Leading Behavioral Change
A 4-step guide on how to lead behavioral change that will enable every organization to accelerate their performance.
Front-line employees all work closely with customers, and thus have a share in creating sales, sustaining customer loyalty, and guaranteeing differentiation. If managed correctly, the human touch can be optimized through behavioral change, both driving efficiency and unlocking significant potential. Yet, many organizations struggle to implement desired behavior, and thus unintentionally jeopardize customer retention and decrease sales opportunities. A deep dive on behavioral change rooted in a data-driven approach is often required in order to unlock full potential. Typically, only a few behavioral changes can have a massive impact.
Behavioral change is not a one-shot attempt, still employees are often flooded with new initiatives, as organizations seek to accomplish all at once.
Most organizations have defined a behavioral codex, and yet when it comes to implementing desired behavior many organizations run their heads against a brick wall. Behavioral change is not a one-shot attempt, still employees are often flooded with new initiatives, as organizations seek to accomplish all at once. Typically, most organizations find it easy to define the what to, but stumble when reaching the how to. Several studies point out the need for a continuous implementation of behavioral change and a clear set of priorities. German psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus carried out experimental studies of memory in the late 19th Century, culminating with his discovery of The Forgetting Curve. The studies found that if new information is not applied, we will forget about 75% of what we have learned after just six days. However, many organizations neglect setting up a structure for implementing behavioral change and sustaining it through continuous messaging and feedback-loops.
A 4 step-guide on how to lead behavioral change:
STEP 1: DESIGN AND CREATE A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR CHANGE
Many organizations lack an accurate foundation for improvement, and thereby struggle to implement desired behavior. Questionnaires are often used to gather insights on areas to improve, however sub-questions are generally vague and do not measure specific behavior.
The aim should be to map behavioral non-negotiables to lay the basis for a concrete action plan.
The questionnaire must be broken down into specific sub-questions that allow organizations to apply behavior based on exact measures. By asking the right questions, organizations can ensure that they receive answers that validate the desired behavior. The aim should be to map behavioral non-negotiables - for instance explaining the completed work when completing a service - to lay the basis for a concrete action plan. And so, by gathering valuable insights organizations can guide employees to enact desired behavior.
STEP 2: PRIORITIZE AND SET A CLEAR DIRECTION FOR IMPROVEMENT
When the scope of change is big, how do organization know where to start and which behaviors will have the most impact? Organizations should start by clearly mapping desired business outcomes and prioritize which front-line behavioral change is needed the most.
Without an aligned perception of what actions to prioritize, customer interactions can vary greatly depending on the employee.
By understanding the customer pain-points associated with every touchpoint, organizations can translate these into recommended actions. These should be prioritized in accordance with the impact of the given touchpoint. Our extensive research shows that not all customer touchpoints are equally important. This is a core insight, as many organizations are unaware of how each sub-process affects the overall performance. Without an aligned perception of what actions to prioritize, customer interactions can vary greatly depending on the employee. For instance, our research has uncovered that successfully closing the customer experience is the most important process to prioritize. And so, recommended actions can help prepare employees for different scenarios. We recommend converting business outcomes into measurable results for each front-line team and derive the few concrete actions that will have the most impact.
Leaders must be the anchor and a persistent driver throughout the process of behavioral change.
It can be hard to wrap one’s head around change, but people are more likely to embrace it when they know what is expected, feel encouraged and see the impact of their actions. And so, leaders must provide employees with a clear sense of what is required of them, setting a clear path for improvement, and allowing them to prepare for it. Leaders must be the anchor and a persistent driver throughout the process of behavioral change, ensuring employees understand why change is necessary and supporting them through constructive dialog.
STEP 3: TRAIN AND REMOVE BEHAVIORAL BARRIERS
Behavioral change is the single most crucial aspect to bridging execution and results on an operational level. To sufficiently lead change, organizations must remove behavioral barriers to ensure a strong link between the individual employee and the overall target for improvement. An implementation of desired behavior creates a foundation for personalizing the experience, as front-line employees can contribute with a personal touch rooted in the adapted behavior. To get employees to buy into new ways of working, organizations should display the impact of behavioral change. Every individual must understand how their behavior impacts the organization’s overall performance — and thereby understand how they contribute on a larger scale.
However, behavior can be tough to sustain, why organizations should consider how to follow up and measure on behavior, whilst challenging typical and shallow KPI structures.
Most organizations measure the effectiveness of their training based on whether the participants liked it, which provides no real indication of the behavioral impact.
Measuring the impact of behavior seems basic, yet most companies simply do not do it. McKinsey research has found that only 50 percent of organizations bother to merely keep track of participant’s feedback regarding training programs. In addition, only 30 percent use another kind of metric to measure the impact of their training. Consequently, most organizations measure the effectiveness of their training based on whether the participants liked it, which provides no real indication of the behavioral impact. Instead, organizations should measure the behavioral impact from accurate business metrics uncovered during the design phase.
STEP 4: MOTIVATE AND REINFORCE DESIRED BEHAVIOR
Any organization that looks to undertake change, will have to inspire people to think and act differently. Yet, in many cases organizations face a disconnect when mainly focusing on designing new processes, whilst neglecting to consider how to motivate employees to adapt to change. Several studies have shown that positive emotions and the feeling of safety can enhance learning and adaptability, while negative emotions can undermine progress — and in the worst-case compromise learning.
In order to fuel that change, organizations must address the root causes of behavior and reinforce employees as they make the shift.
Employees generally seek to do the right thing for their company and are more likely to embrace behavioral change if they see a pragmatic path forward. In order to fuel that change, organizations must address the root causes of behavior and reinforce employees as they make the shift. Various types of reinforcement can serve as tactics when sustaining behavioral change. However, the most effective reinforcement tends to be rooted in a motivational approach.
The strongest source of motivation comes from fueling employees with a sense of pride and purpose, when doing meaningful work — and doing it well. Intrinsic motivation seeks to meet people’s psychological needs, including the need for competence, self-governance, and relatedness. These needs must be stimulated in order for people to develop and thrive. Intrinsic motivation also involves engaging in activities that we find internally rewarding. Therefore, leaders should consider what we call the three C’s, when working with employees on a motivational scale:
1. Curiosity: Curiosity pushes us to explore and learn for the sole desire to master a skill.
2. Challenge: Being challenged helps us work at a continuous high level, as we strive towards accomplishment and reaching meaningful goals.
3. Cooperation: Cooperating with others satisfies our need for belonging. We feel personal satisfaction when working together to achieve a shared goal.
To compliment intrinsic motivation, organizations can also provide extrinsic feedback to motivate employees, by stimulating a natural search for an external reward. By showcasing employee accomplishments, for instance via gamification, organizations can activate a “hunt” for top performances that align with the desired behavior. And so, combining intrinsic motivation and extrinsic feedback, can bring organizations on a fast track to leading behavioral change.
The business landscape continues to develop with extreme haste, putting pressure on organizations to increase adaptability in order to meet customer expectations. By leading behavioral change, organizations can align performances and meet the need for increased efficiency in our ever-evolving world. The need for behavioral change is larger than ever, because in spite of our digitized world, the human touch remains a fundamental part of an organization’s ability to retain customers and create sales. Organizations don’t win on the basis of products, but by delivering a complete solution that successfully taps into a customer’s desire for progress.