We are what we repeatedly do. EXCELLENCE, therefore is not an act but is a habit.
How many times have you invested time, money and effort in carrying out a training process with your people - only to feel that it did not yield meaningful behavioural change? I know I have seen this happen all too many times.
Sadly, this is all too common. But it's
not because of how hard it is to measure
behavioural changes or "soft"
As a professional training and consulting firm we realized a good while back that we had better focus on creating tools and methods for our clients that would greatly increase the impact of the training processes they bring us in for.
This post is exactly about that.
When conducting training activities that are geared towards changing/adapting people’s regular behaviour, the process should include three stages and all three of them must be implemented for meaningful impact to occur.
Sadly, it’s the third one that gets
overlooked or given up on, causing
massive waste of training budgets and
ultimately cutting the amounts of
money organizations are willing to
allot for such trainings.
1st Stage: MINDSET
This stage is all about generating true internal motivation among the trainees to adopt the new behaviours.
This is the stage in which the WHY must get answered and must include the direct benefits to the trainees (above and beyond the greater benefit at the enterprise level). The rationale provided for the new desired behaviours must be closely linked to the individual being trained. This stage is predominately theoretical by nature. It is a didactic process that is conducted through a frontal (albeit interactive) format – as such, this stage should be shorter then the next two stages.
2nd Stage: SKILL SET
This stage is all about generating a true internal sense of self-efficacy.
The trainees must believe that the new behaviour is possible (and not just merely necessary and worth their while at an organizational level). They must feel that they can successfully adopt the new behaviours if they wish to. This stage is much less theoretical and must include tools and methods that are clearly defined and structured in a way that requires minimal talent and maximum discipline.
The tools and methods presented should be well documented in a HOW TO format and should require little more than consistent and sufficient practice in order for pretty much anyone to be able to apply them. This stage should not be conducted as a frontal training format but rather be rich with simulations and role playing activities that allow the trainees to try out the new desired behaviours (if this means breaking up into smaller groups – it’s well worth the cost and effort).
To ensure optimal value from this stage, the simulations and role playing situations should be designed based on real life scenarios the trainees are most familiar with from their day to day realities.
3rd Stage: REINFORCEMENT (TOP-DOWN)
One of the most important words in this document thus far is “consistency”. The only real way to change behaviours is to ensure that the new desired behaviours are implemented consistently and frequently in the immediate months following the training.
This can be supported by external vendors (especially if they were the ones that conducted the first two stages) but that will not be sufficient.
The most impact-full functions to ensure true,
lasting and self-sustaining adoption of the
new desired behaviours are the trainee’s direct managers
(and even their manager’s managers).
People are naturally smart from an “organizational survival” perspective. Your employees are constantly bombarded with more expectations then they can realistically deliver on. Therefore, they develop a natural selection process which is almost completely based on what they actually get measured on and what their managers follow-up with them on.
Therefore, even if the first and second stages listed above are conducted perfectly, it is critically important that in the immediate months following these two stages the trainee’s direct managers maintain a consistent dialogue with them about the new behaviours. If they do not appear to care about the actual adoption of the desired behaviours at the focus of the first two stages, then these new behaviours will most likely not be adopted by the large majority of the trainees.
Cost effective ways of applying REINFORCEMENT:
- Digital follow-up – starting as soon as 24 hours following the end of the first round of training (the first two stages), have the senior most manager who attended the training (or who approved and budgeted it) send out reinforcing emails that emphasize the desired behaviours and some of the insights presented in the 1st and 2nd stages. These emails should not be long and should allow for very quick consumption. They should go out at least once a week for at least eight weeks. As time passes, these emails should include positive reinforcement and acknowledgement of examples of how the new desired behaviours were successfully adopted by some of the people who attended the training. These don’t need to be BIG events – even the smallest of examples will serve the purpose of reinforcing the first and second stages listed above. The key is to actively demonstrate that management is paying attention and truly committed to the adoption of these new behaviours.
- Structural follow-up – starting as soon as the next team meeting with the trainees and through the next meetings over the following months, make sure to allocate time on the formal agenda of the meeting to revisit the behaviours and insights discussed on the training process (the first two stages) and/or to discuss positive and negative events as they relate to the desired behaviours.
- Personal follow-up – in conjunction with the structural follow-up process, the direct manager must reach out to each of the trainees who attended the training process (the first two stages) and ask them about how they are managing the new desired behaviours. This need not be a negative and judgemental interaction. It should be more of a friendly follow-up (certainly at the beginning) where you, their direct manager, listen to when and where they are successful and less successful in adopting the new desired behaviours and then think together with them about what may be holding them back and how they can be assisted in better adopting the new desired behaviours. If the number of trainees is large (above 20), this task can and should be delegated to other managers who they report to, but you should still do this yourself with a few of the trainees.
The common top-down messages that come through these various forms of follow-ups are: (a) “Management really does care about these new behaviours being thoroughly adopted”, (b) "The original training process was not just an ad-hock and superficial activity that was meant to check off a box in the company’s “employee training and development” category" and (c) "There is real top down commitment to the change in the trainee’s behaviours".
This is precisely why this cannot be done
simply by hiring an external vendor to
conduct follow-up training and one on one
couching – even if this vendor has been
working with you for years and has achieved
a true “Business Partner” relationship status
with you and/or your company.
Such follow-up by this vendor may be justified and well worth it, but it does not constitute the 3rd stage of REINFORCEMENT. Your employees care about what YOU show them that YOU care about. As I have already stated, they have highly developed senses when it comes to what you say you care about and what you actually care about – and they will respond mainly to the latter.