It's all about Culture and Climate

The holiday period has given me the chance to review all of our ODI training deliveries over 2013, and it has been quite a ‘special’ review because for the first time we have real evidence from our participants’ workplaces about the changes made there as a result of our work.

This evidence has come from our new Kirkpatrick tools and methods for design and evaluation of training. Since Nicky and I obtained Kirkpatrick Certification in late 2012 we have put in place new tools and methods around which to design our leadership and management training programmes, and capture evidence about participant engagement in learning, learning achieved, workplace application effort made, and organisation results obtained.

And what does this new evidence tell us?

Well firstly, when learners have line of sight to organisational outcomes that their new skills can influence, they are more motivated to apply those new skills at work. The more design effort made to connect application of new skills to organisational outcomes, the better the results. In effect this requires greater front-end effort by line managers in the early stages of programme design.

We are also finding quite a difference between participants’ expressed commitment and energy to apply new skills at work at the end of a training session and what they actually do when they go back to work. And we have found that workplace support for the application effort is the key factor that reduces that gap.

Let me illustrate; when participants complete an evaluation form at the end of a training session they will on average score their commitment and energy for applying their new skills at work as 8 out of 10 or better. When asked what will help them to make that application effort, they will typically respond that they will need time and line manager support at work to do that.

If the programme provides workplace support (by either an external coach or by the line manager), on average seven out of 10 participants will make an application effort and about four out of 10 will succeed and improve an organisation outcome.

If support is not offered, at best two out of 10 will make an application effort and only one of those will improve an organisation outcome.

So, providing support for application at work improves training programme value by 400%. We now know that to be a fact. We also now know that, even when circumstances are favourable, the hit rate for turning learning into improved organisation outcomes is quite modest – and a bit of a worry.

This evidence gives rise to two challenges: how do we improve workplace support (to get us from 1 out of 10 to 4 out of 10), and how do we get above 4 out of 10 for improved organisational outcomes?

That is where culture and climate come into the frame.

Organisational culture starts in the boardroom and CEO’s office; that is where the accepted values and practices are modelled and cascade downwards through the organisation. For mature organisations that culture leads to the engagement of OD and L&D professionals to drive change and learning throughout the organisation. That same culture can also foster practices that focus on short-term results and press middle and front-line managers to produce, produce, produce. This can often mean that the local line manager is not ‘on board’ about training events and the need for workplace support for their effectiveness. And it is that local workplace climate to which learners return to make their application efforts.

So, the culture can provide learning opportunities but the local climate can limit the extent to which application effort is made and improved organisation outcomes are achieved. That limits the return on learning solutions investment.

Our evidence is telling us that more organisational development work is required to make sure that the culture and climate work together to enable learning, application and improved organisational outcomes. This will drive better value from your training.

At ODI we can help you to develop your culture and climate. Call us on 03 943 2373.