How L&D can change employee behavior
HR & Learning insights Writer at Udemy for Business
In the past, Learning & Development (L&D) teams have focused primarily on providing training and testing knowledge retention. But the role of learning in the workplace has grown - today, L&D teams must influence employee behavior and performance.
Why the change in focus? As L&D aligns more closely with the business, L&D leaders increasingly need to show how learning impacts the business.
Industry experts like Bersin by Deloitte have identified a connection between mature learning organizations and performance: “mature, high-performing organizations adopt a performance mindset, meaning they think about learning & development as a means to improve performance and drive value for the business.”
L&D has long struggled with the fact that learning at work doesn’t necessarily lead to knowledge retention and application on the job—in fact, some studies have shown that employees retain and apply only about one-third of what they learn at work.
To help L&D teams influence employee behavior and impact performance, we recently released a new framework, 5 Ways to Change Behavior at Work: The L&D Behavior Change Toolkit, featuring Lyft and Udemy case studies.
What are some of the ways L&D can influence employee behavior? Based on the latest neuroscience research and innovative L&D programs, we outline 5 elements of success in our new toolkit. Here are two of the five ways L&D can design their programs to help move the needle on behavior change.
1. Learning is a process, not a one-time event
L&D research demonstrates that effective training is highly iterative and involves everything leading up to and after the training event. A key element of an effective L&D behavior change framework is to create learning as a process, not a one-time event. This could involve continuous blended learning that combines online learning, social learning, and coaching.
2. A nudging architecture can remind learners to change
In his book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, Richard Thaler—a Nobel Prize-winning economist at the University of Chicago—outlines the need for a “choice architecture” that nudges and reminds people to change their behavior. For example, recycling signs near trash cans remind people to do the right thing when it comes to the environment.
David Perring of the Fosway Group discusses how L&D can apply this nudge theory in the workplace. Perring recommends L&D should create an ecosystem of reminders to help nudge employees in the right direction post-training. The nudges or reminders could be manager observation checklists, funny videos, or posters around the office. For example, a manager feedback training could be followed by constant nudges and reminders in the form of witty videos on internal communication channels, a feedback contest with raffle prizes, or a reminder to use a newly learned feedback method as part of performance review instructions.
Behavior change in action at Udemy
The L&D team at Udemy recently put this behavior change framework into practice. We saw an opportunity to address unconscious bias, a topic where training often only addresses awareness of the issue, without promoting action or real behavior change.
Inspired by the groundbreaking unconscious bias training program at Lyft, the Udemy L&D program applied the main concepts of behavior change to unconscious bias training.
Make learning a process with post-training activities
At Udemy, we created our training program as a process, not a one-time event by including activities during and post-training. During the training, we chose to use virtual reality (VR) to allow employees to walk in someone else’s shoes. We leveraged VR as a way to introduce different values and ways of thinking. This approach allows employees to immerse themselves in another person’s world to truly empathize and understand their perspective.
After being immersed in a VR setting to gain a new perspective, employees discussed and shared their experience with their peers. When employees vocalize their experience, it begins to change the way they think about people who are different from them. Listening to how peers react or act positively to people with different backgrounds also encourages employees to model themselves towards more desired behavior.Recognizing that learning is a process we also built in ways to ensure employees applied what they learned after the training and on the job. To help employees take action, we ended our training with an activity where people were asked to suggest ways they can promote inclusion. Each employee was asked to commit to implementing one idea to improve inclusiveness. We also created discussion groups on Slack, an internal social media tool, as a way for employees to continue talking about this important topic by sharing books, articles, or podcasts that spotlight different perspectives.
Create a nudging architecture by having peers call each other in
“Calling in” (vs. calling out) peers and reminding them to be inclusive and avoid bias is also a key component of changing behavior on the job and helping employees internalize what they learned. The act of calling someone in is not punitive; it’s intended to create a more inclusive environment.
The second part of the training featured a role-playing session where employees practiced pointing out bias in real-life workplace scenarios and effectively calling people in, creating opportunities for repetitive learning. All of these elements help employees begin to internalize what they learned as well as nudge and guide each other on their behavior. Read more about Udemy’s unconscious bias training program here.
Udemy’s approach to unconscious bias training was inspired by Lyft’s groundbreaking work in this area. To learn more about Lyft’s unconscious bias training and how to apply behavior change science to your own L&D programs, check out the 5 Ways to Change Behavior at Work: The L&D Behavior Change Toolkit.
Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next--whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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