Training is How You Portray Your Core Values
It’s said that the first five years of our lives are the most formative. Obviously, there’s quite a bit of learning throughout your life, but those first five may impact how you choose to interpret everything thereafter.
Each organization should consider the above as a metaphor for how onboarding should be approached. As we all know, first impressions are key. The orientation process is a golden opportunity that will pay dividends in the long run.
As parents, whether it be through example or teachable moments, we put great effort into embodying the way we carry ourselves (a standard we hold ourselves to). We indoctrinate our children into a lifestyle – a way of being, a way of doing things. And, if you figure out the right balance of love (care), mentorship, communication and motivation, you get adoration (buy-in). Once you have buy-in and respect from your child, it becomes simpler (in theory) to lead them down a path and then transition the lead to them.
This principle makes a lot of sense in the workplace as well. The lowest level of safety a leader accepts for themselves is the very highest level they should expect from their workforce. If orientation and continual training is done properly, an employee will strive to make their employer proud of them. They will do this by mimicking or reflecting the beliefs, attitudes and practices the employer endorses and embodies. For this reason, as a leader (whether it be as a parent or an employer), it is crucial that you give great credence to the following principles and ensure the training you provide reflects the culture you want to inspire in people.
Strong relationships, no matter the type, are built on mutual trust. The person who holds the position of power is beholden to clearly express the ways in which they care for those who depend on them. New employees are in a vulnerable position as they are unsure of the culture they are entering. If an employer is transparent and openly vocal about how their organization places the well-being of its personnel above all else, it soothes that vulnerability and creates trust. If an employee feels the organization genuinely cares about them, it will be much easier for them to listen to and accept what else the organization suggests. It follows that if you show true and consistent care to your employees, they will reciprocate.
None of us should ever stop seeking out mentorship – even when we become mentors ourselves. Learning should never end. However, just like the above metaphor, the mentorship we provide at the beginning of an employee’s tenure may be the most influential and potent. When someone joins an organization, they bring all their life experiences with them – all their strengths, as well as their weaknesses. The key is to support them in realizing the depth of their strengths and to practice outside their comfort zone to diminish the potential impact of their weaknesses. This can only be done by attaining buy-in (see “Love / Care”) and stewarding the organization’s values and culture. Everything you say and everything you do should fall in line with the aspirational nature of the workplace environment. When you tell a new hire that “we want everyone to be able to go to work, do their job well and get home safe”, and your actions comply with your words, they will follow suit. Nothing garners more respect than someone who says, “this is how we do things here” and then goes and does that very thing in the manner they suggested.
As a leader, you need to make yourself present and available. You need to share the airwaves – to speak when necessary and listen intently. You need to be consistent in your messaging – never waffling on what it is that the organization values. The training programs you provide should clearly and concisely describe what matters most in the workplace and should strive, in no uncertain terms, to empower employees down that path. Training should make it very clear why the organization values what it does and how it is that they intend to hold a high standard to that end.
New employees, like all of us, need a goal to strive toward and to know that there are allies backing them in their endeavour to achieve that goal. Training, especially regarding safety, should identify tangible initiatives in plain language. Providing positively reinforced training that stimulates a call to action is a show of good faith from leadership. It makes the statement that the organization wants you to be an integral part of building and continually improving the culture.
By integrating training programs that speak to the values of your organization and its culture (especially its Safety Culture) you are setting a precedent for new hires that is representative of the intended and aspired to workplace environment. Our workplaces will never be what we envision unless we define that vision for everyone to see. Define your culture – loud and clear.