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Organizational Behavior Management organizational development Training

The number one reason executives feel frustrated with training and development programs

If you’re a senior leader or company owner I can lay good money on a few facts about you. First is that you believe your employees are the most important aspect of your company, along with your customers. Second, is that you believe in order for your company to grow and remain competitive, you need to invest in the training and development of your employees. Third is that it is surprisingly (or maybe not) difficult to free up the time and resources for this task that everyone acknowledges is critical. Fourth, and this is that part that might be hard to admit, is that significant investment into in-house or outsourced training has not produced the results you want.

If this is you, you’re not alone! The training industry, in the US alone was $161 billion (yes, with a ‘B’) in 2016 with worldwide training estimated at $359 billion, and these figures do not include additional expenses such as paying for workers’ time while they are at training, or the cost of their replacements while they are out of work. Of course some training is essential. If employees don’t know how to do something, you’d be mad not to train them. There are some highly specialized fields in which safety and proper execution absolutely depends on acquiring knowledge, and there are also governing bodies that require you to perform X hours of training in order to remain compliant with their regulations.

And there are also millions if not billions of dollars invested annually in training geared towards making your employees function more as a team, or your managers more effective, or your communication more meaningful, or your conflicts more resolvable. You get the idea. And let me state very clearly that I’m not saying this training is unnecessary. However, I am stating, categorically, that it is not sufficient to attain the objectives you want. I’ll lay out the evidence proving my point.

Let’s look at the science behind it, first. Applied behavioral psychology puts it like this: At the center is a behavior that you would like someone to perform.  Because the behavior is a discrete event in time, things can occur before the behavior and things can occur after the behavior. As it happens, things that occur directly before the behavior (antecedents) do have an impact. A short term, quickly extinguishing impact, but an impact. Things that occur directly after the behavior (consequences) have a much greater impact on that behavior, and if those things occur consistently, and contingently upon the behavior, you can ensure the continuance or extinction of the behavior. There’s a significant body of work dedicated to the types of reinforcers (consequences) that work best to strengthen various behaviors but the law of behavior remains in place. Training is an antecedent, in that it always occurs before the behavior you are hoping to elicit (as are motivational talks, by the way).

The anecdotal evidence certainly backs this up. I wonder how many of us have ever found that simply telling someone what you’d like them to do results in them doing it? Certainly telling them how in addition to what (a condition surprisingly missing in a lot of corporate training) helps, but just walk into the lunchroom of any office anywhere in this country and I guaran-darn-tee you that you will find AT LEAST one sign taped up somewhere ‘reminding’ people to not steal each other’s lunch, to flush the toilet, or to clean up after themselves.

Clearly, telling people what you’d like them to do doesn’t even work for something s basic as lunchroom etiquette and yet we expect that training, even when accompanied by pastries, is going to mobilize a company of individuals to go against self interest (in many cases) in favor of the company? And those of us who are parents can relate doubly to this. I highly doubt the plethora of kid-junk on my living room floor right now is due to the fact that I have neglected to ‘train’ them in the fact that they are supposed to PUT AWAY THE STINKING LEGOS!

Last is just something I’ll pose to you. If training is so effective, why is it no training ever comes with a guarantee of better performance? No one is willing to put their money down saying that training WILL improve performance because it almost never does, on it’s own. Furthermore, not to sound completely cynical (maybe just 99% cynical), is it possible there’s more money to be made treating the symptoms than in treating the disease? Just saying. I know many professional trainers and all the ones I know are amazing people with a heart for helping. That doesn’t mean that training will get you the results you need. I know I said it before, but after this paragraph it probably bears repeating. I am not saying training isn’t necessary, only that it is not sufficient in most cases to get you improvements in performance and goal achievement.

So what does? If you go back to the science of it, the only way to really get the behaviors you want is coupling training in what and how with a schedule of consistent reinforcers contingent upon the behaviors occurring. In other words, you need to define what you’re looking for, explain it to your employees, and then be diligent in catching them doing something right and rewarding that, and that only. Now you can do this the effective way or the ineffective way (and guess which one is the easy way?).

Ineffective is what most people do first after they see the logic spelled out for them, Which is of COURSE to identify the productive behaviors, explain to their staff that these are the keys to success, and make an effort to reward those behaviors. And then life kicks in and guess what? This amazing endeavor goes the way of the team-building obstacle course and the employee of the month initiative. Don’t beat yourself up about this though. Your exposure to these concepts is, also, an antecedent. Presumably you are human and so therefore not immune to the laws of human behavior, even if you are the boss. So the impact of knowing this only has a short-lived affect on the behavior of you and your managers executing it.

So is all hope lost?

Yep. Sorry.

Actually, far from it. A solution is in not only the understanding, but also the systematic execution of the interventions proven to cause lasting behavioral change, including interventions that set up rewarding consequences to you and your managers for completing your part (and that’s in addition to the increased revenue and profitability you’ll see from doing this, of course). And yes, I am talking about OBM (Organizational Behavior Management). Again. There’s much more to this than I’ve spelled out as briefly as I could here, so if you’re interested in hearing in more detail about each of the interventions, please give me a call or an email and I can walk you through it in about 30 minutes and gift you with the overview and slides for you to share with your teams.

