Training and Development: The Fuel for Sustaining a Positive Culture

Excerpt from “Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth” by Jason Richmond.

Managing and sustaining a culture shift can take on an energy of its own. The initial stages require intense attention, stimulating excitement, and an intimate awareness of actions. But as time passes, the trend is for companies to decrease their attention on and awareness of their goals. To combat this, it is vital to keep culture at the forefront of meetings, conversations, and everyday life.

Leaders must lead by example and continue to demonstrate company values. Recognition and rewards need to be targeted at the changes you are trying to drive and implement. Furthermore, continued training is essential to keep employees engaged in the mission and help them understand the benefits that go with it.

Sir Richard Branson, the flamboyant founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, provides a thought-provoking perspective. “Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” He points out that many organizations resist investing in employee training and development because they fear that if they do so, people will leave, lured by competitors. He believes this thinking is convoluted. “What they should fear is not training them and then they stay.”

Training is a never-ending undertaking. As Xerox’s Bala Sathyanarayanan told me, “Continuous management training is critical to employee development. Develop curriculum that enhances your managers’ employee development and leadership skills.”

Lack of development and the opportunity to learn are significant drivers of disengagement and turnover, especially with younger employees. You need to continually ask yourself how successful your organization is at growing your talent. A simple metric is the number of your managers who have been promoted from within. Ideally, you want to shoot for 70 to 80 percent, assuming you have the right raw talent and methods to develop their leadership skills in the first place.

Begin with Values

Organizational values are the foundation of a strong culture. Employees need to understand these are fundamental behavioral expectations and not simply words or definitions on a poster or Website.

Develop a series of training and education initiatives around the behaviors and skills that employees need to live these values. For example, if a key value is customer service, what do employees need to know about customer service? What are they good at? What are their skill gaps? Perhaps innovation is a core value. What can you do to enhance innovation in your teams?

Develop Your Leaders and Managers

Many organizations unfortunately neglect the importance that learning and development play at the top of an organization. Leaders set the stage for everything your employees say and do. Continuous management training is critical to employee development. Engaging the hearts, minds, and hands of talent is the most sustainable source of competitive advantage. Use assessment tools such as 360-degree feedback that allow managers to hear from their teams on how well they are doing to ensure that development is a two-way street.

In addition, managers themselves should be coached to become better leaders. Develop curricula that enhance your managers’ employee development and leadership skills. When leaders are talent creators, you have magnified your learning and development reach and impact ten-fold. Learning and development at this level creates intention and accountability. When managers have the capacity to model what is expected, they also can lead and manage the performance of their employees with trust and credibility.

Train Your Field Employees

These employees are the face of your organization and to succeed, they need support. They are also your future leaders, and their development will pay you back time and time again.

The companies that truly get it focus their time and energy on maximizing the potential of their employees, bringing everyone to the table, providing experiences and training that benefit not only the company but the employees, as well.

People want to have a feeling of moving forward rather than being stagnant—and the companies that understand this invest in those undertakings. Put effort into trying to tie their professional goals to their personal goals and tracking to make sure they’re on pace for what they want, as opposed to only what the company wants.

Involve Other Stakeholders

No one is better equipped to tell you if you are meeting their expectations than your customers. For example, if a value is to “delight your customers,” who is better suited to define what delight actual means? Involving customers and vendors in your training initiatives is a great way to demonstrate teamwork and collaboration.

Learning Is Not One Size Fits All

Be creative and flexible in how you deliver and reinforce learning and development. Training does not have to be—in fact, it should NOT be—all about putting people into a classroom for a day.

Face-to-face training in groups has its place, but we see more and more companies adopt a blended approach. Instructor-led online training with today’s technology and tools can be as interactive and dynamic as the face-to-face experience while cutting travel costs and time. And absolutely necessary because of the current Coronavirus crisis.

Short online meetings where participants share success stories and brainstorm ideas not only sustain learning but also create accountability. Such events also can build on continuous improvement with the sharing of best practices. Book clubs and discussions and brown bags (which can be virtual) also enhance sustainability and allow you to expose employees to experts from outside the company. Stretch assignments and cross training develop your people for the future while expanding current resources. Mentorship programs can decrease turnover, especially among newer hirers, and help improve diversity.

Becoming a company with a culture that makes employees want to work for you and customers want to do business with you means you can continue to grow and sustain that growth. In his book, “Hit Refresh,” Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, emphasizes the importance of the CEO as instigator and manager of culture. He writes, “The CEO is the curator of an organization’s culture. Anything is possible for a company when its culture is about listening, learning, and harnessing individual passions and talents to the company’s mission.”

I would take that perspective one step further: With a strong training and development strategy for all employees, each one of them becomes a curator of your organization’s culture.

Excerpt from “Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth” by Jason Richmond.

Jason Richmond is president/CEO and chief culture officer for Ideal Outcomes, Inc., and author of “Culture Spark: 5 Steps to Ignite and Sustain Organizational Growth.” He is an authority on helping companies build strong, sustained revenue growth by empowering their employees and developing energizing office cultures. Richmond and his team deliver online courses and coaching, as well as in-house workshops and seminars. During his career of more than 20 years, Richmond has partnered with numerous start-up companies to help build solid foundations that have enabled them to become noted industry leaders. He has worked closely with established Fortune 100 companies to create Leadership Development Journeys. And he has provided thought leadership and innovative consulting services to a wide range of mid-size companies. Connect with him at: