Training for Behaviour Change



The only way to get full value from your training is when the desired behaviour is implemented and positively reinforced. Knowing what to do and doing it are two different things. The transfer of knowledge in the training room is simply not enough.

Staff Training¬† likes to “Keep it Real” and our approach thus always involves spending some time on behavioural analysis to identify cause and effect, thereafter moving to an actionable plan.

But let us talk you through an example using a case study.

Office Manager “B”:

“I would like training for my receptionist as she does not carry out even the most basic of instructions, for example we ask her to switch off the air conditioner and copier every evening to save power and three out of the five days this does not happen. When I ask her what happened she just says that she forgot.”

Firstly we need to understand that when it comes to behaviour change there are five potential influencing factors:

1. The Benchmark or requested change needs to be clear

2. Recognise that some behaviours are more difficult to change than others

3. Recognise that external influence/ policy/procedure change may be necessary

4. The behaviour change may have to filter down from the top

5. There needs to be ongoing motivation for the new habit


The Benchmark

If we then look at the benchmark for desired outcome, the explanation and/or illustration of this new standard needs to be clear, without ambiguity and logical. In addition to this we need to keep the processes and logic simple to encourage full engagement from the participants. Explaining the what, when, how and why is vital. As well as the consequence of not performing. In some instances a physical example of a benchmark would be useful.


Recognising that some behaviour is easier to change than others

In an organisation it becomes abundantly clear that there are some individuals who will assume the authority, responsibility and accountability (control) and others that will wait until these are transferred to them.

It is easier to change your behaviour if you have control, in other words you have full authority, accountability and responsibility.

For example a junior employee wanting to ensure that the air conditioner is switched off by the last employee if he/she is tasked with the duty and needs to leave early, will find it more difficult to enforce the request than the CEO would.

The difference is that the CEO carries the full authority and there would be little doubt in anyone’s mind that the request from the CEO is in fact an instruction. The junior employee, however, may not fare quite as well.


Recognising that external influences and system/procedural change may be necessary

Whilst a learner/employee, may well have the desire to change his/her behaviour, it becomes difficult for them to do so if the system does not allow it. For example a receptionist wanting to switch off the air conditioner at 16h30 can do so every day, but if the procedure is such that she has to walk to an outbuilding to switch off the air conditioner, and she has nobody to answer her switchboard during this period, the chances are it won’t be done.

Additional authority and management buy-in may be necessary to allow her the opportunity of a stand-by receptionist, alternatively the ability to delegate the job to another colleague. Assisting a learner to understand this step and the importance of then asking for the system change is imperative.


The behaviour change may have to filter down from the top

So assuming that the receptionist switches off the air conditioner and management who are working late decide to switch on again, it is necessary for management to take the responsibility of switching off when they leave. Should management then forget to switch off and shrug off the duty as one that is trivial and unimportant, it will be unrealistic to expect the employee to continue to enforce the behaviour of switching off.


There needs to be ongoing motivation for the new habit

If the same receptionist then does change her behaviour and does manage to switch off and the next week she is faced with another hurdle that involves asking for the nearly impossible with no support from management and/or others, it becomes difficult for her to see why she should co-operate. She may well slip back into apathy and procrastination due to the difficulty of the task. Continued motivation for learners is often as simple as saying “Wow, thanks I can see the progress from last year this time”

With a good understanding of these influencing factors it now becomes easier to investigate and understand the cause and effect of certain behaviours and then to put an action plan into place to change them permanently. A good training programme will recognise that this is a desired route and as a result there will be more sustainable results.


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