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm providing comprehensive organizational development solutions for companies who are growing and who truly value their people.  With certified Executive Coaches, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) practitioners, SPHR-certified HR professionals, and Organizational Development Specialists, Carrie’s team brings a unique perspective and a cross-functional approach to providing workplace solutions that work.  Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com

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How a triangle (and a square) can lead you to peace of mind, financial well-being and the business you always dreamed of owning!

I’ve been involved in a lot of organizational ‘clean-ups’ over the years. Unlike coaching, where the premise is that you are making a good thing better, Organizational Behavior Management is usually called in to solve a specific problem. Sometimes the problem is that a sales team is not able to achieve the top line revenue goal, other times the sales are there but there are efficiency or waste issues in the fulfillment side, affecting profit. Alternatively, there are times when the impetus behind the call isn’t either of those things, but an increase in good people quitting, or a general sense that employees are not doing their best and it’s beginning to affect business. The reason I (or any consultant) is called is because the business owner has tried everything they know how to do, the problem is still there, and they are convinced they don’t have the answer.

A major reason I started my business was that I realized that business owners DO have the answer but they don’t know that they do, and they don’t necessarily know what to do with that information! If this is you, don’t worry, by the time you finish reading this article you will begin to understand the process for identifying what needs to happen in your organization and where things are getting derailed. This first step is the key to opening a door leading to peace of mind, financial well-being and the business you always dreamed of owning.

The process is very simple and you will need two tools – a triangle and a square. The first tool is the Behavior Management Triangle and it is…a triangle. The beauty of the Behavior Management Triangle is it can often clarify your most important processes and what is actually required to get to your goal. In OBM we call this ‘Targeting’ and it can take up to a day with key decision makers to really go through all the processes and work flow but at the end of it all you will have absolute clarity on your revenue and profitability goals, what key accomplishments and metrics are involved in getting there and, most importantly, what behaviors each person in your company needs to be doing, in what order, and at what frequency, to get there. I’ve never worked with an executive who hasn’t found this incredibly valuable. Often, this exercise alone leads to huge innovations in how companies accomplish things, because it can challenge the ‘that’s just the way we do it’ mindset.

But as anyone who’s ever paid $10,000 for a training intervention, or any parent who has demonstrated how to make a bed, can tell you, just knowing what to do does NOT ensure the actual doing! This is where your square come in. Draw a square on a piece of paper and then divide it into 4 equal quadrants. Over the top left quadrant, write ‘Desirable Consequences” and over the top right write ‘Undesirable Consequences. Beside the top left write ‘Desirable Behaviors’ and beside the bottom left write ‘Undesirable Behaviors’. We will be using this to determine whether your company is set up currently to reinforce the right things happening or not.

Now, I’ll let you in on a secret; the fact that you’re talking to me usually means your balance of consequences is out of whack (a highly scientific term meaning, ‘not supporting your desired objectives’). I can walk through any organization (and so can you, for that matter) and tell you exactly which behaviors are being reinforced the most…it’s the ones that are occurring!!

Now, you may say to yourself, ‘This is dumb. If my employee is doing a good thing, I reward her. I would never punish someone for doing the right thing.’ I will argue back that companies do it all the time and I’ve never encountered one that didn’t. Every time you give more work to the employee you know can handle it without any positive associated (and this doesn’t always mean a tangible) you are in effect setting up a balance of consequence to eliminate that good behavior.

I invite you to take one of the key behaviors you have identified as leading to organizational success – whether it’s cold calling, or building widgets, or what have you, and take a thorough and honest inventory of the good and the bad consequences for both performing that behavior and NOT performing that behavior. I’ll give you a couple ideas; some very common positive consequences for NOT performing are, less work, less stress, low likelihood of discovery, and some common negative consequences FOR performing are more work without more pay, more stress, chance of criticism if not done correctly, and so on. Think about what is in place in your company as well as any positive consequences for doing the right things and any negative consequences for doing the wrong thing. Think money, bonuses, positive recognition, preferred tasks, autonomy, social interaction…any and everything that can be a ‘motivator’ should go on the balance of consequences. When you’ve finished, you should be easily able to see whether the balance of consequences supports performing the desired behavior or suppresses it and now you’re off to the races!

So to summarize; first we identify the required behaviors using the triangle, and then we use the square to determine if the work environment is rewarding or actually punishing the desired behaviors. You now have laid the groundwork to begin changing your company’s trajectory, rewarding the employees who are doing the best work and achieving your goals!

Yes, there’s a little more involved, but if your company is not where you’d like it to be, I invite you to try these two exercises. Please reach out if you have any questions and I’ll be happy to walk you through this!

Carrie Maldonado is the founder of Today’s Leadership Solutions, a Seattle-based consulting firm focused on helping organizations, leaders and job seekers to identify workplace solutions that work. As a certified executive coach, organizational development expert and resume writer, Carrie consults with small to medium sized businesses on OD, human resources and recruiting solutions in addition to providing career coaching to managers and executives in transition. Carrie can be reached for consultation at carrie@todaysleadershipsolutions.com