Tips for creating and delivering training that influences behavior
Whether it is due to a new process, business goals, or regulations, any time you need to change your staff’s behaviors or ways of doing things, you’ll need to plan your training campaign carefully to ensure you’re positioning the participants for success.
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking training for behavior change should be an easy task. After all, it is a simple move from doing things one way to doing them another. However, the reality may be much more complicated.
I was asked to roll out a new call logging process for our contact centers. I pulled everyone into the training room and I told our agents the new way of doing things. A month after the training, the majority of the agents weren’t following the new process, the management team was not happy with the results, and I was left wondering where I’d gone wrong.
I found myself back at square one. I had forgotten that there is more to changing behavior than simply telling my trainees what they should be doing. Instead, it is essential to focus on addressing the whole person throughout the whole process.
Understand your trainee’s perspective…and resistance to change
Let’s start with the person. To develop a successful training program, you need to think about the new process from a participant’s point of view.
Some good questions to ask yourself are:
- Why do I have to do this? How does it benefit me?
- Why should I care?
- What’s wrong with the old way of doing things?
Before you begin constructing your lesson, you should attempt to answer each of these questions from the trainee’s perspective. Doing say may help you see the issue from a different angle and give you insights into why trainees may resist a new procedure.
As a species, humans seem hardwired to avoid change as much as possible. In her article for Harvard Business Review, Rosabeth Moss Kanter outlines ten reasons people resist change. There can be many other reasons that are specific to your organization or project, but the article can be a good resource when you are identifying possible causes of resistance to a new process.
So, it is essential to remember that when you’re conducting training, you’re persuading others to adopt your, or the company’s, point of view. When framed from this perspective, what you need to do to convince your participants can become much clearer. For example, if you suspect the employees will object to a new process because it is more complicated than the previous iteration, you can focus on the benefits of the new process for the business and employees. In general, if you can incorporate the answers to the questions we discussed earlier at the beginning of your lesson, either through a “What’s In It For Me” section or a discussion of the problems with current system, you’ll have gone a long way to breaking down a trainee’s automatic barriers. By automatic barriers, I mean those gut-reactions people often have to new and different things. A good example of this is the person who immediately says, “I’ve done it this way for ten years, and I’m not changing now,” without ever even considering the benefits of a new way of doing things.
These types of objections can be the most difficult to overcome. It may not always be obvious, but if you can relate the change to a positive for the employee, then you’re more likely to gain and keep their attention. This was the case when we created statewide training for moving practitioners from a paper-based to electronic filing process. The challenge wasn’t only one of skills training; it was in motivating the physicians to use the software.
In my contact center example mentioned earlier, when I re-trained the agents (the second time around), I made sure to explain to them that the new, better call tracking system would allow our business teams to make more informed decisions about what problems to work on for our customers—and once those problems were solved, customers wouldn’t call and complain about them. Once agents understood that to the new system would not only help our customers, but would also reduce the number of complaint calls the agents received, they were more open to the idea of changing the way they logged the calls.
Disrupt the powerful grip of habits and cues
In addition, you may need to consider how deeply ingrained the current behavior or process is within the employee’s minds. You may face a challenge if the current process has become a thoughtless habit for your trainees. For example, when was the last time you had to think about tying your shoes?
No habit is permanent. In his book, The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg points out that habits are malleable throughout our lives, but we need to understand the cues and rewards surrounding a habit to make a change.
For example, I discovered the agents were logging calls after they had completed their notes. Their cue for logging was finishing a set of notes, and they felt rewarded when they could finish with record keeping for the interaction. In order to disrupt their existing habits, I encouraged the agents to begin logging the call first and then complete their notes as part of implementing the new call tracking system. Changing the order of tasks helped them be more aware of how they were doing their job and less likely to fall into an old habit.
Changing employee habits can be hard. It may be best to be prepared to do some follow-up training and coaching to ensure that the employees receive the support they need throughout the transition process.
Establish structures to encourage success, support behavior change
Consider building a support plan as part of your training. This plan should be something that supervisors or managers can use with their employees to help them successfully change the behavior. Support programs can be as simple as having the supervisors monitor adherence and discuss it with the employees during regular check-ins, or it can be as sophisticated as a company-wide competition that rewards employees in some way for their adherence to the new program.
Training to influence behavior is always a challenge, but it can be a rewarding one. Therefore, when crafting your training, give extra thought to your audience and their potential feelings and motivations. Then, address each point you identify. Make the effort to focus on the people rather than the process, and you’re more likely to succeed.
Would hiring a learning and development company help your company manage changes in organization or help you reach your goals? Feel free to contact us — we’d be happy to walk through your situation with you.
Image: “Detour,” by Rusty Clark, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)