Last month, our company launched a new performance-management system called Rypple, a socially driven performance-appraisal system that helps employees get continuous feedback from their bosses, and keeps track of where they stand. My company has been very excited about its potential to improve employees' engagement levels and performance. Plus, it's a fun program.
When we launched the program, we established training plans to help explain what the program was, how it worked, and why we'd chosen it. So far, the response has been positive. And yet we're still having some trouble getting all our employees to actually use it.
For instance, last week, I was sitting in one of our managers' offices when he remembered that he needed to send another manager his feedback on her latest report. It was exactly the sort of situation Rypple is particularly useful for. But the manager opened up a new email form, and began typing away. I almost screamed. The manager had been trained in the new program — he even helped us launch it — and yet his habit of using email for these kinds of communication was too deeply ingrained.
Mark Britz, a well-respected e-learning coach, has called email the place knowledge goes to die. I stepped in and convinced the manager to use Rypple instead.
The interaction illustrated one of a workforce trainer's greatest challenges: How to actually change employee behavior. Here are a few helpful tips.
Explain the Benefits of the New Way
The foundation of change management is understanding why the change is important, and how it can be beneficial to employees. So make sure that during your training, you spend time discussing why the change is happening and how it can benefit everyone. In the case of Rypple, the program can help store lots of feedback in a personal profile, so that they can all be considered during an evaluation. It helps both the employee and the manager.
Have Lots of Practice, and on Real Work
Showing people how easy a tool is only goes so far. People are used to the way they've done things in the past. Doing role plays during training can help people feel comfortable using the new tool, but having them do their real work with the new program is the best way to help form new habits. Fight like heck with your constituents to schedule the time necessary for employees to get practice using the program on the things that really matter. In my company, we probably didn't do this as well as we should have. Work on real work.
Follow Up, and Reinforce New Habits
Just like the manager using email instead of Rypple, many people throughout the organization left training and went back to their old ways. It's the classic backslide. But this can be overcome with a little effort. Follow up with email reminders. Create tips of the week, follow up with short training sessions, host lunch 'n' learns, show up in team meetings offering tips and reminders, etc. Be creative.
Don't assume that once you've trained your employees they'll automatically start practicing the new skills. Old habits die hard. But proper training and reinforcement can help people overcome their old ways and embrace the new.