by D. Romero | July 21, 2011 | 7 Min Read

Enlist Your Best in Culture Change

What’s Talked About Vs. What’s Lived

Okay, we’ve all been through it—the interview where we really wanna land the gig. We’ve arranged ourselves methodically in our chairs to convey a sense of our openness, our approachability, and our utmost competence. We’ve not chewed gum, we’ve not bitten our nails, and we’ve not deprecated our former employers. Our boss-to-be (fingers crossed) seems pleased and starts to let us in on her vision: the company is changing to be more innovative and light on its feet. Employees spend time each day reviewing industry trends, scanning blogs, and brainstorming new solutions together. Calm and collected we say, “It sounds like a great fit.” Warp ahead. It’s the first day, and we are ready to roll. Our supervisor introduces us to Jerry—he’ll help show us the ropes. We’re alert and excited—until Jerry tells us, “Oh, about that (fantastic-sounding initiative that inspired us to even start flossing again)…Yeah, well, we don’t really do it that way. We do it this way…” Tires screech. Chances are, we’re all too familiar with this situation, where we perceive a difference between what an organization says about its culture and how its employees actually live the culture. What gives?

Where Employees Get Their Training

“Too often, CEOs hand over responsibility to people who may seem to represent them well on the surface but rarely do,” says Bernie Marcus, co-founder of Home Depot in an article called Creative Employee Training Ideas. According to Leadership IQ, a research and management consulting firm, 67% of employees learn about their jobs from coworkers rather than their bosses. Paul Glover describes this as a “disaster waiting to happen” in a Fast Company blog entry titled Training New Employees.  Apparently, coworkers have the power to significantly undermine the culture leadership seeks to build. Yikes. Glover writes, “The training of new employees is one of the most critical functions in any organization! Not necessarily for teaching the skill set new employees need to be able to do the job, but for the proper inculcation of the new employee into the organization's culture.”

“Core Employees”

So what can an organization do to advocate proper inculcation (or however you say it)? Put training in the hands of the “Core Employees,” the ones with abs so firm they can walk a tightrope without a flinch! Or rather, those individuals who are doing the best work in the company. notes how’s Snagger U program ups employee engagement by enlisting in-house experts to teach classes on a variety of topics. At Unboxed, we’ve seen in real time how the majority of our clients’ employees learn largely from their colleagues—regardless of the size of the company. From Day One and throughout their careers, employees work closely with peers by asking questions and sharing best practices. Think about how many times you’ve been told, “Go watch how that guy does it.” Let’s hope that guy is actually doing it well. He might be a Jerry. Training should supplement, encourage, enhance and give structure to who’s and what’s already working in an organization. That’s why we partner with our clients to identify mentorship and peer training opportunities within the learning journeys we create together. And that’s why we help our clients identify those Core Employees who will be champions of positive change, and then empower those associates to both lead by example and help others understand the value of it.

A Caution and a Kind Hand

Glover warns, “If you don't have a Pre-Boarding Program, and an Onboarding Program and are not using Core Employees as trainers, expect high turnover and a dilution of your company's culture in a relatively short period of time.” Why have your Jerrys do your most important work? Instead, you could enlist your trusted Core Employees to win the culture war—and not only that—you can even engage them in building your training content, since they have the experience and the right moves. Not sure how to do it? We can help. Send us a note or give us a call at 804.888.6222.
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