Even in a digital world, culture is critical

Picture a group of professionals gathering for three full days of impactful learning and development sponsored by your company (i.e. paid for by you). What would be your minimum expectations?

We would at least expect them to show up, be present and take away as much as possible from the training to help them either do their jobs better or more efficiently. That sounds reasonable. Although, that is not always the case and is often the exception today.

Oftentimes, employees are still expected to do their tasks for that day in addition to attending the learning event, even if it means working into that evening. This creates a negative learning environment with nervous and anxious people who are more worried about getting everything done than getting an ROI out of the investment. And all too often, this is true for events shorter than one day as well, resulting in people who cannot wait to run out and get back to their desks, or people on their phones and checking emails multiple times per minute. This speaks to culture. And we own it. Is this the kind of culture you want for your employees and associates? Do you want anxious learners? Or do you want to encourage your folks to take advantage of professional development and come away with something useful to them (and you)? This is only a single example of a growing problem.

This is our second installment on culture, and that is deliberate. In fact, we are almost too late. AI is no longer coming, it is here. AI will test the mettle of our people as well as the mettle of our culture. Why? Let’s take a step back and look at some trends. 

Email has taken the place of office visits, meetings and phone calls. Agree? Hybrid work has moved meetings to be more virtual, replacing get-togethers in the War Room and hashing it out with sending a Zoom invite (where maybe 30 percent of attendees are on camera). Agree? These examples illustrate that the human element and connection of our work culture continue to deteriorate. We must admit there have been some extraordinary gains that tech has given us and AI is expected to give us. But we should be aware that there are still people in the organization, and as long as there are people, there will be culture.

So, what do a learning environment and AI have in common? You. You, as the executive, are the common denominator in both cases. Of course, you can delegate culture, but you won’t like what you get.

Now is the time to fire up our team and strategize. What culture do we have? More than what culture do we want, what culture will we need in the AI world? This question must be at the forefront of your executive planning meetings, or we will struggle to meet the demands that have not even shown up yet. Now is the time to prepare our organizations to not just survive but thrive. There are people that we will need to carry our company forward. If we do not make them and the culture we create for them our focus, then we will not be able to count on them. Now is the time.

Marilee MacAskill is Area Director, Certified Dale Carnegie Trainer at Dale Carnegie Training of Northeast Ohio.

Marilee MacAskill

Area Director, Certified Dale Carnegie Trainer
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