Every organization has a culture, but not all of them are good cultures, and even fewer are great cultures.
Good cultures are customer centric; meaning, they put the customers above themselves. Great cultures do that with both the external customer (those that purchase the products and services) and the internal customer (those working within the organization).
When I ask leaders how they build and maintain their culture, the response I hear most often is, “We hire great people!” Don’t get me wrong, hiring great people is important, but it takes more than that to develop and sustain a great culture. This is where the right process can help.
Processes streamline the activity of an organization. If a manufacturer just hired great people to work on the assembly line and had no process that everyone followed, it would be a disaster! People would have their own ideas of how to get things done, and even if they figured out how to get the work done it wouldn’t be as productive as it could be.
That is exactly what we are doing when we create a culture by only hiring great people. Sure great people are essential to create a customer centric culture, but without a process to follow it will never be as great as it could be.
Here are four advantages the right process can bring to your culture:
Create A Consistent Customer “Touch”
The best organizations create an amazing customer experience by enabling the customer to have a similar experience no matter who they are talking to.
The right customer centric process will keep your people focused on the needs of your customer and solving the problems the customer wants solved. Without a concrete process your people are going to be giving inconsistent “touches” when customer’s engage them. The more often the engagement, the more inconsistent those “touches” become.
Knowing I will receive the same level of customer service every time keeps me going back to the same companies to do business.
When a culture is solely based on hiring good people, I will find a favorite associate to interact with. If I have too many bad experiences as I search for a favorite associate, I will quickly do business elsewhere.
Makes It Easy To Coach
It is extremely difficult to coach to every single employee’s personality as it relates to their job. A process enables the supervisor to see where the employee is doing well, and where they need improvement.
With a process the supervisor can more easily discover where the employee believes they excel and where they want to improve, and they are able to pinpoint these areas more quickly.
A process also makes it easier for the employee to assess themselves. Instead of them saying “I am not a good sales person,” they can point to a part of the process and say, “I need help on this area.”
A great process will never replace or mask an employee’s personality. In fact, it should enhance it. I often tell potential clients that our values based processes “help their people do what they do best more often, more consistently and more effectively.”
A great customer centric process capitalizes on a person’s strengths, enabling the person to use them more often. They can insert those areas of strength into the right process.
A great process will also enable someone to get back on track when they have veered off. Everyone has bad days, even the “great people” you hired! A great customer centric process will enable a person to recognize they are off track and self correct.
The right customer centric process can stand the test of time. Where great people will come and go, causing your culture to ebb and flow like the waves of the sea, a process will keep the waters calm through the chaos of change.
The greatest leaders rely on a process that will outlive them. The right process is what truly creates a legacy. It is dangerous to create a culture based on an individual, because once they are gone the culture they created slowly dies out.
If you have a values based, concrete process you can point at, hire to and coach to, you can also promote to it! In other words, don’t promote someone who isn’t bought into the process that had been sustaining your culture.
Processes should enhance the operations of any organization; creating and sustaining a great customer centric culture requires a process too.
If there is no process in place, your culture is at risk. If all of your people can’t easily describe the process, you don’t have one!
It is interesting to read the headlines about the Millennial generation that has now become such a prominent player within corporate America. Headlines like "Boomers Out, Millennials In" are very telling in how we engage with everyone around us, in every facet of our lives.
I have worked in many different industries throughout my career, and have noticed similarities when it comes to change management and leadership. I even see the same patterns played out in politics and cultural/minority issues as well.
Even as generational "regimes" change I don’t see any real change taking place; just different faces, different ideas and different agendas. "How" they go about it never seems to change.
Here are three attitudes I have seen in every industry I have worked in, and they don’t bring about positive change:
It’s Our Turn
Often said in the form of "When I become the boss, I will…." We all had experiences that we didn’t like, or we thought could have been handled better.
When we are the peons in the organization we speak of great change for the majority. We believe we understand all of the "oppressed" people around us, and therefore we have the solutions.
Unfortunately, most people get into those higher positions and give into the temptation to "take their turn" at experiencing the good life. They have earned it, so it’s ok that their ideals of listening to and serving those beneath them are put on he back burner.
