Behaviour change needs a workflow solution

Workflow graphic
2 Jul, 2021

Behaviour change needs a workflow solution, not a learning solution. Think about it… When I ask people in Learning & Development (L&D) what they think is the purpose of training, they give answers like learning, knowledge, new skills, compliance etc. Then the answers start to change as people re­flect on the desired end result from training. They usually begin to home in on a purpose for training that is about helping people develop so they can be better at doing what they do on behalf of their employer. They arrive at something like, “The purpose of training is to improve competence and change the way people do things so they perform better and consistently get better results at work”.

In essence, unless the training is fulfilling some tick box compliance require­ment, it all comes back to behaviour change. We train people because we want them to change their behaviour, yet when I look at the way people commonly deliver training, it is not a recipe for behaviour change.

So, what is a recipe for behaviour change?

Think of something you do that you are good at. Were you always that good? Probably not. How did you get good at it? You started doing it then practiced.

I know this seems obvious, but for someone to develop a new behaviour and do things differently, they have to start doing things differently. Then they have to do those different things enough times to get to a threshold level of competence. Then they probably need to do them even more times to develop the new behaviour into a habit that will be sustained over time. Learning without doing does not lead to behaviour change.

During the time they are practising a new behaviour, the employee will need support, guidance, some information, maybe some coaching, and obviously the opportunity to do the practice required.

In essence, to achieve sustained behaviour change within our employees, we need to provide them a sequence of activities and some different inputs over a period of time that are designed with the end result in mind. This is how we can ‘deliver’ behaviour change.

What we have just described is termed a workflow. According to Wikipedia, a workflow consists of an orchestrated and repeatable pattern of activity that leads to a specific outcome. If the steps in the workflow are followed as prescribed, the outcome will be attained.

If the outcome of your learning initiative is behaviour change, then you need a workflow solution, not a learning solution. I’m not saying that learning isn’t required; what I am saying is that learning is only one of the many steps in the workflow required to achieve the behaviour change you want.

Are you applying a workflow approach to delivering L&D, or are planning to do so? I’d be keen to hear how you are doing it, or the challenges that stop you doing it…”

Paul Matthews
CEO and Founder of People Alchemy
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