*Originally published on CommercialIntegrator.com
An organizational culture change during a pandemic probably won’t help your business — but fostering a “learning culture” will.
We’ve heard from many that the pandemic prompted many leaders to re-examine their businesses’ core values. But trying for an organizational culture change during a crisis can be counterproductive, igniting fear, risk avoidance, and a survival mindset.
According to a recent CompTIA ChannelCon session, a “learning culture” develops your pro AV employees to adopt a problem-solving, opportunity-focused mindset which not only helps them throughout their careers but enables integrators to recover faster.
The session consisted of comments from a diverse cast of AV industry thought leaders, including:
- Peter Busam, Equilibrium Consulting LLC
- James Foxall, Tigerpaw Software
- Shuchi Rana, HeadSpin
- Kristine Stewart, Channel Impact
- Rekha Venuthurupalli, vCom Solutions, Inc.
What is a learning culture?
Stewart says it’s all about a culture which presents an open mindset, has a quest for knowledge, etc. But the reality is that these broad principles are set and nourished by company leadership.
“There’s a famous quote from a Microsoft CEO who said, ‘I want to move from a company of know it alls to a company of learn it alls — a learning culture is about employees learning from each other every day,” Stewart says.
One of the key behaviors Venuthurupalli says vCom stresses is curiosity.
“If we see employees trying to learn and grow, we reward them,” she says.
Why is a learning culture critical in “the new normal”?
Tigerpaw Software has been active over 30 years, and Foxall believes the reason for this longevity lies in his company’s core tenant, “always evolving.”
“A lot of people wrap learning around specific skills, but for us, learning is a mindset,” he says. “Leadership is only supportive when they allow people to fail and use failure as a coaching opportunity rather than a discipline opportunity.”
Learning how to elevate the employees’ individual characteristics rather than their worth as just an employee is critical, he says.
Making failure an opportunity, not a shameful moment, is also a huge part of it.
“Especially when employees are siloed as they have been during the pandemic!” Venuthurupalli says. “We tell all of our employees that they’re allowed to make mistakes, as long as they take them as learning opportunities.”
What practical things should leaders do to make this all happen
It all stems from showing you are invested in your employees’ development and growth. Providing them training and development is a good first step.
Leaders need to create open spaces where everyone can learn, paying attention to the differences between how employees learn.
“Many people are focused on diversity, and that’s great, but they need to follow that up with inclusion,” Stewart stresses. “Recognizing the individuality of each person and giving them opportunities to contribute to the company is how you do that.”
Sometimes, in order to do that, you’ll need to conduct personalized assessments of your team. This will help tweak your approach to certain individuals whose personal goals or traits differ from others’.
Sometimes, though, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff.
“We’ve found you can’t force people who don’t want to learn,” Foxall says. “The hardest thing to do is let go of someone who might perform well, but does not fit your company culture. You just can’t expect to spend time and money giving opportunities to people who don’t want to learn.”
Foxall gave an example of an employee suggesting a new product line to offer. Rather than telling that employee, “no, it doesn’t fit our vision,” or, “no, we don’t need to invest the time and money in learning a new product line,” tell them that they are free to invest a certain amount of time researching the opportunity and make a presentation as to what you learn.
“When you empower them to explore rabbit holes, you’re going to find that there are occasional jewels where a new thing is learned and the company is better for it.”