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Nudging at its simplest is defined as the science of getting people to take action. Nudges are a means to influence your trainees to take positive action. Nudging is a flexible way to increase the chances of your training resulting in behavioral change or that as your training participants return to the workplace, they apply their newly learned skills. I’ve been amazed by the power of a nudge to align supervisors and trainees before training, move participants to a commitment to action during a training program, and how a nudge can build collaboration and accountability in the post-training period.
Nudging before training even starts
Before your training begins, consider using “priming”. Priming is exposing someone to a stimulus that will ultimately make them more receptive to your following effort(s) to persuade them. Robert Cialdini, one of the most frequently cited behavioral scientists in this field, refers to priming as “pre-suasion”. In his recent book Presuasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, he describes the flexibility and utility of this powerful behavioral science technique. Cialdini refers to this time before our persuasive efforts as a “privileged moment for change”, where we can prepare people to be receptive to a message before they experience it.
In the lab, but also in the real world
There are many examples of priming that have been proven effective in laboratory settings. Priming has been used in tests to increase individuals’ honesty in response to questions, to boost their attention, and even make them act as if they were years older or younger than their natural age. (See references)
Though these lab examples are interesting, my favorite examples of priming are those that take place in the real world. For example, the following priming experiment was conducted in a supermarket, where people made actual decisions and paid real money for their choices. In the test, a display of French and German wines were side by side in a supermarket display. For several hours of the day French music would play and at other times German music would be piped to the consumers. When French music was playing, 70% of the sales were of French wines. When German music was playing, 70% of the sales were of German wines. When randomly selected guests were asked if the music playing influenced their selection of wines, the overwhelming majority of the shoppers responded, “What music?” Priming works in the lab and the real world, but it is generally invisible to those who are influenced by the priming.
Pre-suade with your promotional materials or collateral
Now that you have a good sense of what priming or pre-suasion is, let’s translate this to your training practice. If you want participants in an upcoming program to come in with a good attitude, be eager to learn, and ready to practice what they have learned after the training program, then consider priming or pre-suading them. You can do this via your pre-program promotional materials. But instead of priming participants with features and details of the program, there is a better way.
Consider a focus on the positive results or the outcomes that trainees can expect to gain from your program. Tell them a story about the usefulness of the program. Describe how someone used the training to get a promotion, boost their unit’s production, or became an organizational hero. Appeal to what Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel Prize winning behavioral scientist, refers to as their System I or emotional brain, as opposed to their System II or rational brain. An appeal to the emotional brain is much more likely to resonate with an individual. Leave a message that will not only be memorable, but will pre-suade the participant to be excited about the program and what it can do for them.
An orientation session that is really much more
An even more effective means of priming can be created by speaking directly to participants and their supervisors in an hour set aside before your training session. Here you can efficiently prime both groups, participants and supervisors of the participants. An effective way to do this is to briefly describe program details, but then ask them (participants) to consider or “hold” the following question, “What would successfully completing this program do for me?” (Note: We generally expand the question with some specific examples of potential results from the program.)
When we use this technique in my training practice, we use a modified coaching technique borrowed from Nick LeForce, NLP master-coach. The method asks participants to cup their hands, as if they were physically holding the previous question. This priming technique appeals to their emotional brain, by allowing participants to craft an internal priming message for themselves. We ask them to listen to the entire session while determining what is in it for them. (Trainers often refer to this as the WIIFM, or the acronym for What’s In It For Me.) For some participants the WIIFM may be a promotion, for others a raise, and some may imagine the training resulting in improved career skills.
Then we ask the supervisors to hold a similar question. The goal is to get the same level of support from supervisors as from the participants. As trainers, we know that the supervisor’s endorsement is often the key to the participant’s application of training back on the job. Supervisors are more likely to view the training as a means to help themselves after they ask themselves this priming question. For some supervisors their goal may be a more productive employee, for others a more engaged one, and for some it could be an employee who makes fewer mistakes and thus takes less of their valuable time. In both cases (participants and supervisors) we have primed the participants or supervisors using the most effective arguments available to pre-suade them. We have used their own arguments, their own vested interests, their emotional brains, their WIIFM.
