Cultivating Leadership Buy-in

Great culture

Great culture. Everything just works better when you have it. But culture is hard to grasp, rising from the bottom up at the same time it flows from the top down.

All that is to say, company culture grows where and when institutional and interpersonal moments happen. Four groups account for the vast majority of those moments: leadership, support teams like finance and Human Resources, influencers, and managers.

Leadership creates the vision for a company’s culture. Departments translate that vision into actionable policies and procedures for managers to abide by. In turn, most of an employee’s experience with company culture comes from day-to-day moments with managers — several layers for a message to pass through.

A learning management system is nothing if not an ideal place for employees and leadership to cut through the hierarchy and meet each other on an individual level.

We wanted to learn how some of the most successful brands ensure that a consistent, genuine company culture reaches all levels of their organization. Jazzercise, Cafe Rio, Urban Plates, Sugarfina, and Farmer’s Table all shared with us their best practices on cultivating leadership buy-in and building genuine company culture.

Getting their attention

A two-pronged approach from the learning and development team for Farmer’s Table helped their leadership understand the reach and utility provided by an LMS, at the same time it raised adoption rates.

The L&D team’s clever approach was a ‘Farmer’s Table League’ competition on the LMS. Employees were grouped into teams and competed for gift cards and paid time off.

Teams earned points both inside the system and in the workplace. Logging in, completing content, sending messages — all of it counted, as did performance in sales initiatives. Each week the leadership team received an update and, over the course of the competition, use of the system doubled in six months.


Flatten the Hierarchy

Once employees absorb the LMS into their daily routine, members of the leadership team have an opportunity to bolster culture by talking directly with employees.

For example, Sugarfina’s leadership filmed a video welcoming users to their LMS. The founders of the boutique candy company, Rosie O’Neill and Josh Resnick, introduce themselves and outline the vision behind the system and the company.

The leadership team at Cafe Rio, a fast casual Mexican restaurant, sends out a weekly video message to all general managers. The video keeps GMs informed on the big picture and gives them the opportunity to comment and respond — another person-to-person moment.

Judi Sheppard Missett, CEO of Jazzercise, and Shanna Missett Nelson, President of Jazzercise (and Judi’s daughter), have their own channel in their LMS, called Now@Judi&Shanna. The two post regularly and cover everything from class ideas and sales tips to special announcements. Plus, Judi and Shanna respond to comments and encourage users to ask questions and share opinions.

Short videos and individual interactions like these a great example of how leadership can talk tell their story and discuss company values on an individual level.

Keep them coming back

Interest in any LMS will peak at some point. One way to keep users’ attention is through a site rebrand, and leadership buy-in can help supercharge the effects of a rebrand. A few low-risk high-reward strategies for a leadership team willing to chip in includes having leaders talk about the site refresh at meetings or conferences, or even in company newsletters.

Fast casual restaurant Urban Plates rebranded its LMS in 2018 to mix things up and keep users engaged. The leadership team at Urban Plates fully supported the rebrand and helped create some buzz around the new-look site. As a result, Urban Plates saw engagement on its LMS more than double in about a month. Leadership has continued to support the site since, with ongoing features like the “New Manager Spotlight Video.”

Periodic rebranding is key to keeping users interested. If nothing changes on the site over time users can, understandably, start to believe there isn’t much new material and little reason to regularly log on.


Itching for more? Learn how you can use culture as a competitive advantage.