two ducks in a row
PHOTO: Ben Pattinson

Change doesn't happen overnight, nor does it occur simply because a company established some new policies and procedures. Rather, change occurs when teams see where they are heading, and when managers help them map out their path. As part of that journey, team members need a process for measuring their progress. Teams must also identify, from both a customer and team member perspective, the process changes that will improve performance and build a positive culture of engagement and productivity.

The factors that contribute to a positive culture have evolved in the digital age, requiring employees to address four critical pain points, which organizations can help by creating an environment to support them.

The first pain point is adapting to change in a world of disruption. The second is overcoming information overload in an age when we are bombarded by emails, apps, texts, social media and 24-hour news cycles. The third is creating the space and time for creativity and innovation — even as employees are often pushed to do more in less time. The fourth is creating a safe place for collaboration and creativity among increasingly diverse teams made up of people from different backgrounds who have different interests and strengths.

Build a Positive Culture That Adapts to Change

As a result, an organization seeking to build a positive team culture must understand the triggers for the pain points and other pressures, and recognize the behaviors employees will need to deal with those pressures. At the same time, it is vital to build cultural intelligence (CQ) and improve habits for the individuals on a team. When CQ improves, the workplace becomes a more positive, collaborative environment. Moreover, teams need an agile way to adapt to change.

Related Article: Why Self-Actualized Companies Achieve Higher Employee Satisfaction

A Journey in Culture Change

Central to building a positive team culture is the adoption of journey-based learning, which focuses on changing people’s habits rather than providing a classical transfer of skills or knowledge. Journey-based learning enables organizations to have a framework for creating doable actions in “sprints” that can be measured over time. These sprints build habits by combining small milestones with brief peer-level educational opportunities. Measuring the outcomes of each sprint will provide new insights.

A learning journey can be viewed as having three phases: awareness, engagement and impact. Each phase is intended to provide an outcome that is an improvement over the current situation. 

Defining each of these phases is complex, and the process begins with awareness — understanding the gap between where an employee’s current habits and practices are and the outcome needed for improvement. For example, does an employee exhibit habits that show some awareness of the needed solution, no awareness or mistaken awareness? The answer to that question will make clear where that employee’s learning journey begins.

The next step in journey-based learning is engagement. This occurs when an individual translates his or her new awareness into an actionable practice. Significantly, habits are built through regular practice, so engagement exercises should not be special events that take place once or twice a year. Rather, managers should consider how to build “microlearning” or practice opportunities into regularly scheduled activities, such as weekly team meetings, lunch get-togethers or daily team handoffs between shifts.

For example, managers addressing information overload might want to focus engagement exercises on practices that make information actionable more quickly. To do that, they could set up schedules for working on goals that need to be accomplished. One possibility might be a two-week sprint in which a team practices a new habit to combat information overload, such as reviewing new information only during specific times rather than doing so ad hoc throughout the day. After the sprint, the manager could use a regular team meeting to have employees share tactics for setting specific times for information reviews and discuss what worked and what didn’t.

The third phase of the learning journey measures impact. With the earlier example of team members experiencing information overload, the outcome might take the form of meeting deadlines more quickly or coming up with better ways to deliver a new product or service. The impact of the outcomes could be measured by customer satisfaction or loyalty scores, profitability, or return on investment (ROI), among other metrics. Whatever metric you choose, employee satisfaction must be included alongside that metric.

Related Article: Go Beyond Perks to Increase Employee Engagement

Learn What Not to Do

Regardless of the outcome, measuring results enables us to learn about what works. Notably, failure can be a powerful agent for improvement. The experience can help sustain the memory of what not to do, which is just as important as what to do. The process of measuring impact also raises our consciousness in determining the success of that activity — i.e., is it an activity worth doing?

Reviewing the results of our activities and sprints is important to achieving performance improvement. This is particularly true in the digital world, where change happens so quickly that the goals, journeys and organizations may evolve, requiring fast course corrections. The results of different sprints over time help managers and their teams gain insight into significant trends. It is how we model best practices, provide rewards and offer recognition to our top-performing individuals and teams — locking in the new successful habits and discontinuing the habits that do not work.

A final note: Brand love and loyalty are created through an emotional attachment, not necessarily a financial one, which is why it is critical for the employee and customer journeys to be aligned. By empowering employees — and the organization as a whole — to continually learn, a company can create a strong culture that drives loyalty among employees and customers alike.