So how do you get your employees to change? Tess Robinson has a few tactics.
Behaviour change is really hard! If you’ve ever tried to give up smoking or do more exercise you’ll know what I mean. There are so many factors that weigh in on it: personal, social, cultural, organisational – getting it right is very difficult.
But, it is the holy grail of learning and there are some things that you can do to help smooth the way to successful change:
If you try to change lots of things at once, you’ll be doomed to failure. The first step is to understand what you’re trying to achieve and I don’t just mean ‘teach people how to do X’. You need to know what the desired outcome is and how that fits in with your organisation’s goals and strategy.
Once you’ve done this, list the behaviours that you need to encourage to reach those goals and then rank them in order of importance – choose the top one to start with. Focussing on one behaviour at a time will improve clarity and increase your chances of success.
You need to know what the desired outcome is and how that fits in with your organisation’s goals and strategy.
The next step is to define what success looks like and be specific about the goal. If learners have a clear idea of where they’re headed and why, they’ll be more likely to get there. Be positive, focus on what they will do and, importantly, what’s in it for them (WIIFM), not on what they won’t do. This will set the scene for change in a constructive way.
Incremental change is easier and often more acceptable than wholesale change. Although you may be itching to jump in and do it all at once, focusing on achievable steps will help you to sustain motivation – both your own and that of your learners. Be aware also that behaviour change isn’t always linear.
People will naturally want to revisit stages and allowances should be made for this.
Link to organisation goals
Behaviour change is most successful when we make an effort to communicate the sense of a shared destiny. By this I don’t mean, ‘if we don’t change, we’ll all get made redundant’ but instead encouraging your people to aspire to a better future. Humans are social animals, we like to have a common goal.
I’m training for my first half marathon at the moment to support an old school friend in raising money for Motor Neurone Disease research. We’re doing it as a group of 20 and even though the process is tough (I’m not a runner) it feels really, really good to have this shared goal and to all be on the same side.
I know I’m much more likely to keep up my training and get through it with the group than I would be on my own. Having said that, it’s also essential not to forget the WIIFM – what benefits will this behaviour change bring to the individual? Running will make me stronger and fitter.
At work, will this behaviour change make their job easier, more interesting, more varied?
When communicating your organisation goals and the behaviour change needed to achieve them, don’t ‘tell’ – co-create instead. Let’s face it, very few people like being told what to do. Involving the people whose behaviour you want to change from the start will transform the process.
They should be some of your key stakeholders when designing learning. This will increase buy-in, generate advocacy and accelerate change.
If you have reward or recognition schemes in your organisation then the behaviours that you want to cultivate can be tied into these. Individual priorities should also be aligned with the goal and behaviour through performance appraisal, development discussions or whatever scheme you have in your organisation.
This is your secret weapon. You’ve included your people from the start – they feel like they own the change you’re trying to make. The next step is to harness the power of the community. Recruit ‘champions’ who can lead by example.
It’s often helpful if some of these champions are senior management, but they could also be a particularly well-liked shop-floor worker for example – a bit of gentle peer pressure can do wonders. Social influence does not necessarily match positions in the hierarchy and you’ll need to be a bit clever about picking the right people.
Whoever you choose as your messenger, they should, ideally, share common values with the audience.
Look for early adopters and recruit them to the cause. Seek out positive role models and give them public recognition for the ‘right’ behaviour. Technology can really help bring the social side to life, particularly in large or dispersed organisations, through networks, badges, story-sharing, mentoring and communicating successes. Again, helping to give the sense that we’re all in it together.
Provide a safe environment to explore questions
Change can be scary. Providing a safe environment where your learners can practise new behaviours is essential. Again, this is where technology really excels.
You can use questions to help learners explore their own motivations for change, stories to communicate the benefits of the change and scenarios to help people to work through the actions that they need to take to change their behaviours and explore the consequences.
As I said, behaviour change is hard – you may be pushing against long-held beliefs and habits and these are tough to unlearn. But if you take the right steps in the right way at the right time, you can achieve it.
About the author
Tess Robinson is a director of LAS. LAS helps people and organisations grow and evolve through digital learning experiences. Tess has a keen interest in the psychology and behaviours behind how people learn and holds a masters degree in organisational behaviour.