MOOCs: How to Create and Enhance Corporate Culture

Corporate culture has become a new buzzword, fueled partly by the increased importance being placed on soft skills. For a long time, corporate culture was generally ignored, or at least not actively shaped and promoted. But today an organization’s culture has a huge impact on its ability to attract and retain top talent as well as employee job satisfaction, productivity, and performance-all of which directly impact the bottom line. An excellent culture, which includes the organization’s values and desired employee behaviors, has been instrumental to the success of companies like Apple, and many businesses are now making hiring and firing decisions based on an applicant’s or employee’s cultural “goodness of fit.”

Every organization has a culture and that culture matters. Lendio CEO Brock Blake wrote in a recent blog post at that corporate culture is the most important factor in “attracting (and keeping) rockstar talent.” Integrating corporate culture into a training program can improve communication, unify the culture across all levels of a company, and encourage and reinforce employee behaviors that are aligned with the organizational goals and expectations. But many organizations do not adequately invest in corporate culture training, which can be a costly, and even fatal, mistake. Corporate culture starts at the top, with the articulated vision and mission of the company and the behaviors of executives, and it is these senior stakeholders who need to take the reins in promoting excellence. As Blake wrote: “It really doesn’t matter if your business is large or small-been around for a while or a startup, it starts with you. If your company has a crappy culture, it’s your fault.”

Massive open online courses (MOOCs) offer a unique and powerful way to implement corporate culture training. Using this scalable, flexible format, executives can communicate the company’s vision and mission, employees can learn and practice desired behaviors, and activities can be designed to promote teamwork within and across project groups, departments, and even geographical locations.

Here are some ways MOOCs can help you implement or improve the corporate culture in your organization:

    • Communicating consistent information. The key to a great corporate culture is consistency. Too often, senior executives think they are creating a specific type of culture (e.g., one where creativity and innovation are encouraged), but this message is not making its way down the ladder (e.g., employees feel too harshly punished for mistakes). To make sure the message is consistent from top to bottom, the core values must be clearly articulated by senior stakeholders and understood by everyone in the company. One major advantage of delivering training via a MOOC is that it is a highly efficient way to communicate the corporation’s core values and stories quickly and to the entire organization all at once.
    • Training leaders to embody the desired culture. All leaders in an organization need to know what the desired culture is and what practices and behaviors will reflect that culture. Mini-MOOCs are ideal for discussion-oriented management courses, such as ethical awareness and decision-making. Using various technology-enabled learning tools, leaders can focus on responding to actual problems and scenarios, and practice the desired behaviors via role play, interactive simulations, and synchronous or asynchronous discussions in virtual spaces.
    • Building cultural learning networks. MOOCs are not just new ways to deliver content; they are tools for people to build their own personal learning networks, which represent intersections between content, people, and other resources. Culture is different from other training subjects because it is primarily learned through observing and interacting with others. MOOCs provide many opportunities for employees to identify, observe, and interact with their peers, thus building their own cultural learning networks. As these networks evolve, natural leaders will emerge, and the social learning tools used in MOOCs can help organizations identify these leaders and ensure that they are communicating and practicing the desired culture.
    • Observing the created culture. Since MOOCs make nearly every aspect of the learning experience trackable, they provide myriad opportunities to observe the current culture in different departments or the organization as a whole. This can help executives better understand the culture that they create. Also, by monitoring the various activities within a MOOC, trainers can observe employees’ interactions and provide feedback and support when needed to ensure that the actual culture aligns with the desired one.
  • Identifying employees who embody the desired culture. Another advantage of putting the entire training experience online is the ability to identify and reward employees who embody the desired culture, as well as determine when reinforcement is needed. Offering advancement opportunities to employees who personify an organization’s desired culture is an excellent way to motivate others to follow their lead.

Only recently has the cultural fit between employees and organizations been recognized and studied, but by some reports nearly 9 in 10 new hire failures are due to a poor cultural fit and many companies now consider applicants’ cultural fit more important than their actual skills. Not every aspect of cultural fit can be trained, but many can, and organizations need to lead the way by ensuring that their core values and desired culture and behaviors are clearly understood and practiced by every employee. The MOOC format is an engaging, effective way to provide the needed corporate culture training at all levels. Don’t let a crappy culture get in the way of your organization’s success.

Copyright 2013 Bryant Nielson. All Rights Reserved.

Bryant Nielson – Managing Director of CapitalWave Inc.- offers 25+ years of training and talent management for executives, business owners, and top performing sales executives in taking the leap from the ordinary to extraordinary. Bryant is a entrepreneur, trainer, and strategic training adviser for many organizations. Bryant’s business career has been based on his results-oriented style of empowering the individual.