Henry Butters
By Henry Butters on February 25, 2022

5 Reasons to Integrate Behaviour Change into Your L&D Programme

Over the last few years, there is one thing that has defined L&D more than anything, and that is change. Whether that be embracing new and improved technology, the rise to the senior table, or the pivot from office, to remote and then hybrid working. 

As L&D professionals, that has left us with a choice… resist or evolve? We can either resist and carry on with the status quo, or we can bear the torch of the future and deliver the learning experience that employees need and crave to truly reach their potential.

The need for us to continue to evolve couldn’t be greater either. L&D has come on leaps and bounds since the start of the pandemic, but there are still significant challenges to be overcome. 75% of managers say that they are dissatisfied with their company’s learning & development programme, and a worrying 87% of millennials in the workforce say that their learning experience is boring and not relevant. Why? There are of course many reasons, but much of the problem can be placed at the feet of a knowledge-focused approach that leading LMSs are based on.

So, what’s the solution…

Behaviour change - in our guide ‘The Power of Behaviour Change in Business’, we explained exactly what behaviour change in business is and how it works, and now we’re going to cover the top 5 reasons you need to embed it into your L&D programme.

But first, a quick recap.

What is Behavioural Change

If you haven't yet read our guide, and you’re wondering what behaviour change is, don’t worry. Put simply, behaviour change is:

‘The practice of changing employees’ behaviours to improve business performance.’

This can be anything, from the way leaders manage and coach their team, to increasing the reporting abilities of your finance team. Whatever the target, the end goal is ultimately to embed desirable behaviours and dislodge detrimental ones through a systematic process.

Why Should You Introduce Behavioural Change into Your Business?

Now that you have an understanding of how behavioural change works in business, why should you introduce it? Surprisingly, we all know the answer to this, but few of us realise. Whenever we support staff with training of any kind, the thing we are trying to improve is behaviours. Not knowledge, not skills, but behaviours. Knowledge and skills are part of the equation, but to actually improve performance (which is driven by employee behaviour) we must look more holistically.

So, now let’s look at the top 5 reasons to integrate behaviour change into your L&D programme.

“Your people don’t need more knowledge, they need better behaviours.”


1. Transforms Learning from Knowledge Transfer to Real Behaviour Change

As L&D professionals we have all experienced situations where we have supported an employee with training, they have displayed an understanding of what they were taught and then returned to work only to continue to work in the way they did before they received training. It’s infuriating. The employee has the knowledge, but they aren’t acting on it. You’re not alone in this struggle though, as research has found that just 12% of employee training is actually applied at work. 

Behaviour is a complex beast…A beast that is influenced by multiple factors, including environmental triggers, workplace norms, pre-existing knowledge/behaviour from previous jobs, and the feedback received after acting. And leading scientists agree that knowledge is not even a primary factor that leads to behaviour change. Which ultimately means any L&D programme that relies heavily on knowledge transfer leaves results down to chance.

By embracing behaviour change we are able to apply a systematic approach to improving employee behaviour. One that takes into account the various factors that make up how employees act, and ultimately embeds the behaviours we want to flourish. This is because it provides your employees with real-life experiential learning, at the right time, which leads to the behaviour change needed to drive performance. 


2. Allows You to Harness the Power of Competency Frameworks

We are all familiar with competency frameworks, however, they rarely get used to drive meaningful learning. This is a massive missed opportunity for all of us in L&D. If used correctly, an effective competency framework helps to provide you with a holistic understanding of exactly which behaviours and competencies employees have, and which ones they still need to learn.

By using a competency framework in conjunction with behaviour change you can strategically target employee behaviours at each and every level of your organisation. This not only increases the effectiveness of your learning and development programme, it dramatically increases the return on investment as a result of reduced redundant training.


3. Dramatically Increases Engagement with Learning and Your Business

A recent report found that only 19% of employees declare themselves as fully engaged within the workforce… no matter how much money is invested into learning and development, if employees are not engaged, then you simply won’t see the change that is needed.

However, by changing your employee's behaviours to be more positive and engaged within the workplace, you can increase your organisation's effectiveness and perhaps most importantly, profit. Learning practically through experience, with an aim of changing behaviour, is stimulating and compelling. Once that learning behaviour starts to change, attitudes won’t be far behind!


4. Provides a Safe Space to Fail and Reflect 

In an ideal world, traditional L&D provides employees with the opportunity to take on knowledge and skills which, in turn, allows them to apply them in a work setting to improve their productivity and efficiency. However, as we covered above, just 12% of new knowledge actually gets applied at work. What’s needed is ‘real-life’ training,..... Behaviour change training provides just that…

At Ethical Angel, our behaviour change approach blends the power of science-based psychology with real-life projects, from good causes around the world to create a high-stakes, yet safe, environment. An environment that has real deadlines, curveballs, and personalities. This provides employees with a safe environment to fail and reflect, which gives them the confidence they need to try new behaviours which will, in turn, lead to them being embedded in the workplace.


5. An Enhanced Return on Investment

Finally, and arguably most importantly, embracing behaviour change will lead to an enhanced return on investment in your L&D programme. In a market worth well over $400 billion, it is no secret that a lot of this investment goes to waste. By failing to focus on desirable behaviours and how to embed them we are taking a ‘spray and pray’ approach to our L&D.

Let’s take a moment to go back to the fact that just 12% of knowledge from training gets applied at work. 

And now let’s take a look at this example: 

The average annual spend on employee training is £830 (or $1,111). So, depending on the size of your business, your total spend on training would be:

Now let’s look at how much of that spend is being wasted if just 12% of it is being applied at work: 

These numbers will of course vary depending on the exact set-up of your L&D programme, but the truth is that the only real way to significantly improve these outcomes is to embrace behaviour change. It is therefore crucial that learning and development pivots towards changing behaviours to increase the application of training.

Behaviour change provides the right learning interventions, feedback and reinforcement to effectively develop skills and make employees more productive in their roles. It does this by embedding itself into every part of the learning process with real-world experiences. This provides long-lasting change at both an individual and cultural level, in turn providing a greatly enhanced return on investment.  


Concluding Thoughts

We’ve come a long way, but the L&D revolution must continue if we are to deliver on our ever-increasing targets. We must understand that it is no longer just about knowledge transfer and that as L&D people we are in fact in the business of behaviour change. By implementing it into our businesses we can create a culture that allows individuals, and subsequently the business, to flourish and reach its full potential.

Published by Henry Butters February 25, 2022
Henry Butters