An upscale athletic club was struggling as they tried to move from a culture established under the previous owner to a more vibrant and accountable culture desired by the new owner. Decades of a low-accountability management style left a deep imprint on employees and it was shared with new hires both formally (from managers) and informally (other employees) with remarkable speed. The original owner didn’t like to fire employees so if one position wasn’t a good fit, they would simply be moved to another. While it was reassuring to know their jobs were secure, some employees abused this “no pink slip” generosity with the knowledge that managers and supervisors had limited authority.

You can imagine the impact this had within the organization.

The new leadership team needed to swap out the old culture and create new best practices for their managers. This kind of cultural change is difficult and often fails because senior leadership sees the shift as simply intellectual or cognitive when in fact it is fundamentally an emotionalprocess. The new leadership needed an enthusiastic commitment to a revised way of running the business, not just a list of expectations for the management team.

The new owners of the athletic club examined a number of approaches to changing their corporate culture. Ultimately they decided on a “Boot Camp” approach that not only gave managers new skills on how to lead employees more effectively, but a deeper understanding of why those skills actually work. The approach involved several critical components:

  • An interactive and participatory presentation style, engaging all employees
  • Establishing a clear link between their professionalism and the new norms
  • An in-depth exploration of what drives workplace performance based on science, as opposed to the typical off-the-shelf program
  • A specific focus on new and better ways to provide feedback, recognition, and validation throughout the company
  • Concluding with immediately actionable best practices for managers

The result? Our Employee Engagement Boot Camp for Managers created a new baseline and a new vocabulary for how to improve employee engagement. Managers felt inspired and newly equipped with the tools needed to effectively implement a culture shift in their organization.