Employees are your Athletes – unleash their winning performance
Did you know that most resistance to change is unconscious and a biological function of the brain to actually burn fewer calories? What we refer to as a habit is a coating the brain constructs around a repeatedly active neural pathway along with help from a part of the brain called the Basal Ganglia. How do we experience it? Take, for example, when a manager wants to change the way they manage but “habits” keep bringing her/him back to the “old behavior”.
Compare the situation of a sports athlete to an office manager. Both need to become experts in a new skill but their environments are much different. An athlete has the luxury of practicing a skill frequently over an extended period of time usually guided by a personal coach. When combined with her/his intrinsic (self) motivation they perfect the skill.
In the manager’s environment work gets in the way of training. Also, companies are driven by deadlines, costs, and the availability of their managers. Training programs tend to fit the environment more so than the science of learning. Also, unlike the athlete who can easily be measured by participating in competitions, the follow up long-term performance measurement of the manager can be less tangible.
Companies develop their people to improve their organization. How well are they tracking the value of return on the investments made in training? Techniques and tools for learning have greatly improved in the last 5 years. The efficiency of delivering training has improved in the same period but the adoption of new skills has not improved at nearly the same rate. When new skills don’t become institutionalized CEOs get frustrated, believing they’ve wasted money. We have gathered feedback from organizations, looked at real-world examples, and extensively reviewed the body of research studies in the science of learning. Below we have described some common mistakes organizations are prone to make and also listed a few small improvements that can make a big difference to outcomes.
Here are some of the worst forced errors we’ve seen within the limitations of the corporate environment?
- Sales reps attend a 3 day marathon of product selling then return to their regions. The amount of information they received far exceeds their capacity to absorb and remember. It would be like filling a drinking glass with a gallon jug of water. The jug is empty but most of the water overflowed the glass and went down the drain.
- Employees may sit through a ½ day training session for a new software application then given a quiz at the end of the session. The quiz results are somewhat irrelevant as it’s testing only their short term memory. There is a reason it is called short term (minutes or maybe hours). Training is considered “done” after the employees leave the session so no or little formal follow-on occurs.
- Employees are asked to watch a series of 30-60 minute video training as part of self-learning. Our golden window before interruption is about 10 minutes. Further, when videos have poor quality voice-over, don’t include a start and end summary, and use limited screen movement, the poor employee will struggle to keep their attention span. Did you know that the average frame change in a Jason Bourne movie is every 2.5 seconds or a 30 second FitBit commercial had 42 frame changes? It is affecting our attention span and the ability to keep our interest.
Best Practice Tips
The solution to these 3 challenges should be obvious but there are a few additional small tools to boost the quality and engagement of learning outcomes:
- Training participants should be exposed to short, progressively challenging quizzes over a 3-6 week period. This helps to offset a condition called “Memory Decay” by helping the brain find and map out the new memory.
- For soft skills learning, add a few quality control questions into a quiz. For example, “How many times have you used open probe questions in discovery calls in the last month? None, 5, more than 8”. This has two effects. First, the learner becomes consciously aware of their use and second, the company gets anecdotal evidence of user engagement. Generally, surveys get a 5-10% response rate but when buried in a quiz the rate is 100%. You can argue responses may sometimes not be totally truthful but the real goal is to make the person consciously aware of what they know.
- Keep the skill (memory) top of mind. Every 3 or 4 months issue a sub-segment of a video to participants. Keep it short and unintrusive. Brains will often forget a set of skills if the skill is not used frequently. Our brains only need a partial trigger to know how to recall the whole skill. This small effort goes a long way to accelerating the habituation of a skill.
Blending the needs of the corporate environment with the science of learning will create a pool of top management and employee athletes. A team that will successfully lead your organization to the next level of competition.
For more detail on this insight read: http://fivel.ca/why-employees-resist-change/
Author: John Breakey, firstname.lastname@example.org