There are two ultimate goals for learning and development in an organization. One is to provide employees with new skills, and the other is to enact behavior change. Learning professionals can encourage behavior change by providing knowledge and experiences in learning programs. Additionally, they can influence behavior change by engaging employees in the learning process.
It is crucial for Learning Professionals to know the basic factors that drive behavior change. This knowledge will give a better understanding in how to encourage behavior change in employees through both learning programs and the learning process.
Tali Sharot is a neuroscientist whose practice focuses on human behavior. She focuses on the tendency for humans to have an optimistic bias. She summarizes the conditions that drive changed behavior in this video. Sharot’s research shows that 80% of humans have an optimistic bias. That bias guides them towards particular circumstances that encourage behavior. Specifically, Sharot has identified 3 things that inspire behavior change.
Three Drivers That Change Behavior
1. Social incentives motivate behavior change. Modeling ideal behavior in a social group (team, department, organization) encourages others to act similarly. Sharot gives an example about sharing information such as “9 out of 10 people pay their taxes on time.” Knowing this information makes people more likely to exhibit this behavior and pay their taxes on time. People respond to societal norms that inform them on acceptable behaviors and work to resemble those behaviors.
2. Immediate rewards also influence behavior change. Sharot notes that humans value immediate rewards more than future rewards. You drive positive behavior change by rewarding people now for what is good for them in the future. Employee feedback offers immediate rewards and gives value to the time spent on learning. Even a simple smiley face or rising scores on a scoreboard gives positive feedback that encourages continued behavior change and motivation to move toward a goal.
3. Progress monitoring is the third area Sharot says drives behavior change. Sharot emphasizes the importance of focusing on the positive. Fear produces inaction but the possibility of gain produces action. For example, stating “you will get lung cancer and die if you smoke” is less productive than stating a positive. Saying “if you stop smoking you will be better at sports” is a more effective alternative.
Progress monitoring gives people a sense of control and motivates them. Progress monitoring allows employees to track progress through consistent feedback. Sharot contends that humans seek progress. You can’t scare people into behavior change because warnings have a limited impact on behavior. Humans tend to rationalize away fear and continue their bad behavior. People tend to avoid bad news and to change their beliefs toward a more positive outcome. The key to progress monitoring is to give visibility to what you are doing, not warnings.
Applying Drivers of Behavior to Learning Programs
All three drivers of behavior favor transparency in learning outcomes. It is crucial for learning professionals to understand social incentives, immediate rewards, and progress monitoring are drivers to change behavior. This knowledge provides a good layout for the application of learning in an organization.
The ROI by Design measurement process aligns nicely with the three drivers of behavior change. The measurable design ensures a focus on job skills. It also gives clarity on how learning programs put employees in a position to be successful. Providing employees with transparency of learning goals and outcomes provides social incentives. This transparency further provides immediate rewards. Additionally, providing individual results from the learning programs will install progress monitoring. This happens because the results show their progression of skill required to reach their development goal.
We have always known the ROI by Design method created a learning organization. A transformation happens by providing employees certainty in what skills they are gaining from learning programs. We have also seen that giving employees direct feedback on results encourages them to engage and collaborate towards driving their own development.
The Science Behind the Design Model
Sharot’s research is a nice confirmation of the science behind the success of the ROI by Design model. Certainly, it’s good to understand how neuroscience supports learning and development efforts. Most importantly, it is beneficial to understand how combining the science of design, and the discipline of human behavior, helps all learning and development professionals embrace notable wisdom and improve their practice.
Does your team know how to create learning that changes employee behavior? If your L&D team needs to gain skills in this area, please contact us here at eParamus. We can walk you through those changes step by step.
Please follow eParamus on LinkedIn and feel free to connect with me, Laura Paramoure, PhD to discuss your specific learning challenges.