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On culture and other organizational demons (Part II)

Organizations are different, as people are different and create different cultures. As human beings, we feel the need to fit it: we thrive when people embrace the same value as those of the organization or, on the contrary, we leave when we do not resonate with the core values of the company.

This is why learning programs should try to adapt as well to the organizational cultures if they want to deliver results. As a trainer, make sure that you know your client, your learners, and their values before designing the learning program.

In my previous article, we explored four cultural profiles identified by Boris Groysberg and his colleagues and suggested suitable learning approaches for employees who work in organizations that emphasize caring, purpose, learning, and enjoyment as shared values.

But these values are not the only ones identified by the aforementioned authors. After all, real work means more than that.

The other 4 cultural profiles

Let’s explore now the next four cultural profiles and some educational strategies that might work better for them:

  1. A result-oriented culture

    A culture that focuses on results is characterized by achievement and winning.

    Work environments are outcome-oriented and meritocracy is a value embraced by all people, in their aspiration to achieve top performance. Employees are united by their objective to deliver results and achieve success; leaders focus essentially goal accomplishment.

    In a result-oriented culture, learning programs should be perceived by employees as instruments in their journey to goal achievement.

    Make sure that content is relevant and directly related to the job description or the goals of the team. If possible, adopt an easy to follow approach and quantify learning outcomes as much as possible.

    Read more: 4 Must-haves for the best workplace learning results

  2. A culture based on authority

    Authority is the key value for an organization defined by strength, decisiveness, and courage.

    Work environments are competitive places where people go the extra mile to achieve individual success. Employees are united by strong control; leaders emphasize confidence and dominance.

    In such an organization, learning programs tend to be organized following strict procedures. Management makes decisions and employees tend to follow them, even when learning is involved. So, if you are an independent trainer or a training company, you are most likely to be asked to deliver specific training that fits an exact purpose.

    Make sure you analyze carefully the environment, have access to relevant information, and deliver the expected content. Do not improvise; show that you are in control.

  3. A culture of safety

    A culture that places safety first is defined by planning, caution, and preparedness.

    Work environments emphasize predictability and very details risk analysis. Employees are defined by common values such as protection and anticipation. Change is not necessarily perceived as threatening, as long as it can be anticipated.

    In such a working environment, planning ahead is the name of the game. People should know in advance the structure of the training program; perhaps even go through some materials before the first training session.

    They are willing to share and to learn from one another, do not expect them to be individualistic achievers, but they work better in a safe space. Do not improvise too much, create group activities and they will be motivated to learn.

    Read more: The role of L&D in developing a culture of security at work

  4. A culture of order

    If order is the main value of a cultural organization, respect, structure, and shared norms will be very important.

    Work environments are methodical places where people prefer to play by the rules and want to fit in. Employees are united by strong cooperation; leaders emphasize shared procedures.

    In such an organization, communication is very important, as it leads to effective and efficient collaboration. Make sure that learning programs involve teams, not individuals.

    Employees thrive as members of a team; they should be given the opportunity to make learning a common experience as well. Follow the rules, stick to the schedule, show respect for the organization and people will be motivated to learn.

    Read more: Learning by teams: How to customize your training for every employee

All in all

Everything can be interpreted through the lens of culture-specific values, and therefore, can be adapted. Even a minor aspect, as showing up on time, is subject to cultural interpretation. If you are a few minutes late, maybe people working in a culture of enjoyment won’t even notice; on the other hand, if you show up late at a training session organized in a culture of order, you may lose face and look unreliable.

Be open to change and do not judge, there’s no right and wrong! Wangari Maathai once said that “culture is encoded wisdom”. It’s true for organizational cultures as well.