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This morning I read a great piece from the HR Capitalist Kris Dunn on the utility of flash performance reviews. You can read it here (recommended as it’s a fast, thought provoking read), but in summary Dunn posits that automating the feedback process in such a way that managers receive negative consequences for not delivering timely performance messages to their direct reports would force the dialogue process and cause everyone to be more productive.

…I don’t advocate going as far as the author does here (there are few company cultures that could absorb this sort of change without outsized consequences relative to the positive returns realized), but I *do* think this idea raises some interesting points about the way that we develop habits as human beings and how we can apply our understanding of this process to the way we encourage certain behaviors.

As I’ve written before, every behavior has an associated antecedent (trigger), and consequence (which can be either a negative outcome or reward). The antecedent, following behavior and resulting consequence ultimately sum to form a habit. e.g. ‘X’ happens, in response you do ‘Y’, and as a result you get ‘Z’. Every habit we all have can be broken down in this way.

We see the same thing in our work lives everyday. For example(s):

(Antecedent) A Manager feels that ruling with an iron fist is the way to get things done so they (Behavior) engage in an abrasive, uncommunicative leadership style to get work done before they learn to soften their approach after (Consequence) receiving enough compliance complaints and/or 360 feedback rank downs from their direct reports. Or how about the executive that (Antecedent) wants to cut costs and so (Behavior) underpays their employees relative to the market before they make the decision to pay more market competitively after (Consequence) experiencing several comp related defections of key personnel.

…The fascinating thing here is that it’s really easy for us to point to the consequences of behaviors as the casual factor behind driving most behavioral changes / new habits. And yet, we in HR often attempt to promote new behaviors by focusing on antecedents. We create trainings, give Managers tools, and over-communicate the heck out of which best practices need to happen in order to drive the desired outcome around *insert whatever here*. What we really need to be focused on – as Dunn highlights in his post – is consequences, though. By attaching positive (or negative) outcomes to the behaviors we want to drive or discourage, we can drive much more positive outcomes than we could by making antecedents the point of emphasis alone.

^This is easier said than done though, yes? HR functions often have a lot of influence, but rarely have a great deal of formal power to drive specific business outcomes. And so to attach consequences with behaviors we really need to create consensus at the top of the organization, which means building relationships with business leaders so that they will enforce the roll-out of any behavior-based change management programs.

…Just a Tuesday morning thought stream. As always, please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Best,

Rory

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