I recently received an inquiry from a Blanchard sales partner. She had a potential client that wanted a business ethics class. The answer was easy: “No, Blanchard doesn’t offer courses in business ethics.”
I described how our culture change process creates an environment where HOW goals are achieved is as important as WHAT is achieved. My sales partner knew that – and this potential client wanted to offer a class. Quickly.
There are some terrific training providers that offer business ethics classes; this client should be able to schedule a class quickly. Whether the class resolves their issue is a different question entirely.
I was disheartened that a potential client had a need that we were unable to help them with. Something happened to prompt this need but the potential client was not interested in further discussion. They were committed to a classroom solution.
It’s vital for senior leaders to understand what training can do and what culture can do.
What Training Can Do
At it’s core, training provides skill building. It offers context for desired skills (which helps learners understand why these skills are important) as well as creating a knowledge base. Exposure to effective skills is followed by skill practice and application planning.
Many course graduates embrace the new skills quickly and embed them into their daily practices. Yet it is rare that more than 20% of course graduates demonstrate new skills one month after a program.
Sustainability efforts can increase this percentage by another 20-25% as they help remind course graduates to use their new skills on the job. In the best of circumstances a maximum of 70% of course graduates embrace the desired new practices.
What gets in the way of the new skills being regularly acted upon? Your organization’s culture.
Therefore, a weakness of a stand-alone training session is that the organization’s culture may or may not support the skills and behaviors the class teaches.
What Culture Can Do
Culture is “the way we do things around here.” Corporate culture often evolves by default, not by intentional design. Typically a company discovers a product or service that customers demand, so people, systems, and processes emerge to support delivery of those desired products and services. The way the people, systems, and processes interact offers good indications of an organization’s culture.
Over time, an organization’s culture becomes immensely powerful. It creates norms and expectations (some subtle, some bold) that are difficult to for it’s members to resist.
If a training class teaches leadership skills and mechanisms (for example) that are more democratic in nature – i.e. the leader provides directive and supportive behaviors, depending upon task-specific needs of their direct reports – yet the organization’s culture is dictatorial, guess what happens to course graduates? The culture inhibits the utilization of the new skills as it provides reinforcement only for those leader behaviors that match the dictatorial norms.
If your culture doesn’t support the skills and behaviors being taught in a class, you won’t see broad demonstration of those skills and behaviors.
Our potential client above experienced something in their culture that caused them to seek a business ethics class to address it. However, it’s clear that their current culture enabled the ethics issue to occur. Without refining the culture, the class will not have much impact.
What is your experience with training skills that your company culture supports or not? Tell us in the comments section below.
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