Most sophisticated organizations have articulated a corporate mission, vision, or purpose statement and a set of core values. If you work for yourself or for a smaller company that has yet to contemplate its why and the root beliefs that guide employee behavior, then start there. Once these have been revealed, it’s critical to do more than circulate a press release, post them on a website, or enshrine them behind a pane of glass that’s framed and mounted in the executive corridor.
Many companies invest heavily in culture or leadership training that include “teaching” these corporate tenets under the assumption that, after the course evaluations have been collected, they’re done. However, research shows that within one hour, people will have forgotten an average of 50 percent of the information presented. Within 24 hours, they will have forgotten an average of 70 percent of new information, and within a week, their average retention will be 10 percent of the new information shared. It’s no wonder managers are unable to recall their organization’s mission, vision, or purpose statement and core values.
It’s critical that, in the days following training, participants revisit the training content in a follow-up activity that challenges them to recall, explain, and apply key learnings from the training. There are many ways to accomplish this, including formal learning assessments containing multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, or open-ended application questions. These should be scheduled at two-day, two-week, and two-month intervals to maximize retention. You can also observe behavior, audit recorded customer calls, and evaluate performance in other ways before offering feedback.
Another approach is a process called three-person teaching. I first learned this technique from the work of Stephen Covey. An educator himself, he understood that when you’re learning new information in preparation to teach someone else, you don’t see yourself as a passive learner. You see yourself as an active teacher who’s preparing to teach. And this perspective significantly increases:
- Retention (your own learning),
- The likelihood of application (For instance, if you’re teaching people how to model a core value in the workplace, isn’t it probable that you’ll model this value yourself?),
- Interpersonal communication, and
- Deepens relationships (the return you receive for investing in the development of others)
In my book, The Revelation Conversation: Inspire Greater Employee Engagement by Connecting to Purpose, I applied this concept using a tool called a Revelation Conversation, which is an informal conversation between a manager and direct report whereby the manager reveals the employee’s total job role, links daily work activities to the organization’s purpose and core values, and inspires greater employee engagement. This process requires that managers first become familiar with the totality of a job role, the organization’s mission, vision, or purpose and core values, and how the job roles they oversee connect to these corporate ideals.
Here’s how three-person teaching works:
- The first person teaches (as I do in the book and in this blog post).
- The second person (the reader of the book or this post) captures, comprehends, evaluates to see if it makes sense, thinks about application, and then teaches a third person.
- The third person can then gain the same awareness that the first person has and repeat the process by teaching others, cascading the information throughout the organization.
As it applies to corporate ideals, don’t just read the guiding statements and core values as an intellectual exercise. Consider how the organization interprets, connects to, and applies these statements and values in employees’ actions, behaviors, and decision-making. Then, write out these illustrations to reinforce, model, and manifest them in your real world of work.