Develop People, Develop Culture

I had a great opportunity to sit down and chat with the resource manager for a large nonprofit organization in Omaha. This guy was a sharp cookie who had spent years in the corporate world as a key player in organizations like Mutual of Omaha. As we discussed the HR issues that face the organization, we found ourselves discussing culture and people. We specifically explored topics like the hiring of new talent, turn over rates, and changing or adjusting to the culture of an organization. This nonprofit has been through a significant change over the past five years, and is still dealing with the difficulty of changing a culture. As I reviewed my notes from this meeting I latched on to a stat that I skimmed over at first, but now find absolutely incredible. This organization had an inside hire rate of nearly 70%! Talk about home grown talent. That is pretty incredible, but more importantly should remind us all of the significant role internal promotion and talent development can play. If you want to do culture work of any kind, a critical piece is the internal and intentional development of people. For this organization it includes the intentional development of key volunteers, preparing them for staff positions. These internal hires covered positions all over the organization from the art director, to the administrative staff, to the facility director.

Consider author Michael Watkins who wrote, “The First 90 Days: Critical Success Strategies for New Leaders at All Levels”. He comments, “the main reason newly hired outside executives have such an abysmal failure rate (40 percent, according to one study) is poor acculturation”. Success in organizational development must include success in developing inside hires who are steeped in the company culture. It also must include success in indoctrinating new employees to the culture and vision of your organization. Senior organizational leaders should consider training programs, mentor programs, and career or succession planning as the rudder of the massive ship that is cultural development. Furthermore, leaders must realize that this work isn’t simply to be left to the HR department. Developing people, mentoring leaders, and attracting the best talent is the responsibility of everyone in the organization.

So what are some practical applications of this information. There are many, but some great ones can be found in two organizations which are highlighted in some great books by Joseph Michelli. If you are looking for ideas on how other significant organizations are implementing successful training and development programs, I would refer you to “The Starbucks Experience” and ” The New Gold Standard”. In these books, Michelli explores some the great training and development programs for Starbucks and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel. These include on the job training coaches, detailed handbooks, significant training time before employment, well defined job roles, and many other opportunities. You might also explore other organizations like Gore Tech, 3M, and Zappos.

Of course, we also know that one of the most effective ways to initiate any change is to get the right people in leadership at the right places. Managing change and transition is always difficult, but many of us have learned how we can help ourselves by getting the right people in the right spots. Simple but critical tasks like promoting leaders who support the company vision, rewarding those that are open to change, and openly moving out those that are simply sticks in the mud will go a long way. If you have culture work to do, whether it be developing new culture or solidifying existing values, be sure to pay close attention to hiring practices, training programs, and promotion opportunities. These are the front lines of culture work.

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