By Jay Griffin, Director of Training, Jim ‘N Nicks BBQ
Among the many challenges an organization has, hiring the best talent and developing them faster than its competitors can be a defining factor in its success or failure. From learning the technical components of a job, to building a network of resources, new hires have a lot to learn. One of the most difficult things to learn can be culture, primarily because it is very challenging for the keepers of the culture to teach and spread it. To complicate it even further, many companies have the added challenge of cultivating culture across several states or even countries.
In some companies, it can take a newly hired employee up to 18 months or longer to understand and fully assimilate. Think about how this affects the new hire’s commitment and performance. The reality is that many high-performing employees are not going to be patient for 18 months to be perceived as knowledgeable, fully utilized, and assimilated culturally!
Consider the impact if a company could shorten the amount of time it takes a new hire to assimilate culturally. Consider how valued an employee would feel if they were capable of being a highly competent contributor and integrated into the culture within 12 months of being hired. Finally, consider the impact employee retention has on the bottom line: Better operations, lower cost, increased speed, better customer relations, and higher employee morale.
So, can it be done? Can culture be effectively taught quickly across far reaching boundaries?
Inherently, the answer has to be yes and here’s how:
- Clearly Define It and Be Honest—One of the most challenging parts of defining culture and capturing it formally is that there may be parts of your culture that are not warm and fuzzy. There are two options:
- Don’t disclose what you don’t like and let new employees figure it out by making mistakes and suffering the cultural consequences. The result is damage to their confidence and credibility; causing their trust in the company to waver. Essentially, their development slows tremendously and their potential to seek new employment increases.
- Be honest and upfront…even about the things that are not pleasing about your culture. Demonstrate trust and respect by saying who you are even if it’s something you want to change. It creates transparency, and helps prevent new hires from unwittingly violating the “invisible” culture.
- Live It—If a gap exist between who you say you are and how your employees actually behave, learning the culture becomes substantially more challenging. New hires have to decipher what the culture really is and who people really are. One common example is Trust. Trust is a common cultural Core Value of many companies. So what does a high trust culture look like? Essentially, trust is established through several behaviors, such as keeping commitments, speaking the truth, giving credit, and accepting responsibility to right the wrongs. It takes time and consistent behavior to build it, but it can be torn down at any moment such as telling a new hire your culture is all about respect but you regularly cancel meetings last minute or show up late. When actions don’t validate the culture it creates confusion and slows the pace of development.
- Leverage Technology—Videos, music, and online training are all cost efficient ways of teaching, explaining, and transferring culture.
- Invest In It—One large restaurant company believes in the importance of culture so much that all newly hired managers are brought to the home office for their first two weeks with the company. Those first two weeks are all about teaching the company culture, so they are not deceived by the cultural standards of an individual unit if they have slid from the company standards.
- Align business expectations so they do not conflict desired cultural standards—Unrealistic business expectations can apply excessive pressure which could result in an employee making decisions that are not aligned with company culture.
- Build culture into evaluations and inspections—Defining clear methods for how culture is assessed and using those components consistently reinforces the importance of living the company culture daily.
The ability to create an environment where new employees assimilate quickly to company culture can essentially be a competitive advantage. Those that fail to achieve this are likely to struggle with low morale, high turnover and low productivity.
Jay Griffin is the Director of Training for Jim N Nicks BBQ, based in Birmingham, Al. He is originally from Colorado Springs, Co. At the age of 18, he enlisted in the United States Air Force where he was awarded the First Oak Leaf Cluster for Meritorious service while serving overseas. After his honorable discharge, he pursued his formal education at The University of Northern Colorado. After earning his MBA from the University of Mississippi, he began his career in training and development as an Associate Professor of Marketing and Management at Northeastern Junior College in Sterling Colorado. Throughout the last 10 years, he has focused on developing his understanding of andragogy learning principles and how to effectively train and develop adult learners. Jay is a member of the Council of Hotel and Restaurant Trainers (CHART). He currently lives in Chelsea, Alabama with his wife Katie and 2-year-old daughter Taylor.
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