Employees are human. They bring the baggage of their personal and professional lives into the workplace every day. At times — say, during a global pandemic — their work is highly affected by what they’re carrying around.
If you have noticed a lack of motivation or waning productivity among your employees, it isn’t going to correct itself. Dinging them with penalties is not the solution. This situation calls for taking steps to change their behavior to restore both productivity and job satisfaction.
Change is never easy for humans, but it’s also not impossible. Here are a few ways you can guide your employees through a behavior change.
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You need a plan. A random nip or tuck here and there will not change behavior throughout the workplace. Even if you manage to have a few good days, the change will be fleeting.
If you want to truly set employee behavior on the right path, you need to create a change management plan. Effecting real change is a process, so you need a plan that details the route to transformation. At the same time, the plan must be nimble enough to pivot when what’s on paper doesn’t exactly match reality.
A change management plan includes goals, timelines, communication strategies, resource obligations, and ways to measure achievement. Creating one requires time, energy, and input from the right people on the front end. Having one to present to stakeholders to garner approval and support can be priceless.
If you don’t know where to begin with a plan, look for templates or examples to guide you. Such tools will inform the range of considerations and decisions you need to make. Then, fill in the blanks to develop a plan that will lead to substantive and sustainable change for the better.
Behavioral change doesn’t occur without pushing the right buttons. Getting one person to stop smoking by understanding what motivates them to smoke is one thing. Figuring out which buttons to push to a collective group of employees is quite another.
The MAPS Model identifies four levers critical to employee behavioral change: motivation, ability, psychological capital, and supporting environment. It takes pulling all four to create lasting change, but they won’t all work the same way for individual employees. What motivates one to change their behavior may not work on any other employee.
Achieving buy-in and creating a sense of urgency are buttons you need to push before you begin pulling levers. You need to help employees understand why behavioral change is necessary to their success and the success of the company. Only then can you provide the motivation and support they need to get the job done.
The further you are from front-line employees, the less likely it is you’ll know how to motivate them. Rely on input from the people who manage them directly to identify their buttons. Then begin pushing the ones that will make them, if not enthusiastic, at least willing to adjust their behavior.
The do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do approach is a highly ineffective leadership tactic for changing employee behavior. Instead, you should be a model for employees by making visible changes in your own behavior. Setting the right example will increase buy-in and promote the necessary we’re-all-in-this-together mentality.
Monitor employee progress and react to what’s going on. Reward positive behavior to encourage others to follow suit. Respond to employee behavior, good, bad, or somewhere in between, with consistency.
As you’re guiding employees toward change goals, know that some are going to fall behind. Be willing to step out of the lead, go to the back of the line, and pick up laggards. If they see they have your support, they may become less resistant to the changes they need to make.
Embracing change is all about changing mindsets. If you have hundreds of employees, you need to change hundreds of minds. Make sure you start with your own and be a model for the benefit of change.
The vision for behavioral change goals, results, and rewards must be shared throughout the change process — and with more than just the C-suite. It needs to be shared with the people who are effecting behavioral change.
So don’t hide the change management plan in a locked file cabinet. Share it with the employees you’re relying on to change and keep them apprised throughout the process. You can’t achieve change without them.
Engaging employees is routinely necessary for productivity, continuity, job satisfaction, and to give them a voice. Employee engagement is even more crucial to realizing behavioral change in an organization. Information is power, so don’t keep it to yourself.
Regularly communicate successes, failures, and strategies that are working as well as those that are not. Furthermore, don’t forget to give employees a forum for expressing their thoughts, too. Sharing is, after all, a two-way street.
Employee baggage may be significantly heavier these days. The extra weight may very well be slowing your people down in their performance in the workplace. Guiding them through behavioral change will require helping them unpack what they’re carrying. Lessen their load, and they may be far more willing to make the changes beneficial to them and the company.
Forced change is never lasting — if it occurs at all. Instead, you must have a plan to motivate employees, set a good example, and share wins and losses. With such a plan in place, you might find that everyone chooses to be on their best behavior.