If It Doesn’t Support Training, Kill Your Culture

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So, I ran into this article on Forbes the other day, “Kill Performance Reviews And Other Ways To Improve Work Culture.” The author interviewed Patty McCord, former Chief Talent Officer for Netflix.

McCord spoke on the current rather stagnant state of management in the U.S. and the talent management and organizational repercussions of managers inability or unwillingness to change. She advocates a new way to manage workers, a different way of thinking that kicks traditional HR practices squarely in the can, and I agree 100 percent.

My own management style is pretty hands off. We’re trying to set up a corporate culture at DevelopIntelligence where people have autonomy and are empowerment to do the right thing as well as do what’s asked of them. It’s not a common position in the corporate world, which is still traditionally more top down and dictatorial.

But we made the conscious decision to work this way at DI. If you’re a fast growing company you can’t have a culture where daily you have to tell people what to do and remind them and micromanage them. Part of not having to do that speaks to effective hiring. Specifically, hiring the right people from the very beginning, people who can take the charge and run with it.

I don’t think leaders pay enough attention to that. Instead of starting at the beginning, the source, sometimes people provide training in hopes they can change a person or change a person’s behavior. Sometimes it’s possible. But other times, if you have a culture of self starters and you hire someone who’s not a self starter, it doesn’t matter how much training you give them, they’re not going to become a self starter.

But HR is not a part of an organization that likes a ton of change. Generally its function is to protect and ensure compliance and keep the peace with employees. That was great – back in the day – but over time technology forces companies to change, grow and pivot faster. And talent management systems, a poor culture, the things that are supposed to support the business, become a serious hindrance.

For example, 15 odd years ago when LMSs came on the scene everybody thought they were going to be the greatest thing because they could push out self-paced content, and they could track everything. Companies invested a ton of time and money into them. Today, most of the clients we work with either hate their LMS because it doesn’t deliver what they want, or they’ve abandoned it and created some other way to track training because it’s more efficient. Yet companies won’t get rid of their million dollar LMS contracts. Why? They’re afraid of change.

Change is important. Especially when it come to building a productive culture. I recently met with a large manufacturing company with more than 2,000 engineers. HR doesn’t provide any professional development for them whatsoever, and now they have a significant morale problem in the engineering community. This is a technology company, and the majority of its HR training efforts are on soft skills vs trying to keep the engineers who are creating the products thinking, moving and growing. It’s a very traditional view of HR and learning’s role, and it can actively damage an organization.

This is a startup that’s grown, but now that they’re a big company, they’re finding it tough to shift. But you have to. Good technologists know that if the company they’re working for doesn’t give them training to keep growing, their tenure there will be maybe two years. When employees stay longer, companies think they’ve won. Like, oh, you’ve been here four years; you’re so loyal, you’re such a great employee, this is awesome. But what’s happened is the high performers have already left, and what’s left, well, that’s not the best talent.

There is a real connection between culture, performance, retention, the bottom line and growth. Training is often the thread holding it all together. If you don’t offer your technical talent training they will leave. Period. So, if your culture is holding you back from providing the training your key talent wants and needs to thrive, kill it, and build something better.