Power, even at a very low level, easily corrupts our good intentions. So, getting "Our Turn" by itself, is never enough.
My Ideas Will Work
Then there are those who get "their turn" and actually remember their past journey. The had some great ideas about how things should be when they were the low person on the totem pole.
When they get their turn to lead, they begin to implement their ideas. Unfortunately, that is exactly the problem: They are using theIr own ideas. Not only are they from a myopic viewpoint, they are most likely several years old and may not be the best ideas anymore.
In this leader’s defense, they can be the ideas from their crew; those people they rose through the ranks with them. Which becomes "Our Ideas Will Work" and can be even more difficult to overcome, because they just continue encourage each other and tell each other that they are right. Too often they ram the new ideas through, with all sincerity and belief that they will work.
Which leads us to the third damaging attitude….
People Will Understand On The Other Side Of Change
Leaders don’t typically say it out loud, or use these exact words. It typically comes out as, "They don’t see the big picture," or "They will appreciate it once it’s all in place."
"They" seldom do. They are too busy wondering why the leaders that promised to do it differently are still doing it the exact same way the former leaders did.
You see, these three attitudes are focused on the wrong thing. They are focused on the outcome or the "what" they were going to do.
The leaders before them were most likely doing that as well. They didn’t like what the leaders before them were doing, so they only changed the "what" was being done, but are utilizing the same "how."
Most people are really frustrated with the "how."
People can handle the "what" changing if the "how" is done correctly. The what’s are always changing. That’s what circumstances do; they change! And they change constantly.
The really great leaders look back and see "how" things were done. They remember:
– How the leaders treated them when they were the low person.
– How the leaders listened (or didn’t listen) to those they led.
– How the leaders were willing to use other people’s ideas.
– How the leaders gave (or took) credit for the groups success.
The "what" keeps us focused on ourselves, our ideas and the outcomes we want.
By focusing on the "how" we can remain focused on others, their ideas and the outcomes the group wants.
A good start is to ask: "How did I want to be treated, included, and utilized when I was in their position?"
An even better start is to ask those you lead: "How do you want to be treated, included and utilized?"
So, when you find yourself focusing on what you believe needs to be changed, just remember the most important question to answer is how the change should take place.
Changing behavior isn’t easy. Not only does it take a lot of hard work, but it requires a concrete process that you can trust and follow on a daily basis. Most training courses give you great content, but if that content isn’t deployed or delivered effectively, it is a waste of time and money.
Many organizations not only look for great content, they also look at the entertainment factor: Is the training fun? Is the speaker engaging? Did we get positive feedback from the participants?
All of these are important, but you can have a perfect score on all of these and your training can be a total flop simply because the participants can’t apply the principles. It’s not because they aren’t capable of learning and applying the principles, but because the deployment methodology isn’t effective.
Too often content is delivered too quickly and too much information is given. It’s like drinking from a fire hose, causing them to forget most of what they learned in 48 hours or less.
To combat this, we need to pay attention to three important components of learning:
The Forgetting Curve
I have literally asked thousands of people this question: “How quickly do you forget the information you learn at a corporate training?” The answers vary, but not by much. Here are a few:
- A few days
- A few hours
- A week
- 2 weeks
Then I ask, “How much of the training is actually being applied 3 months later?” The answers are almost always well below 10%. That’s a lot of money being spent on information that is quickly forgotten, and not applied!
After 3 weeks the forgetting curve is at 93%. That is 7% retention across the board, unless there is accountability to apply the material.
But let’s be honest here and admit that the vast majority of the time the accountability to ensure application of the training material is left up to the managers, who have oftentimes never been trained in facilitation techniques, or how to coach their people.
It all looks good on paper, but the forgetting curve is seldom overcome. Even at 25% retention, that is a lot of time and money wasted.
With the consistency of follow up coaching, studies show that retention can be as high as 87% after 30 days. What does this mean? Your training needs to have follow-up coaching built into it for greater comprehension and accountability for application!
The Spacing Effect
Just having follow-ups isn’t enough. They have to be spaced out appropriately.
Spacing effect studies indicate that having the follow ups too close or too far apart decreases recollection and application of the material learned. A month apart can be too long. People forget about the training and simply rush to do the homework. It’s more of a reminder of what they should be doing, instead of holding them accountable to applying the principles on a daily basis.