Priming, like all nudges, are designed to overcome our biases. Priming is a proven method of overcoming the “status quo bias” or more colloquially, our adversity to change. Most people (employees or supervisors) are content to accept things the way they are. Unless nudged, your trainees may be reluctant to learn new ways of doing things and their supervisors may be reluctant to let them try new tools or techniques. Priming will prepare your students to be more receptive to your message in the classroom and with the supervisor’s support, boost post-training application.
In the classroom, consider using “commitment” nudges. People have an unconscious tendency to keep the commitments they make, whether the commitments are written/formal or oral/informal. Like priming, our tendency to keep commitments is an unconscious bias, but this knowledge can also be used to nudge participants toward positive behavior.
After the class, consider using “social proofing” or “the herd effect” to nudge trainees. We are social animals and we like to do what we think or see others doing. There are many ways of achieving the accountability that comes with social proofing and it is a scientifically proven means to boost the application of training.
This short blog doesn’t offer enough space to fully explain the last two nudges (commitment and social proofing, or those to be used during or after training), but you can find out more about these nudges and how to use them to boost your training results at an upcoming ATD Sacramento workshop on Monday, November 14 from 11:00 AM to 1:30 PM.
Upcoming Nudging Workshop – November 14, 2016
If you are interested in a two-hour deep-dive into nudging for trainers, consider attending ATD Sacramento’s upcoming workshop on Monday, November 14. This expanded hands-on workshop, “Nudging: The Behavior Changing Superpower that Talent Developers Can’t Afford to Ignore”, will be held from 11:00 to 1:30 and is offered at the same low price as any regular ATD monthly meeting. The workshop is led by Bruce Winner, Custom Training Manager of the Government Training Academy, Los Rios CCD.
Can’t attend? No worries!
If you can’t attend this workshop, don’t worry. I’ll be following this blog in the next few weeks (before and after the workshop) with one or two additional blogs. In these blogs I’ll explain the science behind commitments and social proofing and how they can be used to craft nudges to overcome unconscious biases that get in the way of trainees applying learned skills on the job. Bruce Winner
PreSuasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, Robert Cialdini Ph.D., Simon & Schuster; September 6, 2016
Cialdini is a giant in the field of behavioral science and applied research. He is often referred to as the “Godfather of Influence” for his long involvement in the field and impact on how businesses and public organizations seek to influence others. In this book, Cialdini focuses on priming or the opportunity to influence, even before we begin our efforts at persuasion. He is also the author of a groundbreaking book in the field of influence that was originally published in 1984, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. (See next reference.)
Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Robert Cialdini Ph.D., Harper Business; Influence was first published in 1984 but has been revised and republished many times.
Cialdini has sold over three million copies of this book, which has been on the New York Times bestseller list many times and won numerous awards. Cialdini’s book preceded the works of Kahneman, Thaler, Sunstein, and Ariely (major authors and researchers in the field of behavioral economics or nudging) by 20 years. His six principles of persuasion are reciprocity, commitment or consistency, social proof, authority, liking, and scarcity. In his new book Presuasion, he introduces a new principle or “unity”, the idea that the more we perceive people as part of “us,” the more likely we are to be influenced by them.
Psyching Us Out: The Promises of ‘Priming’, The New York Times, Gary Cutting, Oct. 31, 2013
This is a good general read on priming. It explains what it is, some experiments in the lab, and provides references to some of the many researchers who have advanced the field of behavioral economics.
What Is Priming? A Psychological Look at Priming Consumer Behavior; Posted by Madeline Ford, July 1, 2013 This is a concise blog from MotiveMetrics, a site devoted to translating findings from the behavioral sciences for business (primarily marketers). The blog provides a review of priming research in a non-academic manner and describes how priming can be used in in a business setting. I included this blog, in part, because it contains a fuller description of the French/German wine example I used in my blog posting.
Bruce Winner, Government Training Academy,
email@example.com, 916.563.3232, www.losrios-training.org
As a trainer, coach, designer, or developer, would you like a new and powerful technique to increase the application of positive behaviors following your training programs?
