3 steps to change employee habits & transform business
“The most successful businessman is the man who holds onto the old just as long as it is good, and grabs the new just as soon as it is better.” Robert P. Vanderpol
A successful business leader constantly redefines her strategy and let it evolve as a force that continuously seeks opportunities. She also understands that building consensus amongst her peers and gathering acceptance of her subordinates is crucial to success of any business change.
Managing people side of change typically suggests changing people’s mindsets and attitudes towards a new order of things. Such deep-seated change is long-drawn and hard to manage.
However, In most cases, resistance to change is not in fact the resistance to the actual change but to the change in ‘routine’. Changing employee habits can prove to be a quick win and sufficiently good start for any business change program. An organizational change can be brought about by the accumulation of positive employee habits.1
Smart advertising executives have been using the power of influencing and changing consumer habits to make them buy their products for a long time. We regularly buy toothpaste, deodorant and other personal hygiene products out of habit. Kellogg’s marketing strategy for increasing the sale of its breakfast cereal is to change Indian breakfast habit of cooked breakfast. Hence their advertisements focus on quick, nutritious breakfast served to kids rushing to school.
Habits keep forming innocuously in a whole plethora of activities we do. The first time; we learn how to do something new, but soon it becomes our second nature. Charles Duhigg proposed a “habit-loop” that explains how habits are formed.
Routine — where we instinctively perform the habitual activities; and
Reward — where we get some pleasant outcome as a result of performing the routine.
An example of good habit is
Cue: running shoes left next to the bed, Routine: run first thing in the morning, Reward: Endorphine rush and a healthy breakfast
Equally, getting into bad habit also follows the same process
Cue: Feeling sad Routine: Drink Reward: Forget troubles
Understanding this loop can help build good habits and break bad ones.
The question remains on how a business leader can use this understanding to bring about Organization transformation. Paul O’Neill, CEO of Alcoa (Aluminium Corporation of America) set the most compelling example back in 1987 when he focused on changing workplace safety habits of employees. The keen focus on safety led to improving communication between teams, change in the hierarchical structure and delivered record profits.
We suggest a three-step process that change agents can adopt in order to build desirable employee habits. To make it real, we have taken the context of a Project Manager encouraging her team members to submit regular and accurate timesheets that give meaningful project update.
In order to adhere to managerial diktat of producing weekly timesheets, the project team members have the habit of filling in and sending timesheets on the fag end of Friday. This process often yields very little desired output since majority of the employees fail to track the daily work activities and rush their timesheets on Friday in a rather haphazard manner.
To eliminate this Friday rush, the Project Manager starts by educating team members to keep daily track of their work. She makes them believe that such a practice will not only be helpful for the management in tracking spent time vis-à-vis productivity but also save employees’ time to fill-in all the data on a single day with the mere intention of following a process.
By creating a new habit, the Project Manager has now eased productivity tracking . This ultimately results in projects delivered with better quality and in a more timely fashion resulting in higher motivation for the team-members.
This simple example highlights the latent power of changing employee habits. As the first step towards transforming your business, identify an employee habit that will bring maximum benefit and use the three part method to instill the same in your organization.
1. Power of habit – Charles Duhigg - http://www.amazon.com/Power-Habit-What-Life-Business/dp/1400069289
2. Made to Stick – Chip and Dan Heath - http://www.amazon.com/Made-Stick-Ideas-Survive-Others/dp/1400064287
3. Switch – Chip and Dan Heath - http://www.amazon.com/Switch-Change-Things-When-Hard/dp/0385528752