culture regularly, call out positives, tamp down negatives, and remove people that don’t support it whenever you have to.
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