Top 3 Tips for Effecting Behavioural Change in the Workplace

January 23, 2015 | Burlington, Ontario
Contributed by Peter Gardiner-Harding

Peter-Gardiner-Harding_Bio_page1Make no mistake, effecting behavioural change in the workplace is a difficult and complex process. Behaviours that need changing usually have become entrenched over time and the culture in the workplace grows to value these behaviours, if not consciously and overtly, but unconsciously. Changing them is not for the faint of heart, nor is there a one-size-fits-all approach. It takes time, planning, practice and often, failure and trying again. And maybe again! The work needs to continue until the new behaviour becomes the norm.

Tip # 1 – The change must include everyone

No one gets a buy! Often leaders make the mistake of looking below themselves in the organization chart and deciding that “they must change, but I don’t really have to.” For example, if your sales team is expected to adopt a more consultative selling approach with customers and your board continues to accept all sales revenue as good sales revenue, it won’t take long for the sales team to learn that the old, do-what-it-takes habits are really still quite acceptable – and easier since they are so hardwired. This isn’t saying that sales targets need to be abandoned at any time in the cycle, just that all internal stakeholders need to factor in how their own change contributes to the whole and giving the change a chance to take hold.

Tip # 2 – Make the reason to change an emotional one for each employee . . . and help them along the way

As much as we hate to admit it, our behaviours are largely emotionally driven. This is the reason why fewer than 10% of newly-diagnosed, heart disease patients make the necessary changes in their lifestyle when they are presented with the facts of their situations. Studies show that when patients find an emotional reason to change and are supported heavily through their process, they stand a much greater chance of making the leap. Similarly in workplace situations, employees need an emotional hook to jumpstart their willingness to embrace the change. And the truth is, other people will have different emotional hooks, many of which you may not share or understand.

Tip # 3 – Measure the changes

Find a way to measure the changes that take place in your people as close to the behaviour as you can. Using the sales team example above, if you can find a way to count and reward the occurrences of the consultative behaviour, that will affirm the changes far more than if you count and reward an increase in sales or an increase in customer satisfaction – measures that are more removed from the behaviour.

And I will stress this again, if your first attempt doesn’t work, find another way in using your recent experience as a guide. The art of this activity is in the integration of your growing knowledge of the need for change and, more importantly, the people you are asking to change.  The way they demonstrate their willingness and ability will help you figure out what is needed to help them change.


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