Going beyond skills: How culture, values, and attitude can be shaped
“I am always ready to learn although I do not always like being taught.” – Winston Churchill
Our workplaces have come a long way since the industrial age. Yet our training practices have remained similar – instructor-driven, knowledge-based and process-oriented.
The industrial-age model of instruction, discipline, and monitoring still echoes in our training rooms (even on e-learning platforms!) – oblivious to the new generation attendees who want to develop themselves, discover meaning and desire to make a difference.
‘Training’ comes from the same root word as the railway ‘train’ – implying something which can pull/push a large set of wagons (people) in the desired direction. This image is hopelessly outdated – employees today are not driven by command and control but by greater choice and flexibility. Millennials today work because they ‘want to’, not because they ‘have to’. Our approach towards Human Resource (and training) in today’s age needs to factor this in. We need to enhance the ‘why’ of work – not only the ‘what’ and ‘how’.
Almost every organization today relies on people to make a critical difference – even if it is a traditional manufacturing one. And what motivates people has changed. Earlier people were driven by the need to earn, then by the desire to enhance their lifestyles. Today, we often find people working not for any of these – but to realize their potential, to make a difference.
How should training mould itself to this changing requirement? Can training change people’s behavior and attitudes; can it promote corporate values; can it shape corporate culture?
Learning is not only through training
Learning is something that people do at every moment in the workplace – not just in a formal training program. Their experiences, feedback from supervisors, observations and comparisons are as impactful as the best training program. Hence, opportunities for structuring, facilitating and enhancing them should be part of the corporate L&D philosophy.
At IPE Global, our L&D policy itself builds in formal and informal training models. Half of the annual L&D target can be met by informal learning credits such as being a member of IPE Book Club or IPE Cares (social projects) or undertaking Fitness activities. You also get credit for being a mentor, a buddy as well as for secondments. All these offer informal opportunities to learn from responsible peers. The L&D team primes, supports, and channels these models to fuel learning.
Attitude change as an instructional objective
There are strong arguments that training cannot change behavior or attitude. However, every training does have an element of attitudinal change - even if to create acceptance of new software.
Incorporating attitudinal change in training is understandably difficult, but essential in today’s corporate world. It can help build a standard organizational attitude - also called culture.
Attitudinal training does to the root – what Simon Sinek calls the ‘why’ – and helps people understand the ‘what’ and ‘how’ easily. Many of our current trainings miss this – spending more on ‘what’ and ‘how’ instead. Why? Simply because it’s easier, faster and less messy.
A cognitive dissonance is a useful tool in leading people to such discoveries. Every training should include a subtle instructional objective on the ‘attitude’ front with (conscious but) understated messages during training.
Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) considers ‘modeling’ another person a powerful learning tool affecting our thoughts, behaviors, and actions. This also happens at the workplace. How a manager deals with his team is a more impactful training about delegation and teamwork than any workshop can hope to achieve.
The L&D team can create/promote role-models that people can see and interact with. These ‘Walking L&D Workshops’ can be very effective in influencing attitudes.
Training on values
A company’s values are not those that adorn its walls, but what the people see being practically ‘valued’ in the organization. Hence, organizational values are learned by what people see, observe and interpret.
Storytelling is another powerful mechanism – asking colleagues to recall experiences when they lived the values is a practice cue and a reinforcing mechanism. At IPE Global, we have an annual competition on ‘Living the Values’ where employees present their experience of facing challenges and living the values.
The best training on values is by living the values at every level. Next is to recall, recognize, and spread its practice through the medium of personal storytelling.
Culture of learning
Learning is the mother culture in an organization. It is manifested in:
- a positive work environment where people seek to learn from every experience they encounter and
- practice of knowledge sharing with people eagerly helping across departmental boundaries.
Learning is considered only the responsibility of the L&D / HR Team. It is not. Learning is an organizational commitment and needs everyone – right from the CEO to the support team – to be aware, committed and practicing.
Learning is too important to be left only to the L&D Team!
Trainings should increasingly focus on the ‘why’ for their employees to feel motivated and actualize their potential and discover meaning at work. For this, organizations should include subtle aspects of motivation and attitude in their training programs. Culture and values are best learned outside classrooms, in the organizational practice and walking L&D workshops. Personal storytelling is a powerful tool to aid learning and culture development. A positive organisational culture can be built around learning and knowledge sharing. This is not just the responsibility of the L&D team but needs organisational and top management commitment.