Training for fit is teaching employees what kind of behaviors are valued at your organization. It is essential to effective onboarding where the goal is to attract and retain the most valuable employees. Fact is, our brains can be trained to behave in a certain way, and training your employees for fit is an excellent way to align your culture and use it to drive success. Here’s how to do it.
Employees are trained to provide optimal customer service in anticipation of the opening of the first Lowes store in Canada in 2007.
The employee training budget is often one of the first to get cut in a tough economy. But even when they do spend the money, organizations tend to put their resources towards building specific skills. From “Advanced Excel” to “Project Management 101,” training is usually thought of as a way to improve an employee’s ability to perform a particular job function.
But what about training for fit—the idea of teaching employees what kind of behaviors are valued at your organization? Many executives think it’s just not possible. But the idea that you can train for skills but not behavior is simply not true. If it were, none of us would be very good at child rearing or at training pets. In fact, leadership development and organizational psychology wouldn’t exist if it were impossible to teach behavior. Fact is, our brains can be trained to behave in a certain way, and training your employees for fit is an excellent way to align your culture and use it to drive success. Here’s how to do it.
Expose your new hires to your highest performers. Mentorship is one of the best ways. In their first 90 days, employees will learn about their benefits packages, figure out who’s who, begin to understand the nature of their roles in the company, make connections with colleagues, and so on. But they’re paired up with mentors, they’ll begin to mimic and mirror the mentors’ behaviors. Pair them with a cynical, toxic employee, and they’ll likely become that way, too; but pair them with successful, engaged superstars who live and breathe your firm’s values, and they’ll imitate those feelings and behaviors.
Continuously articulate your organization’s values. What are the key pillars of your company’s culture? How do you hope and expect your employees will behave? You need to know the answers to these questions, and articulate them at every opportunity, from all-staff meetings to culture-specific training sessions. (A poster on the boardroom wall won’t cut it.)
Reinforce good behavior. Senior managers need to work hard to catch new hires doing things right—then recognize and reward them for those behaviors.
Farm Credit Canada (FCC), a Regina-based Crown corporation that provides financial products and services to the agriculture industry, is a good example of an organization that believes in training for fit. FCC believes its culture is a strategic imperative—how its 1,600 employees feel about their work, the firm says, affects how they deal with customers, and the customer experience is a major differentiator for FCC. Six months after their first day, new employees attend Culture 101, a two-day intensive culture training course that introduces FCC’s language of high-performance and teaches the skills needed to embody the culture.
“It includes how to create committed partnerships, understanding and accepting 100% accountability instead of externalizing blame, having difficult conversations, and speaking from the heart,” explains FCC’s president & CEO Greg Stewart.
The course is facilitated by well-trained FCC employees who act as culture champions, which increases the credibility of the program and the enthusiasm of the participants.
Training for fit starts the minute a new hire walks in the door. From then on, everything you do, in terms of this critical form of ongoing development, should be linked to what you are as an organization.
Marty Parker is chairman and CEO of national search firm, Waterstone Human Capital, and author of Culture Connection: How developing a winning culture will give your organization a competitive advantage. His columns will appear each Monday on www.financialpost.com/executive