Follow-ups that are too close together can create information overload, and retention rates will decrease making your follow-ups ineffective.
For soft skills training, we have found that one week is the perfect amount of time to apply what they are learning, and not so long that they forget about it between follow-ups. These are not reminders to see if they can get a question correct, but follow-ups with groups of their peers to learn from each other, share experiences and to be held accountable to applying the information. We have seen two weeks apart work too, but the further apart the follow-ups are the less effective they become as daily accountability begins to decrease.
Organizational fragmentation is a consideration as well, so effective group follow-ups by phone is an important option to have, as many organizations have team members all over the nation or even the globe.
Ignoring the spacing effect of retention can cost your organization thousands of dollars in wasted training, and greatly reduce the ROI of your training efforts.
Limitations of Working Memory
Studies show that if follow ups have too much information in them, participants won’t be able to retain it all. Recent research has estimated working memory capacity to be about four (4) pieces of information at a time.
This also explains why 1-3 day training sessions are ineffective, no matter how enjoyable they are.
Having a 1-3 day training is fine, if it is only meant to introduce concepts to your people. Because of the limitations of working memory it is unreasonable to expect any of your employees to remember more than 25% of the skills that were talked about, let alone be expected to put them into practice.
This principle also applies to the follow-up process. The information must be broken down into fewer than five pieces of information per follow-up if you expect them to remember to apply them throughout the week.
So, what does all this mean about training today? Well, it simply means that for training to be effective you have to make time to follow-up with the participants if you want to get the greatest return on your investment!
Deployment matters! The greatest content in the world is useless if it isn’t deployed effectively.
If you are evaluating a training program and it doesn’t have a proven successful follow-up component, you better adjust your expectations to less than 25% retention, and an even lower percentage rate of actual application of the information learned.
If you want more out of your training dollars, we would love to talk with you on how you can overcome the forgetting curve, the spacing effect and the limitations of working memory.
You can find us online at http://www.JohnnyWalker.Co or call us at +1 (770) 456-5547.
Culture is often defined as: “How your people think and act.” There is a lot of talk about creating culture, and a lot of confusion on how to create the right one. Every organization has a culture; in fact, yours is already there. The real questions to be asking about your organization’s culture are:
- Is it the culture we want?
- Is it a culture that most people want to be a part of?
- Is it people focused or outcome focused?
- Is it a culture that can be duplicated?
- Is it a culture that can be coached?
- Is it a culture that can be sustained over time?
Unfortunately, most organization’s cultures are based on people’s personalities and are, therefore, inconsistent at best. When your culture is based on a great leader or a great team, your company is at great risk. All that is needed for your culture to begin to diminish is for a few key people to leave. We have all seen great teams fall apart because a new leader stepped in.
Without a consistent process in place, everyone waits for what the next person expects. During this time stress increases, disengagement occurs, and people start passively (or proactively) creating a possible exit strategy.
To create a consistent culture you must have a concrete process that can be easily followed and coached. It needs to be a values based process so it will connect to the hearts of the employees, which is a much greater motivational force than either logic or emotions.
When an organization’s culture is based on a concrete, values based process stability and sustainability ensues. Instead of relying on a few key outstanding personalities you are now enhancing everyone’s personality, and helping them to do what they do best more often, more consistently and more effectively.
A concrete process sets expectations, increases consistency, creates accountability, and gives you the guidelines to hire the right people. All of these are necessary for a great culture to survive long term.
Lastly, a great culture is focused on people, not outcomes. No one wants to be treated as a number or a transaction. An outcome focused culture is one that will eventually see the attrition of its most talented people. Money will only trump respect for a short period of time. Eventually, your most talented people will realize “the money isn’t worth it,” and leave. Even if they do stay, they will cease to be the producers they used to be.
If you don’t have a concrete, values based process to help your people think and act as one, you need one! If you already have one, you need to ensure that your managers are trained on how to coach to that process on a consistent basis!
To learn more about how you can create a positive, long term, sustainable culture for your organization please contact us. We would love to help you as you take your organization to the next level.