Companies like IKEA, Disney and Apple understand how to get employees to emotionally connect with customers through behavioural training. They understand that emotional connection happens every day through the interactions their employees have with customers. These companies see their people as the most powerful element in the quest to create memorable customer experiences, as a result they routinely spend more on training than their competitors. But, more important than the amount they spend is the type of training they provide. Not vanilla or generic training but training designed to develop a sense of pride and excitement; to connect employees emotionally to their company and to ensure they have the skills required to bring the brand alive for their customers. Employees need to feel passionate about their organisation – to be emotionally connected – before they can ‘live the brand’.
Changing behavior is difficult
Encouraging people to change behavior is difficult; much more difficult that many executives think. Sending out the corporate video, scheduling town hall meetings, distributing the powerpoint presentation to managers and organizing some generic customer service training won’t cut it.
We have developed behavioral change programs for organizations across a range of sectors – retail, banking, mobile phone operators, hospitality, technology, utility companies. Below we set out the thinking that underpins our approach to training and learning design that educates, builds passionate commitment and develops employees with the skill needed to deliver the magic to customers every day.
How to design training that changes behavior – sustainably
Start with values and beliefs
The basis for much of the training that happens inside organizations is the need to enhance or develop skills. Skill development does not create belief in a new direction and a commitment to change. The design question that we start with is how do we embed the new direction into individuals’ values and belief systems. If they believe in and are excited by the new direction then the training needs to challenge them to examine their past behavior and to make changes that help them be the best they can be. If this accountability is not developed from within each person, the change in behavior will not be sustained. New skills are always required too but the skills need the solid foundation of belief and commitment.
Make the training fun and memorable
We challenge ourselves to design a training experience that is the most memorable and fun that participants’ have ever experienced. The inclusion of a catwalk fashion show, an egg and spoon relay race and a guided blindfold walkabout have all made for memorable workshops. And, each of these activities has important messages about the impact of behavior on the customers’ experience.
Design from the customer back and link to company purpose and strategy
We have found that people respond well when they are connected to the bigger picture. What is the organization attempting to do for customers? How is it aiming to make customers’ lives better? How does my role connect to the organization’s purpose, strategy and business results? Designing from the customer back and with a clear linkage to these issues makes for a much richer experience for participants. It also makes it much easier to secure the active involvement (and attendance) of senior executives in the training rollout.
Create value for the individual
As well as creating value for the organization – through more effective strategy execution – there must be a clear benefit for the individual attending training. The benefit may be in terms of progression, reward, personal satisfaction or simply the ability to perform better by ‘being the best I can be.’
Experiential design linked to behavioral standards
We have all been on training programs where we are introduced to a model for interacting with customers, a framework for consultative selling or another model for coaching our team members if we have people management responsibility.
There are two problems with this type of generic or ‘vanilla’ training. First, we are left to think about how to apply the model or framework when we get back to our world of work. Second, the models or frameworks that are often taught in traditional training programs focus on process steps rather than behavior.
We know the most effective training design has people work directly with the behavioral challenges they face daily and creates an opportunity for them to practice, get feedback, reflect and then practice again. This is far more effective in terms of learning than the overly academic, model-driven approach we have seen so often.
Build in elements to ensure transfer and sustainability
We always include ‘anchors’ into the overall design. ‘Anchors’ are important. Their purpose is to ensure the training – and the behaviors required to live the brand – are memorable. They help create a common language across the organization about what is required in terms of behavioral standards. Some anchor activities are fun such as the egg and spoon race we included in the design for a recent client to highlight the importance of delivering ‘gold medal’ handovers. Others evoke memories – such as the delivery of ‘HOT SERVICE’ – of the specific skills that are required to deliver outstanding service to customers.
Other elements that also need to be aligned for effective transfer and sustainability include:
- manager/team leader coaching
- senior leadership role modeling
- mentoring of junior people by those with more experience
- on-boarding of newly recruited people
- systems and HR processes that support the acquisition and development of talent across the business.
The infrastructure that is designed to support team members in their daily work needs to be aligned with the behaviors required to live the brand.
In our experience, when training is designed with these principles embedded and they are linked to the organization’s customer strategy, people get excited about the opportunity to behave in new and different ways which benefit them, their customers and the organization.