Old dog, new tricks: Techniques to encourage change in the workplace


Whether you want to keep your competitive edge, or your business is growing, change is inevitable (and necessary) in any workplace.

Nowadays, it’s not enough to have a unique product or service to offer – you need the right people if you want your organisation to continue to develop and grow. But, hiring the most qualified person for the role is one thing; getting them on board with your company’s changes as they occur is another challenge all together.

Creating change within a workplace setting is no easy task, as people tend to get comfortable with schedules and routines and become accustomed to “the way things are done around here”. They might also put change in the ‘too hard’ basket or struggle to overcome perceived barriers such as fear of embarrassment or lack of knowledge.[1] Trying to start any new program or initiative is usually met with some sort of resistance. However, your company can transform the attitudes and behaviours of your employees by altering their mindsets and create a desire to learn, evolve and adopt change.

Six techniques to encourage behaviour modification and change within the workplace

It’s also important to note that creating change, in particular behavioural change, doesn’t happen overnight. If your people don’t understand why the change is taking place and there isn’t adequate support from within the business, then the change will never be successful.

Here’s a few ways that you can effectively implement change in your organisation:

  1. Reinforcement systems: By identifying good and bad behaviour and reinforcing consequences, also known as behaviour modification, you can assist employees in creating outcomes that will impact themselves and the organisation.[2] People tend to repeat behaviours that have positive consequences and tend not to repeat behaviours with negative consequences.[3]
  1. Establish a sense of urgency: There’s a few ways that you can do this: share bad news with the organisation, demonstrate the seriousness of an issue, or share data that supports the claim that immediate action is necessary. However, this is not to create a sense of doom – but rather to create a picture of the desired end goal if the change is supported. 
  1. Have consistent role models: From the top down, everyone needs to be on board with the organisational change. By having managers and team leaders who are passionate about the changes and modelling the new type of behaviour, your employees will be led by example and soon follow suit. Everyone needs to ‘walk the talk’ in order to change behaviours consistently throughout any organisation.[4] 
  1. Remove obstacles: Part of problem-solving is identifying barriers that will prevent change within the organisation from occurring. A few ways this can be achieved is by identifying team leaders who are resisting the change and helping them to see what is needed to be on board. Or, consider the systems that may be in place that are hindering the change. 
  1. Focus on continuous improvement: After the win, no matter how big or small, the aim is keep going. Set new targets or goals, analyse what went wrong or right, and focus on improving the results each time.[5] 
  1. But also give it time: In an ideal world, relevant changes in behaviour would happen instantly. This is not the case, so adults need time to absorb the new information, test it out, and then integrate it with their existing knowledge. By delivering monthly training sessions, you give your team a chance to reflect, experiment and apply the new changes.[6]

At the end of the day there is no magic formula to guarantee that changes will be accepted, it takes time, constant reinforcement and management support across all levels.

If you are considering making changes in your workplace, start by outlining the ‘why’.

Why are we making the change, what is the benefit, why is it important?



[1] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4468355/

[2] http://www.trainingxdesign.com.au/top-10-techniques-workplace-learning/

[3]  https://www.td.org/Publications/Magazines/TD/TD-Archive/2015/01/Improve-Employee-Performance-with-Behavior-Modification

[4] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-psychology-of-change-management

[5] https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/capitalbusiness/how-to-create-change-in-the-workplace/2013/11/27/9d62f8de-5548-11e3-835d-e7173847c7cc_story.html?utm_term=.737cd9da78b8

[6] https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/organization/our-insights/the-psychology-of-change-management