A Guide to Changing Employee Behavior in a Changing Workplace

In this guide, we’ll explore the impact of changing employee behavior in a changing workplace.

Behavioral change often goes hand-in-hand with organizational changes and other circumstances that affect the workplace. 

In 2020, for instance, companies around the world were faced with a sudden, radical shift to a remote working paradigm. 

Such a drastic change naturally affected employees and spurred changes to behaviors and attitudes. 

To maintain a functional workplace in such a volatile environment, managers must understand the underlying causes behind these behavior changes before devising a solution.

Below, we’ll look at a three points to pay attention to when addressing behavior change – analyzing the reasons for behavior changes, developing a solution, and planning for the future.

A Guide to Changing Employee Behavior in a Changing Workplace

Here are three key areas to pay attention to when assessing and addressing changes in organizational behavior:

Causes of Changes in Behavior

There are many underlying causes that can cause changes in attitudes and behavior, many of them emotional. 

Since solutions must address these specific root causes, the very first step to building a solution is understanding the problem.

Here are a few examples of the underlying causes that can fuel changes in attitudes and, as a consequence, behaviors:

  • Fear. Fear can stem from many causes and is often the core emotion driving behavior or attitude changes. Fear of inadequacy, underperformance, discipline, job displacement, and other types of fears can result in changes to behavior.
  • A lack of skills. A lack of employee skills is one common cause of attitude and behavior issues. That skill deficit can then fuel negative motions, such as fear, mentioned above.
  • Cultural misalignment. Organizational culture change has become a popular topic in recent years. As businesses become more digital, data-driven, and agile, for instance, they often undergo cultural shifts as well. This can cause friction among certain business cultures, which, in turn, can fuel attitude and behavioral changes.
  • Changes to the work environment. Sudden changes to the workplace, workflows, organizational structure, and the work environment can all be disconcerting. COVID-19, as noted, caused significant changes to businesses, workflows, workforce attitudes, and, ultimately, employee behavior.

Assessments, surveys, data and analytics, and even one-on-one discussions with employees can be used to gain insight into the exact cause of the behavior change. 

That information should be compiled, analyzed, and learned from – once it is, managers and leaders can design an appropriate solution.

Solutions to Changing Behavior

Solutions to behavior changes in a changing workplace, somewhat ironically, also involve changes. However, solutions themselves are designed to maintain equilibrium and harmony within the work environment.

For instance, a new business process may create increased complexity. Closing that complexity, in turn, may require solutions that revolve around business process standardization or digital adoption. 

Regardless of the actual solution, the ultimate goal is to design solutions that simplify the workplace as much as possible.

Here are just a few examples of many possible solutions to employee behavior changes:

  • Simplifying the digital workplace. The modern workplace has become exceedingly complex. New digital tools and workflows often cause information overload, which can then cause frustration, friction, and behavior changes. Simplifying the digital workplace, through, for instance, structured digital adoption programs, can decrease such issues.
  • Aligning corporate culture with the workforce. Since organizational culture change can cause friction, it is important to ensure that employees stay aligned with the company culture. Talent management programs, two-way communication strategies, and organizational restructuring are just a few ways to address cultural misalignment.
  • Employee training. Employee training has become a common and suitable solution for the digital skills gap, a growing issue in the modern enterprise. By ensuring that employees have the proper skills, managers and leaders can minimize fears related to underperformance, inadequacy, job displacement, and so forth.

To reiterate, these types of solutions must be tailored specifically to employees’ needs. It is therefore essential to discover the real root causes of a behavior change before implementing a solution.

Preparing for the Future

The best way to prevent behavioral issues in the first place is by anticipating them and preventing them. Naturally, total foresight is impossible, but by analyzing current behavior changes, managers can better predict and plan for the future.

Once a solution has been implemented, that project should be analyzed and used to inform future workplace change initiatives.

Here are a few steps to take after implementing a solution such as those covered above:

  • Review. Once a solution has been implemented, its performance should be reviewed. That data can help managers understand what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve next time.
  • Refine. Efforts to mitigate behavioral issues can be refined both during and after the program has finished. Completed programs, after all, are often permanent, so it pays to continually improve them when necessary.
  • Reinforce. Solutions to behavioral changes, as mentioned, often involved organizational changes. To sustain those changes, reinforcement is often a must.

While it is impossible to prevent disruption in a changing workplace, foresight and planning can help managers maintain an engaging, productive, and satisfying workplace.

Chris is the Lead Author & Editor of Change Blog. Chris established the Change blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Change Management.