What is your first thought when training is mentioned? Is it perhaps learning a new skill in order to progress through the organisation? Or maybe it is the need to become familiar with a new piece of equipment or a software development?
These are fairly standard training requirements and, whether delivered via a one-off module or a more blended learning pathway, generally have an easily defined start and end point. But what if the training need is more complex? What if the training outcome needs not only to be the learning of new skills or practices but also to unlearn existing pathways; particularly if those existing practices are part of the culture of the organisation? That’s the time when it’s not simply a case of writing the training delivery script but also ensuring that those at the top of the organisation sponsor and promote change.
Take invoice payment times for example. According to the FSB (Federation of Small Businesses) some fifty thousand small businesses close each year simply due to late invoice payments. In fact the problem of late payments is so rife that it is currently estimated that there are some £23.4 billion of late invoices owing across Britain.
The prompt payment code, signed by some three thousand large businesses, was intended to alleviate the late payment problem. However the code’s impact has not been as significant as expected with many businesses failing to meet the code’s target of 95% of payments being made within sixty days. The Government has therefore acted to strengthen the code; firstly by shortening the payment time to thirty days and secondly by requiring that signatories to the code sit at the top of organisations. It is hoped that with a CEO or FD signature on the code, any culture of late payments has a greater chance of being changed.
So, with late payments in mind, how do organisations re-train their culture?
Leadership. Any culture change starts with leadership. And that leadership is far more than simply putting your name to change. It requires sponsorship, promotion and living the change that you want to see.
Suppliers as partners. If the culture of an organisation sees suppliers simply in terms of delivering the items which the business needs, then it’s time for a change. Suppliers should be your partners in delivering great outcomes for your customers. They can advise, support, develop and deliver; helping you to profit and grow. Seeing them as partners is an important step in ensuring that as partners you pay them in full and on time.
Revising payment systems. Any change in culture will be meaningless unless the IT and people systems are set up for change. If your processes say that invoices will only be signed off on x date each month or that invoice approval has to go through a multi-layer multi-person review and payment process then you are already on the back foot. That’s not to say that you should skip necessary reviews but a change of attitude towards flexibility and speed can make a significant difference; particularly when teamed up with an accounts process overhaul.
Director of Elemental CoSec, a company secretarial firm. Lawyer. Triathlete.
Elemental is one of the leading corporate services firms in the UK, providing company secretarial services, administrative services, accountancy services and corporate services to a full range of clients.