People do what they do…

Behavioural Science research has shown that people do what they do because of the way they interpret the environment around them. In short, the point that the individual interacts with the environment fundamentally determines their behaviour.

All behaviours are supported by the environment in which they occur. Behaviours do not happen in a vacuum. Therefore, a new behaviour will not happen unless the environment in which it is to occur, prompts and reinforces the new behaviour.

Patterns of behaviours are made to happen, by the learning obtained through the interaction between person and the environment.

The environment is the setting in which the behaviour happens. It is made up of the physical and social setting. Tables, chairs, keyboards, emails, and other people, what they say, what they look like, what they do.

All this triggers and reinforces the behaviours of each person within that setting.

A meeting, a factory line, a training room, a living room, kitchen or football ground. We move through many environments with many different triggers and reinforcers every day.

We react, respond, walk and talk because of where we are, coupled with what we are trying to achieve, seeing our version of reality through the lens and biases of our life experiences to date.

Not all individuals share the same perspective and as a supervisor or manager, you don’t necessarily know their past history of experiences, but by observing their behaviour, you will get a feel for how they interpret what is in front of them.

Using behavioural science to improve compliance to a required standard of actions requires the design and implementation of specific triggers and reinforcers around the individual in order to change their behaviour.

Conventional compliance methods have us believe that it is enough to provide training and awareness to an individual. They should then be able to ‘behave’ accordingly to the new requested requirements.

However, if nothing changes in the environment where the new behaviours are required, the old ones will still occur as these are the ones that are supported and reinforced by what is around the performer and nothing has changed in that regard.

People do what they do because of what is around them. Change what is around them to change their behaviour.

With this in mind, behaviour change has to be supported by the environment in which the behaviour is to occur.

Support comes in various forms. The science says that for every behaviour, there must be a stimulus, a trigger, an antecedent. But this is not enough on its own.

The performer of the behaviour must receive some sort of reinforcement for doing the behaviour in order to ‘learn’ that this was the correct action to have taken. The learning comes in the form of feedback.

The closer and more certain the feedback to the behaviour, the more powerful it is in ensuring future behaviours of this type.

The stimulus for the new behaviour can come from the task, from new instruction, signs, materials or tools.

But it has to be something at the time the behaviour occurs. The feedback can come from the completion of task itself, from peers or from the supervisor.

This doesn’t mean that the supervisor has to be there all the time to deliver ‘well done’ feedback for each new behaviour.

As the performer gets used to carrying out the new behaviour, the act of having done the behaviour can become the reinforcing feedback that keeps it going.

This is when it is embedded into the performers routine. How long it takes to get here depends upon the situation, task, performer and feedback.

Changing behaviour takes time and effort because it requires a change in the current triggers and reinforcers.

Awareness of the new behaviour is only the setting of expectation; it is rarely enough to change the currently entrenched behaviour.

Influence Chain

As well as the physical setting, behaviour influences behaviour. What the leaders, managers and supervisors say and do directly influences the behaviours of the workers. The workers behaviour is the output of the leaders ability to create the environment around the worker.

The ability to directly influence behaviour decreases as you move away from the Key Performer.

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