Back to Basics: Using consequences to get training to stick

Categories: Behavior change, BMT Courses, Feedback, Leadership, TrainingAuthor:

Training is not the solution you’re looking for, it’s the consequences that really make the difference.  This might seem a counter-intuitive statement coming from someone who teaches courses in behavioral science for a living!  However, as with most things involving human behavior, this story is deeper than it first appears.

Our BMT course is designed to get behavior started. It’s pretty simple:  If you show up and you do the work inside and outside of the course, you learn enough behavioral science to make improvements at work and at home.  However in general, humans rely far too much on knowledge and knowing (i.e., training) and not enough on what needs to be done afterward to support its application at work.

Remember that antecedents drive about 20% of behavior and consequences drive about 80%?  Training, on the whole, is an antecedent.  This is not unique to our BMT courses, it’s a problem in all courses and workshops.  The real learning happens when you go back and try to apply the training.  Most studies show pretty clearly that without coaching, it’s really tough to get people to use what they learn in training.

So, what can you do after a training course or workshop, to support its application on the job?  The simple answer is to ask leaders in the business to talk to their people about it on a weekly basis.  Think of the things that ‘stick’ in your business – they probably all have people who doggedly bring them up at every turn.  Below, I’ve tried to break this set of behaviors into some simple steps for you to try:

Step 1. Spend a few minutes each week asking your direct reports what they are doing to apply the concepts learned in the training.  Assuming that you see a need to apply the training, give them examples of what is possible.

Step 2. After getting this base behavior going steadily, spend some time encouraging people to find and fix frustrations at work.  Doing this is as simple as asking people what frustrates them, fixing some of those things, and feeding data on the improvements back to people to confirm that the solution made things better.

Step 3. Once you’ve got this going, you can encourage people to take on a project of their own and make improvements.  You can spend some time with individuals who find an improvement project, to help them make it relevant to the work, data-based, and simple.

This pretty well corresponds to the coaching model that we use, and it promotes often tough behavior change via taking on simple steps one at a time.  In behavioral science, we call it shaping.

Remember, if you’re not reinforcing behavior, you’re punishing it.

2 Responses to Back to Basics: Using consequences to get training to stick

  1. Johan Ginyard says:

    I liked the blob! …and i found the part: “Most studies show pretty clearly that without coaching, it’s really tough to get people to use what they learn in training.” interesting. I’d really like to forward any references You may have on this, to a friend.

    Best regards,
    Johan

    Reply
  2. David Wiss says:

    John, I like the blog also. A good learning point for me is “that antecedents drive about 20% of behavior and consequences drive about 80%”.
    Thanks,
    David

    Reply

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