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Old habits die hard

New Year’s resolutions are notoriously hard to keep and without support, good intentions fall by the wayside as we fall back into old habits. For HR, changing poor working habits and behaviours in the workforce is essential to increased performance. But how can we be sure that a change for the good is compelling and long lasting? Asks Salim Earle, Business Analyst at the ChemistryGroup.

Change has to come willingly from the individual, so it’s good to know that there are processes you can use to support them, creating an environment to sustain behaviour change to help individuals – and the organisation as a whole. Morale, productivity and the bottom line can all be affected. Turning bad or lazy habits into good ones, though, is notoriously difficult, yet behaviour change has been turned into a science, although you have to focus on what people really want people change their own habits, not for anyone else’s sake, certainly not for their employer. Therefore personal intent is the key pillar in any form of sustained behaviour change. For example, Weight Watchers, one of the biggest advocates of behaviour and habit change, don’t ask their members to focus on ‘losing weight’ but get to the nitty gritty of what individuals want, to fit into that little black bress or swimsuit, or unquestionably more importantly, be able to play more with their kids.

Have conversations with your people about their personal intent, the thing they want to change and why, one change at a time is easier to achieve and ensures individuals have a central focus on sustaining that change. In addition, make it specific to meeting both their own and the business goals, as this becomes a crucial anchor.

Work together as collective behaviour change is far easier and far more sustainable, if experiences and challenges are shared. People naturally want to motivate each other through a collective desire to change, and this is ultimately a powerful motivator and driver of change, so it’s an important part of your toolbox. Again, Weight Watchers conduct weekly group meetings in order to build a community feel to change, in order to support and motivate its members. The reality is, the group leaders facilitate, and the groups drive the remarkable outcomes themselves. Find the blockers and consider the things that could block results, and either remove them or at least be aware that they could arise. This paves the way for successful behaviour change because it shows that you are not only supporting, but also facilitating, people’s development.

Giving them permission to change is incredibly powerful because it makes changing habits part of work, and not just an optional extra for a special few. Nudge and nudge again… it isn’t easy to change habits and people need to be regularly reminded of both the rationale and importance. Nudges do the trick, and they can take many shapes and forms; email, article, texts, apps or talking. The key is to keep the behaviour change at the top of the individual’s agenda, reinforcing change through consistent support. These nudges need to be simple, and clearly articulated, but above all linked back to the individual’s personal intent. Having one clearly defined and ever present goal is far more effective than a number of diluted and unclear objectives. Nudging and reminding people helps them achieve their goals and it is essential to help people share their challenges and successes without judgement or criticism. Be aware that creating a safe environment is difficult. Accept it and find ways to make it work for staff and the organisation. People want and need to feel safe and comfortable in their community. People will not commit to change if they cannot truly engage with it. Understand how the mind works. Give people the time and space to exercise their behaviour change. People will develop and change their habits at different rates, so ensuring that they are given the freedom to do this is key for the habit to embed.

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