It Takes Time to Change Employee Habits – And Lots of Support.
Lack of measurable results from employee development programs is a big bugaboo with senior management. Executives understand and support the idea that engagement occurs best when employees understand their roles, believe that the organization cares about their contribution, and get support from the organization to achieve ongoing success.
Yet hard evidence is tough to capture, because the process takes time, and improvement is gradual. It is rare for the development program to hit a “home run.”*
Most human development does not make big leaps most of the time. but steady progress; the more productive work habits that training tries to embed take a while to become habitual. Thus, investments in training take months to pay off, and do so in increments that financial analysts struggle to measure.
The tortoises, not the hare, win the long-term productivity game
The best progress in raising workplace productivity is steady, with employees working through the learning process in manageable chunks so that they can master each new, more productive behavior or mindset.
This takes time, as a graph we found on Diplateevo.com exhibits so well:
Understanding occurs quickly in the classroom, and/or in early one-on-one engagement sessions between boss and subordinate. Employee engagement is not rocket science, and the concepts make sense, so getting agreement that it should occur is not hard. And setting out the road map to achieving higher engagement and productivity is not hard, either. Experience has paved that road pretty well, and the signage is now pretty clear, too.
What takes time is moving past understanding to truly mastering the new behavior and mindsets. This cannot be left to the employees to achieve on their own. This is where most development initiatives struggle, because old habits are hard to break without support. Much as smokers return to smoking during stressful times, the pressures of work drive people back to old, familiar comfortable habits even when they know that the old habits are less productive than the new habit they have agreed to adopt. Most people are creatures of habit, and struggle to change their ways without constant encouragement and reinforcement. They also don’t want to be “the only one” taking the risk and seeking to change behavior.
Sustained coaching, mentoring and check-ins (triads, 360s and the like) are the tools that keep the agreements and commitment at the top of people’s minds, and keep them practicing the new behaviors long enough for them to hit the inflection point and exhibit mastery of the new ways of interacting with each other.
Keep this graph handy when explaining how learning really works with senior executives. Remind them that most of their employees are not as success-oriented as the executives are, and are not as apt to drive themselves to adopt more productive behaviors without encouragement and support. If they want a more productive workforce on a sustained basis, providing the immediate supervisors with the development tools that build productivity post-workshop is a critical step to embed in the organization’s human development program.
If you want help with facts and figures, or how to present your recommendations more effectively to senior executives, give us a call to get some effective ammunition to include.
*Home runs are those rare Big Ideas that arise out of engagement activities that significantly and quickly improve product, service or process and save or earn a bunch of money. Frustratingly, they occur just often enough that people come to expect them, and consider them the ultimate goal of the engagement exercise. This is a big error that sets everyone up for disappointment.