Why does behaviour change fail?

Why does behaviour change fail?

The most important measure in determining the success of a change initiative is the behaviour change in the organisation. By applying a systemic approach to changing behaviours at Forum we have seen clients reap significant results—to the tune of tripling sales of complex products, and double-digit spikes in their customer engagement index. But 63% of respondents to our recent survey report a lack of effectiveness at sustaining behaviour change.

So why does behaviour change fail so often?

Behaviour change fails because organisations typically focus on learning as an event, not a process – they are directing their efforts solely on the delivery and measurement part of a learning initiative, excluding communication and alignment and build tools without clarity about what the end state should look like, or means to measure it. For your behaviour change initiatives to succeed, it is essential to invest time and resources in the aligning and sustaining stages of learning by creating a learning system not a training event.

Before the learning

If you wait until the learning is underway to sustain it, you are sunk. The two key reasons for lack of sustainment—management commitment and measurement— should be addressed in the alignment phase. Senior stakeholders must agree on which behaviours will drive execution of their strategy, and how those behaviours will be measured.

Only 38% of organisations are able to demonstrate the impact of behaviour change on their business results to even a moderate extent. Getting agreement upfront on the right measurement strategy will ensure that the right behaviours are focused on. This should include a concrete plan of action for measuring behaviour change, including key metrics, how they will be tracked and by whom, and how the results will be reported back to stakeholders.

During the learning

You’ve jumped the fi­rst and biggest hurdle—senior management is bought in, clear on their role, and on how success will be measured. Now it’s time to choose the learning methodology and content that will equip people to support the change:

  • Link learning to value for the individual and the organisation
  • Connect action and reflection in a continuous cycle
  • Address learners’ attitudes and beliefs in addition to their behaviours
  • Provide learners with a balance of challenge and support
  • Create opportunities for participants to teach as well as learn
  • Design and cultivate learning communities along with learning media

After the learning

Effective leaders know that this learning phase—sustain —has the most impact on behaviour change. But who is accountable? Forum`s research detects a shift occurring: the vast majority of respondents believe that managers or learners, rather than the L&D organisation, have the main accountability for sustaining learning and behaviour change after the training.

Up to 70% of learning happens on the job, and people often struggle to “get it” on their own. So can you learn on the job? :

  • Review course skills, tools, and techniques to take you to the next level of performance and then make them your own by reflecting on their value to you and your work
  • Observe skills in action by seeking out examples, information, or models that demonstrate what success looks like
  • Identify ways to assess your progress―identify strengths to build and gaps to address
  • Find opportunities to practice and apply new skills or processes in safe environments
  • Reflect on your achievements and synthesize what you have learned and still need to learn
  • Get support and coaching for ongoing improvement

You might say, “This all sounds great, but let’s face it: in the real world, it’s not that easy.” And you’d be right. Many organizations are doing more with less—more change initiatives with fewer resources—than ever before. In addition, organisational and marketplace complexity has spiked. Only 20% of employees can easily describe their firm’s strategy, structure, operations, and products/services. In complex environments where people can barely describe what their organization does, it can be an uphill battle to get mind share and time from learners or their managers in order to make specific changes happen.

Leave a Comment