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The drivers of Human Behaviour in the Workplace

What drives human behaviour? It's certainly not the first time the question has been asked in the context of the workplace. In the 10 years I've been working with SME's as well as corporate organisations, four common threads have revealed themselves in the companies that seem to achieve more consistent staff behaviour.

1) Mechanisms to translate Values into behaviour.

Any company can compile a set of values that, on paper, sound fantastic. The values read so well you immediately look to see whether a job application form is nearby. The reality in most cases however is that this document is more of a marketing exercise than a reflective indication of behaviour within the company.

I have learnt that values will only ever translate into behaviour if they are articulated consistently and systematically throughout the company in a manner that each level of employee within the business is capable of understanding and more importantly, applying to their roles and deliverables. A value which lives in the theoretical space will very rarely manifest into behaviour, especially at the lower levels of the business. In other words, values should always be communicated within context in order for them to be applied effectively.

2) A Consequence Culture

The majority of human beings by nature err on the side of being conflict-averse as opposed to conflict oriented. The bi-product of this tendency is often a leniency from the leadership tier which many employees then take advantage of, especially those who are less subject to quantifiable performance indicators. This is not to say that staff can do what they want when they want but many companies do not deliberately and proactively manage the performance of the individuals within it. Humans are creatures of habit and to change habitual behaviour requires a progressive and proactive cause and effect approach. A large majority of managers avidly avoid the need to systematically performance manage their teams because it is often uncomfortable or misrepresented as micro-managing.

The companies that seem to get this right do the hard yards upfront and eliminate as much of the interpretation as possible by being clear on what the expectation might be as well as positive and negative consequences that exist as an outcome. A clear cause and effect culture is therefore established. I have also found that these types of companies become very clear on the type of person they hire because of the fact that the culture is far more clearly articulated. You either fit in or you don't, pretty simple.

3) Psychology, not just Skills

Intrinsic to every business we have partnered with that is changing the face of their industry is the focus on the headspace of their staff, not just their skill-set. We have seen this notion proved on many a sports field as well as boardroom, the most technically sound individual or team doesn't always necessarily take the spoils. The individual or team that is in the best psychological and emotional state, when it matters most, is more often the one still standing.

The focus within the leading organisations in this regard has been to adopt a learning approach that addresses the WHY as much as it does the HOW. By providing the appropriate context and headspace for the individual, the propensity to learn becomes that much greater across the staff complement.

4) Learning & Performance rather than Learning & Development

The progressive organisations that I and my team have worked with have certainly shifted their training approach to be more performance-driven. In other words, taking a more analytical view on how much of what is being trained is actually being executed on the floor. The strategy behind the training approach therefore has to speak to the key objectives of the business and has to be executed in a manner that translates into the behaviour change necessary for and increased customer value proposition. A positive outcome we have noticed here is that operations and human resources are also aligning more effectively to achieve the business objectives.

To find out more about what RCA is doing to assist businesses in the culture development, training and performance management space, visit or email us on

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