Mandatory Training Will Not Guarantee Changed Behavior

What happens when an employee or customer survey indicates that the supervisors, customer service agents, or senior management team needs to behave in different ways?

Often, someone in the organization creates a mandatory training program to teach the supervisors, customer service agents, or senior management team new skills in the hope that knowing about the new skills will create new behaviors.

Good desire. Bad plan.

In the arena of behavior change, three things must come together in order to achieve success:

  • Inspiration
    The people who need to change their behaviors must be inspired to do so. They need to have some hope that they can be successful, and they need some encouragement to get started in the process.
  • Information
    Most people behave the way they do because they believe it will create success for them. If their behaviors are not ideal, it is generally because they do not know that their behaviors are not ideal or because they do not know how to behave in a different way. In either case, they need new information to behave in new ways.
  • Application
    Until they choose to apply the inspiration and information, they will not change their behaviors. Application depends on the desire of the person who is exhibiting the "bad" or less than ideal behavior.

Can a training program be an important part of driving individual behavioral change?

Yes.

Can a training program, alone, create individual behavioral change?

No.

Training programs designed solely for the dissemination of information, might achieve success. Training programs designed with the hope of changing behaviors — particularly behaviors related to how people interact and relate with others — cannot succeed without the cooperation of the participants.

When a training program carries the "mandatory" label, it often creates prisoners in training rather than willing participants, and  the trainer becomes a "guard" like the one pictured with this post. When people are prisoners, they are experiencing punishment, and you cannot punish people into good behavior. Mandatory training programs created with the hope of creating behavior change will likely fail.

A training program offered as part of a larger effort strongly supported at all levels of the organization, can be an important part of providing both the inspiration and information that people need to learn new behaviors. However, without application, the inspiration and information alone will not create changed behaviors.

Leaders who hope to change supervisory, customer service, or senior management team behaviors need to stay engaged in the process. They need to model the change, talk about the change, and coach people through the change. Failure of leaders to engage in the process will likely create frustration and failure rather than hope and success.

Photo by Son of Groucho.

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