Would you like to be able to influence or persuade people to do what is ultimately good for them and the organization; and do so without resorting to coercion, threats, or other negative actions?
These are just two of the positive consequences of “Nudging”, a powerful new science-based approach to getting people to take action. It is being used by the federal government, many British government agencies, and private sector firms worldwide.
When could a training professional use Nudging?
Here are just a few areas where it has and can be applied:
• Increase the application of lessons learned in training, when participants return to the job:
• Such as a nudge to get supervisors to use positive coaching skills and questions instead of threats or coercion
• Or a nudge for employees who need to increase their ability to listen, solve problems, and cooperate as a team member, but find difficulty in applying these skills consistently
• There are even nudges to improve customer service behaviors (see references)
• Boost positive behaviors that benefit employees and employers
• Such as nudges to increase positivity, resilience, and even improved health habits (diet and exercise)
• Decrease negative habits such as procrastination, angry outbursts, or blaming others
• Some nudges utilize the power of commitments to boost follow-through on performance goals or to complete company or agency project tasks in a timely manner
Is it based on genuine science?
Daniel Kahneman won the 2002 Nobel Prize in Economics for his work in behavioral economics (the science of how people make decisions). His work (and that of many others of course) formed the foundation for what is now known as Nudging. He was the first non-economist to ever win the Nobel for economics, for bringing 40 years of research from the behavioral, social, and cognitive sciences to prove how people really make decisions. This research has now been systemized in a set of findings that can be used by training professionals to change the behavior of those they train or coach.
Nudging is based on understanding our unconscious biases and using this knowledge (and well-designed nudges) to change behavior. You will find the science of nudging explained in many contemporary books including, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness by Thaler and Sunstein; SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard by Chip and Dan Heath; and Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions by Dan Ariely. See the reference section for more on these and other suggested readings.
Is nudging really feasible…for talent developers?
1. It is inexpensive – Nudging experiments can be conducted for little or no additional revenue and with a minimum time commitment.
2. It is a flexible technique (within current efforts or as a stand-alone tool) – Nudging can be incorporated into your pre-training promotional efforts or orientations, or you can seamlessly fuse in into your classroom or online programs, or you can wait to employ it in your post-training application efforts. It can also be used as a stand-alone effort to change or reinforce behaviors that support your organization’s goals and objectives. Many public agencies are using it this way. They have used Nudging programs to increase employee contributions to savings plans, drive down waste of agency resources, and even encourage clients to use the organization’s webpage in lieu of the contact center.
3. Scalable (Nudges can be easily scaled up if they are effective) – Nudges are ideally designed to be tested with small groups, validated, and then scaled up for larger enterprise-wide initiatives.
If you think that Nudging might be of use to you or your organization, explore the references in the following section. You will be joining thousands of other forward-thinking, empirically minded, and action-oriented talent developers.
Upcoming Nudging Workshop – November 14, 2016
In fact, if you want a two-hour deep dive into Nudging for trainers, consider attending ATD Sacramento’s upcoming two-hour workshop on Monday, November 14. The elongated hands-on workshop is from 11:00 to 1:30 and is offered at the same low price as their regular monthly workshop. The workshop is led by Bruce Winner, Custom Training Manager of the Government Training Academy, LRCCD.
See the featured workshop here - www.tdsac.org
• Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness: Thaler and Sunstein This is a good place to start, if you want to take a more in-depth examination or understanding of nudge or choice architecture. Thaler and Sunstein continue to be the go-to consultants and academics (nationally and internationally) in the field of applied behavioral economics.
• Thinking Fast and Slow: Daniel Kahneman Kahneman is the 2002 Nobel Prize winner in economics who, with many others, developed the theory of behavioral economics (BE). The award winning and best-selling book is full of rock solid advice and scholarship, but is a bit of a slog at over 500 pages.
• SWITCH: How to Change Things When Change is Hard: Chip and Dan Heath - This very approachable book from the Heath brothers describes how to use the many lessons and findings from the social and behavioral sciences to enable change in the organization. Their book offers immediate and practical ways to promote change, but without ever mentioning the words behavioral economics or nudging.
• Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions: Dan Ariely - This is another highly readable and approachable book on understanding irrationality (behavioral economics in action). Ariely is a rock star in the field of behavioral economics and has many informative and beneficial YouTube videos on the web.
• Behavioral Science for Business: The Science of Getting People to Take Action: Bri Williams - This is a relatively new book by an Australian author who has built a consultancy using Behavioral Economics as a tool for business. It is a fresh look at applied BE for the private sector.
• Want to Perfect Your Company’s Service? Use Behavioral Science. Harvard Business Review, Chase and Dasu, June 2001
Bruce Winner, Government Training Academy,firstname.lastname@example.org, 916.563.3232, www.losrios-training.org
For additional posts:
Thomas Moore's Blog
We recently attended the “Spiritual Intelligence in the Workplace” presentation by Steve Sphar and were delighted to see such a great turnout. There is obviously a growing level of interest in self-awareness and self-mastery with regard to values-based leadership. It’s about time!
Our job as HR & Training Professionals is to help our leaders and organizations provide a space where every person can realize their potential by giving them the tools, skills and strategies to develop beyond "Level 5” leadership. Einstein once famously said that problems couldn’t be solved with the same level of consciousness that created them. Perhaps we need to access new spaces of awareness, a new view of human potential, an elevated intention for leadership that goes beyond our current routine idea of leading.
The way we manage organizations seems out of date and doesn’t seem to be taking people and organizations to their potential. The CORE Journey is designed to explore and experience an expanded perception of human potential. With research-based material and activities that translate the concepts into experience, the CORE Journey will offer a shift to a new space of awareness. The old ways of educating and managing, designed for repetition and efficiency, are not what will elevate leadership to a new consciousness. We invite you to explore what might come next.
If you have experienced what we’re talking about or if you’d like to explore the possibilities, we hope you will embark on The CORE Journey (book available on Amazon.com). Discover what comes next in Values-Based Leadership.
Dianna Wright, Ph. D and Dee Hansford, CRP
The Importance of Performance Consulting
by Guy Burghgraef, CalHR Statewide Training Coordinator,
Statewide Learning & Performance Management,
and Nathan Parker, CalHR Operations Manager,
Statewide Training Performance Consultant
To train or not to train, that is the question. The pun on the famous Shakespearian line may seem trite, but it is a question the performance consultants ask themselves when confronted performance problems. Seasoned training professionals with a PH.D. in everyday observation recognize that training is not always the answer to every performance problem. In fact, training is often the choice when organizations don’t know what the problem is, such as:
Training for the reasons bulleted above is often times reactive, costly, and may not be the appropriate intervention to solve the performance problem, but the thought that if you throw enough training at the problem, maybe it will go away. Know that philosophy is so detrimental to the training profession; trainers need to look beyond reactive training bulleted above and diagnose true performance problems to identify the best training or non-training intervention. To get to this level, the training community should consider adding performance-consulting skills to their quiver.
So, what is performance consulting and why should I as a trainer care about it? Dana Gaines Robinson and James C. Robinson, who authored “Performance Consulting: A Practical Guide for HR and Learning Professionals”, are recognized as the foremost experts in Performance Consulting. They defined performance consulting as the “systematic and holistic approach when analyzing and improving human performance to achieve business goals”. This holistic approach forces the training professional to look beyond the traditional training world for the answers on how to improve performance. Other work place factors, which will be discussed later, may contribute to performance or behavior gaps on the job, and all the training in the world will not resolve those issues. As a discipline, the importance of understanding performance consulting and how to apply it takes a greater presence on stage every day.
Having looked at performance consulting as an activity leading to results, let’s look closer at the role of Performance Consultant. Two simple nouns joined together become so much more powerful than their individual meanings. At the risk of over simplifying, Performance Consultants consult about human performance. For our purposes performance can be defined as maintaining or increasing value while maintaining or decreasing costs. Note that “value” is always defined by the customer. ATD has developed a bevy of knowledge on the subject of human performance and indeed many trainers may well have some exposure to performance analysis and interventions. Performance consulting is the art and science of improving performance through the most appropriate interventions.
