Good teaching is hard to come by – a good teacher is even harder to find.
We all have memories of a favorite teacher. They stand out for many reasons. They tell students what they can expect to learn, thus holding themselves openly accountable. Great teachers make themselves accessible, push us past our own perceived limits, and uncover strengths we did not know we had.
We probably also have memories of a bad teacher.
In my experience, the teachers that caused the most frustration were the teachers with unclear expectations. A teacher with a temper could be stressful, but at least if I knew what they needed from me, there was a route to success.
It was the passive teacher who either could not, or would not, set clear expectations who caused the most frustration. You try your best but you don’t know what they want, and when you guess wrong, your GPA takes a hit.
If you’ve been there, you know the feeling of helplessness.
Teaching Our People
So many of us have experienced a teacher like this, yet, down the road we end up doing the same thing to our employees.
Have you ever considered viewing your organization’s onboarding experience as a classroom? Are you actively teaching? If not, you may be losing your employees before they ever really get started.
We all have an organizational culture. We are creating it or it is creating us, but no organization is without one.
If we are not actively teaching our culture and setting clear expectations with new employees, our culture will become whatever our people bring through the front door with them.
If you have a strong and healthy culture within your organization, a new employee will certainly pick up on it by watching their peers. However, even though you want your culture to be spread somewhat organically, it is important to also put it in words and teach it.
When we look at the life of Jesus, He taught a lot through the signs and wonders He performed, but He also taught with words.
“And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons . . . And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. As you enter the house, greet it. And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town.” – Matthew 10:7-13
Jesus was teaching His disciples what the Kingdom looked like, and how to walk in it. Similarly, if we want our employees to buy into our culture, we have to speak it and demonstrate it. If we do one without the other, we are doing our people a disservice.
There are many ways to teach culture – but first, you need to make sure you have actually intentionally created one. A lot of leaders think they have a culture because they mention it a few times in meetings, or at the annual Christmas party.
Unfortunately, this is not enough to keep it in the forefront of everyone’s minds.
Rather, leadership of the organization might consider creating ‘core values’ that represent what the organization is about. If you need some help getting the gears turning, Kingdom At Work has a core value exercise you can request.
Once you have prayerfully selected these, put them everywhere. On the walls, in emails, hang them in the break room, set them as your desktop screensaver. Bring them to the forefront of everyone’s mind so that if your people are asked about the organization’s culture, they could answer confidently.
If you have a strong and clear culture in place, the next step is maintaining it and protecting it.
This is where your onboarding process comes in.
Entering a New Culture
If new employees do not understand your culture within their first few weeks on the job, you are setting yourself up to do a lot of re-teaching down the road which is always harder than just teaching it from the beginning.
If you only have a few weeks to get people bought into your culture, you want to wisely choose how to fill that time. Don’t let the focus merely be where you store the coffee creamer and how to work the printer.
Here are a few things that Betenbough Companies have their employees do within the first few weeks.
Every new employee is required to participate in a two-day orientation at our home office within their first month of being on the job. This time allows our board to meet each new employee and get to know them, and vice versa. We want to create connections across departments and even companies, so that we maintain a strong sense of unity.
Beyond building relationships, another strong focus is communicating our culture (core values), mission and vision to new employees. We don’t hope they will just pick up on it, they hear it from the mouths of our senior leadership.
We also spend this time showing employees different departments and even companies, under Betenbough Companies, Inc. They get to meet people they might not work with every day and receive a big picture vision of what we are about.
- Betenbough University
“Betenbough University (BU) exists so that each individual team member can gain a greater understanding and a wider view of our home-building business and learn how our processes and organization differ from other builders,” said Jeanna Roach, Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Viewed as a certification or class, employees fulfill various credits for different departments of Betenbough Homes. From attending marketing events in the community to shadowing our detail teams, employees finish BU with a deep sense of ownership and can hopefully answer frequently asked questions about the company.
While employees usually start BU within their first month on the job, this process should take three to six months to complete.
- 30, 60, 90-Day Plans
Within their first week on the job each new employee receives what we call a 30, 60, 90-day plan. These look vastly different depending on the job. Hiring managers create the plans and tailor them specifically for that individual and their role. The plans lay out a clear route of what is expected of the new employee so they have a clear roadmap to what success looks like in their role.
Now, many organizations do something similar to this, but not many do the follow up, which is the whole point.
If a new employee’s manager does not follow up, they are sending a loud and clear message that accountability is not something your organization really values. This will likely set the tone going forward and all the work you have done to encourage buy-in for your culture will be greatly hindered.
Another thing to note about these plans is that they are measuring the success of the manager just as much as they are the employee. The manager must be committed to their employee’s success. That doesn’t mean micromanage, but if an employee is struggling to succeed, that can be just as much of a reflection on the manager as it is on the employee. Providing clarity and the necessary resources to meet those goals, along with being available along the way are key components of the manager’s job during this 90-day period.
All of that said, every organization is different. As a Kingdom Leader, you should constantly and continuously be seeking to create the best onboarding experience for your people. That may look similar to some of the ideas listed above, or it could look drastically different.
“Every organization has a different level of resource, but everyone can be intentional. You don’t have to start with something over-the-top, just be creative with the resources you have and show your new employees that they are valued,” said Michelle Cook, HR Manager for Cornerstone Support Services.
The point is to remember that your people are truly entering a new culture, and a healthy adaptation will require some good teaching on your part.
If you have spent any time out of the country, you know that having a guide or native to the area is an invaluable resource. Beyond currency, language and finding a bathroom, someone who can teach the culture can spare you some disastrous misunderstandings, or even danger.
The same principle applies to your new employees. They are new, you are native. Help them navigate and find the roadmap to success in a culture that is foreign to them.