The benefits of culture training in the workplace

by Georgia Parker | Mar 29, 2021

time icon 4 mins

Let’s start with a simple definition of workplace culture as being “the way we do things around here”. Whilst this is a simple definition, it encompasses the complexity of what culture is in terms of our individual and collective behaviours, thoughts, feelings, values, priorities and needs in the workplace.

Not only does a positive workplace culture impact your employees’ wellbeing, but it can also help you achieve success when it comes to setting and implementing OKRs. Find out how in this guide. 

Why is workplace culture important?

It’s worth remembering management guru Peter Drucker’s famous quote “Strategy eats culture for breakfast” as a way of signalling just how critical workplace culture is to an organisation’s performance. You might have great ideas, a clear direction and plan in terms of your business goals, but if your employees’ behaviour and mindsets aren’t aligned, chances are your strategy won’t be fully realised and possibly not at all. And so, with organisational culture, it will impact your bottom line in one way or another, whether you are aware of this or not.

What are the benefits of culture training in the workplace?

  • It can create strategic alignment and a shared understanding of what is meant by “how we do things around here” and the opportunity to discuss and contribute to what this means
  • It can engage the entire organisation in talking about how we work together and that in itself is likely to create improvement in how we work together
  • It can benefit people beyond their immediate role and team and create transformation for them as a leader, manager, team member, colleague, a champion for the organisation internally and externally and on a personal level; as a human being whether as a parent, a partner, friend, son, daughter, member of the community or indeed as a citizen
  • It can help ensure that those whose values aren’t sufficiently aligned to the internal culture feel enabled to make a choice to move on, allowing the organisation to recruit for a better value fit
  • And it can be really good fun whilst offering meaningful impact in terms of immediate and longer-term learning and application

The team at TBG have certainly had experience over the years in which organisational culture training has been positively life-changing in a positively life-changing way for many who have taken part.

However, the way in which culture training is designed and delivered has a huge impact on how successful it will be. If culture training is:

  • Not much more than a briefing / talking at people
  • Restricted only to senior leaders
  • Insufficiently engaging, involving and facilitative of meaningful conversations at all levels in the organisation
  • More about telling than listening and asking
  • Giving a message about the internal culture which is not reinforced by the behaviour of leaders and other organisational messaging
  • Rushed, hurried or squashed into bitesize sessions
  • Done to people, rather than with them
  • More about skills, knowledge and behaviour than about hearts, minds and values

It’s likely that you will have wasted a significant amount of resources in running culture training.

Again within our experience at There Be Giants, we have come across all of the above examples and usually combined in some way in terms of workplace culture training design and delivery.  It often falls flat and simply doesn’t have the lasting impact that is required. The long and the short of it is that you can’t train someone on culture. It’s not a technical skill to be learnt and developed.  But you can engage someone in creating the culture you want and in doing so, leverage their energy, commitment and focus.

So, what does organisational culture training look like?

You’ll work with workplace culture experts 

First things first, it’s more like an engagement programme than a training programme in terms of style, how it’s communicated and facilitated. It’s usually worth the cost of bringing in experienced external facilitators who know who to create the required level of psychological safety for people to choose to engage and be open, honest and contribute.

It gets all employees involved 

The more the merrier, so design a programme that is inclusive of as many people as possible, and ideally open to all in some way or other.

Using external facilitators is a cost so a blended approach of a higher level of external support to start with combined with training and development of in-house facilitators who can go on to maintain and sustain the work around culture is often a great way forward.

It’s fun! 

It needs to be lively, interesting, stimulating and carefully paced, calibrated on the shift in culture that is required and leading by example in terms of how facilitator style and approach

Workplace culture training is both informal and formal, and the most effective training approaches are a combination of both. Facilitated sessions combined with multi-channel internal communication and consistent messaging works really well. It’s also important to offer practical support, such as guidance for team leaders about how to have conversations about the culture within their regular team meetings.

How is internal culture related to OKRs?

It can be an art, creating and delivering a powerful and effective culture training course and it’s worth taking time to develop the structure and content of your approach in an agile way. Test, learn and adapt applies just as much to culture training as it does to implementing OKRs. 

Whilst someone can shift their mindset and therefore their behaviour in a heartbeat, creating real, genuine and effective culture change in an organisation usually requires creative, sustained and focused effort. Once this change has taken place, you’ll see the real impact in the success of your OKRs.

If you’d like to learn more about creating a great workplace culture, get in touch with the team today.