When I start working with organizations, I like to take some time to meet with the employees. I find that listening to how they describe their own organization — its values, behaviors, and attitudes — often shows more about the company's real culture than anything the management says.
And one of the best indicators of an organization's culture is its attitude toward learning and development. When employees tell me that their company embraces training and education, I typically know that company is committed to staying current, developing its employees' skills, and being a “smart” organization. These are the organizations I find tend to be more progressive, optimistic, and focused on solutions.
In my first book, Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition, I described what I see as the 10 components of a high-performance and employee-focused workplace culture. They are:
- Clearly defined mission (and values), supported by objectives and goals.
- Clearly defined ethical standards and expectations.
- A competent, talent-based, and bias-free employee selection process.
- A dynamic on-boarding and inclusionary process.
- A fair and attainable reward and incentive process.
- A fair and recurring performance review and feedback process.
- Regular and recurring skill development (education).
- Regular and recurring career counseling and development.
- Dynamic succession planning and mentoring.
- Inclusive and diverse environment that supports a free exchange of ideas, employee accountability, and performance ownership.
You'll notice that components Nos. 6, 7, and 8 all have to do with tracking and discussing employees' skills and performance. They focus on improvement and developing employees with an eye toward the long term. The companies that have these sorts of values in place are committed to employees' learning. And they're ahead of the curve.
Very few organizations have all 10 of these components in place. Instead, they work on building in the ones that matter most to them. As I say in the book, “Culture has the ability to attract great performers or send them running to the competition. It can inspire greatness or encourage mediocrity. It can encourage thinking or turn employees into compliant drones. Therefore workplace culture is the least common denominator of all performance.”
How an organization builds its culture — what it feels is valuable and important (and what its employees live each day) — will impact that organization’s success. By building culture around a commitment to learning and growing, an organization can put the tools and skills in place to stay successful and relevant in a constantly changing business world.
Jay Forte is a nationally ranked thought leader and President of Humanetrics. Jay guides organizations — their leaders and managers — in how to attract, hire and retain today’s best talent. He is the author of Fire Up! Your Employees and Smoke Your Competition and The Greatness Zone – Know Yourself, Find Your Fit, Transform The World. Jay is a member of SHRM, ASTD, the National Speakers Association and the Florida Speakers Association. Follow him on Twitter.
Image via Talent Management.