The consultant must think diagnostically and behave prescriptively. The Performance Consultant needs to be prepared to ask questions like:
The Performance Consultant must be both brave and authentic. Not afraid to ask challenging and probing questions.
A trainer’s role in determining if training is necessary is best served when they can clearly identify that a performance deficiency is due to a gap in knowledge, skills, abilities and behaviors (KSAB). But what happens if the performance problem is not attributable to KSABs? Most performance-consulting professionals will also tell you that there are other factors that affect performance. The worker’s environment and motivation also play a role. The importance of proper performance diagnostics might be compared to a car owner who tries to repair a failing transmission by changing his wiper blades; it makes him feel better but not for long.
A performance consultant will collaborate with others to diagnose the performance problem prior to recommending a remedy. As a performance consultant, there are some diagnostic questions that should be asked to determine the performance problem so the best intervention can be recommended. Langevin Learning Services has some diagnostic questions that have served me well. These questions require me to act as an investigative journalist and ask:
o Should be involved in the performance conversation
o Sets performance standards
o Is the ideal performer that others may be judged against
o Benefits from the performance if done correctly
o Needs to happen that is not happening
o Would happen if the process was working
o Would good performance look like
o Tools and processes are needed to perform the job
o Job aids do people have access
o Should the job happen
o Should performance be measured
o Should the process be followed
o Should the process start and end
o Should deadlines be met
o Should the process or steps be followed
o Often should the process be followed
According to a hrVillage.com article (and as mentioned above), environmental factors and motivation may also play a factor in the worker’s performance. But how does the office environment affect performance? Well, think about it, office environment could be affected by the temperature in the office, how the office is laid out, and ergonomic challenges. How many of us have fallen asleep at our desk because it is too hot in the office? How many of us have had to go across the floor, building, or campus to meet with the boss? And how many of us have experienced or had witnessed colleagues suffer from repetitive strain injuries due to poor ergonomic set up at work? Motivation can also affect performance. Workers may not be motivated to perform due to workplace conflict, burnout, or feelings that work is no longer fulfilling and this cannot be turned around with more training.
The final question performance consultants will ask is “the problem worth solving”? This is where the performance consultant needs to access more of the finance side of their brain. A key step in answering this question is determining how much of the performance gap is costing the organization versus the cost of the performance intervention. This is ultimately a business decision as are all performance issues.
The successful performance consultant is a multi-disciplined individual who focuses on outputs, deliverables and results. They act as analyst, coach, mentor, and confidant. They are conversant in the art of training and the language of business. They invest in themselves and are not afraid to “speak truth to power.”
Increasing your performance consulting skills over time will become more important. This is especially true considering how much organizations spend on training every year. Collectively, over $62 billion was spent on training in 2013 alone. Organizations are awash with anecdotal stories that training expenses can be trimmed because training is too expensive. But organizations are also awash with anecdotal stories of workers who fail to perform. In an era of thin budget margins and pressure to reduce the bottom line, the performance consultant will successfully bridge these two worlds by pin pointing performance issues and recommending appropriate cost effective strategies, whether they are traditional training or not.
But more important than understanding the basic dollars and cents of training is the performance consultant’s understanding of business finance. This understanding of finance is a key step to making performance consultants more of a strategic player in the organization and will have immediate benefits. An effective performance consultant is armed to build a strategic relationship with operations and organizational decision makers and be able to influence spending when important decisions have to be made.
So in answering the question “To train or not to train” we must answer with an emphatic: “It depends.” If your reason for training is to improve performance then train if and only if that training will yield an increase in performance that extends beyond the cost of the training. If you are training for any other reason, then proceed with the understanding that you do so without the expectation of improving performance.
Statewide Training Coordinator, Statewide Learning & Performance Management
Operations Manager Statewide Training
P.1 - Performance Consulting: A practical Guide for HR and Learning Professionals – Dana Robinson
“Consulting skills for trainers: collaborative performance improvement” – Langevin learning services
Check out Todd's blog post at: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/training-miracle-cure-distraction-todd-greider-cplp?trk=prof-post.
© ATD Sacramento Chapter Mail@astdsac.org
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