Learning the best way to get values training in play

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The dictionary defines corporate values as “the operating philosophies or principles that guide an organization’s internal conduct as well as its relationship with its customers, partners, and shareholders.” In other words, those values make you an identifiable, consistent and respectable corporate citizen. The challenge is to devise a method that ensures every member of the team, new or old, understands and lives those values, without getting lost in semantics or falling asleep.

It is not enough to engrave those words in gold or make them pop on your website. Those words embody your corporate culture, which finds expression and fulfilment through your employees. Simply put, your people are your culture.

Engage, empower, encourage
Members of the Forbes Coaches Council have some tips to build a company culture that thrives.

“A thriving company culture is built when everyone in the company shares the same vision for the company. Each person is clear about how what they do contributes to that vision becoming a reality. When everyone at the company, all levels, has a sense of that purpose, the company culture thrives.” It is important to get people “excited, proud and appreciative of the culture.”

It follows that the method used to inculcate the “behavior that is a way of life” has to be more engaging than a page from the induction kit and more challenging than a one-time appraisal quiz.

Some months ago, we were approached to develop such a program.

This client is serious about their values. They are willing to invest in developing an honest, positive culture. While an individual event or a conventional training module might charge everyone up, the excitement tends to drain along with the values the participant is supposed to absorb and cherish. The client wants something different, something that would consistently deliver great value. It has to be an engaging reminder and also an immersive experience. It has to be always fresh and genuine.  And it has to use the gaming approach without being gimmicky.

The need is for a learning campaign that is more amenable to dealing with the nuances of each value. It must force the participants, even as they celebrate every incremental victory, to understand, debate and reflect. It must nudge them to practice what they have absorbed. The lessons must leap from the screen and imbue the thoughts and actions of every member with those values that make them responsible and responsive spokespersons of the corporate culture.

Time for inventive training
We are ever game to compete, seriously. And when we compete, even vicariously, we cheer to win.

A game is about engagement, being challenged, resolving problems, breasting the tape, and lifting the trophy. If that trophy is an enduring lesson (or two) in corporate culture, can there be a better way to seed corporate values?

Never has the whole world been so dependent for so long on the “e-” for every kind of -learning and entertainment. That has also made us conscious of what can be done differently and more effectively. Calling for “Creative ways of training staff” the Bartleby columnist of The Economist is grateful to the current pandemic, at least for not sending anyone to an offsite training or corporate training event. “Perhaps the whole idea will become less fashionable. Thankfully, there are inventive ways to undergo training online.”

The column cites the example of Gary Turk, a poet who used rhyming verse to create a short film that urged people to Look Up from their devices and make real connections. The film was such a hit and the approach so captivating that he went on to make a compliance film (would you believe that!) that used poetry to warn people about bribery.

It is a team game
Everyone may not be game for rhyme. The play-way may work best for building and sustaining corporate culture, but the company will need to work hand in hand with the developer. The client has to be completely open to share anecdotes and case studies, some of which could be, well, sensitive.

Such a project would require us, the developer, to walk the extra mile in the client’s shoes. We must extract the information we need, whatever it takes. Some of us may have to turn into employees for a while. There will be some role play. We will need to walk and talk a lot. There will be stories to be told, heard, and converted into game scenarios. And we must never lose sight of the main goal—infuse values experientially.

As the learner moves up the corporate ladder the learning experience will have to evolve. As the learner negotiates a particularly tricky segment, they must hear the rest of the team cheering for them. They must feel the need to win, not for personal glory, but for the team. And the rewards and recognitions must not be limited to the screen alone.

As the company’s ecosystem changes, the game must adapt too. To be effective, keeping the program in sharp shape must become an integral part of corporate strategy.

Yes, the success of this project would mark a new role for us. It will not be about imparting knowledge or refreshing a skill. It will be about working with the client to keep an eye on that intangible attribute of culture. To serve up an experience that is always refreshing and energizing. We see us working with multiple functions and finetuning the gameplay as we go along.

At the end of it all, the measure of the success would be how far the values have been understood and if those are being truly lived by all. There must be metrics for this outside the training program and that must play an important component of the regular appraisal program. Indeed, the true measure of success would be not just how well you played, but how valuable the victory was for you in enriching the corporate culture.

Gary Turk ends his exhortation to Look Up by asking one to “shut down that display, stop watching this video, live life the real way!” When you shut down the culture-infusion program, ready to live and promote the corporate culture, the program would have really succeeded.

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