Training isn’t the answer to culture change


Originally posted on The Customer Experience Company blog here.

Training isn’t the answer to cultural change.

“You don’t need money for cultural change, just train them”.

Sound familiar? For your sake I hope not, anyone who has run a contact centre or managed customer facing staff knows that just telling or training them to be customer centric does not work on its own. In order for your staff to behave differently, even the most beautifully worked PowerPoint session delivered by the world’s number one trainer is not going to cut it. It will help, it will set the platform, but if you don’t take other complimentary steps it will fall in hole of your own making.

Training is a major part of what needs to be done in order to affect cultural change.
However, other things have to change too. So, what do staff need in order for them to make the cultural change and start a new way of doing things? Here are a few things I have learned over the years.

A common language to explain the cultural change is incredibly important, it allows managers to be clear about the messages and ideals they are looking to employ and implant in their team's behaviours. By common language I refer not just to the words used, but the way we speak about the change.

Just as with almost any conversation, tone is almost as important as the actual words chosen. Demonstrating a positive belief in the change goes a long way to ensure it gets the legs you hope it will. Instead of saying “Well, the order’s from up top so we have to do it.” Try “You know, I think it will make a positive difference to the way we do things and I would really like for us to give it a try.”

Personas are an important tool that can be used to help create that language. Referring to a persona by name generates tangibility to readers. “How would our early adopter persona, Albert, react to this change?”

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize
‘No plan survives first contact with the enemy’*

No, your staff is not the enemy. In fact, they should be your greatest supporters in a successful change program.

All companies have unique cultures, and there is no cookie cutter approach to implementing customer centric change. Even if you have done all the right amount of engagement and co-design, sometimes what you have designed just plain doesn’t work. Instead of pigheadedly bulling forward (excuse the mixed metaphor) take a step back and show that you are willing to change.

Continuing the animal theme, monkey see monkey do and if staff see you changing they will be more willing to do the same.

The What and the Why, Not the How
Often the message that comes down from above is what could be called the “What and the Why”.

“We have to employ teamwork in order for this change to work. If we all have input we can be assured that we won’t miss anything that will affect our interactions with the customer.”

What’s missing? How.

How do I share my input? How will it be used? How will I be informed of what has happened? Who should I be teaming with? How should we meet?

What Next
This is not a comprehensive list and there are many other factors will help cultural change to be delivered successfully. These include utilising the right metrics to support instead of provide a barrier for the change you are implementing, and how you reward those staff who are making the change to the new ways of doing things.

As I said, training is a vitally important component of cultural change but if you expect it to work on its own, well, you will be disappointed.

*For you pedants out there, the real quote is ‘…no plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.’ The person quoted is Helmuth von Moltke the Elder, awesome name.


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