Currently, there are 3 areas where even the most sophisticated organizations are failing to perform. By failure I mean performance improvement opportunities are being ignored because of these 3 flaws.
- Behavioral Technology
- Employee Participation
- Interpersonal Skills
Very few leaders, managers, or supervisors understand the fundamental principles of human behavior. Some organizations have implemented systematic behavioral initiatives that educated and trained management in how to use behavioral techniques to encourage discretionary effort. Many of these efforts failed because of flaw #2. They did not engage employees in the process.
In general, business and industry does not know that behavioral techniques are the easiest to learn and apply. So billions of dollars worth of human performance improvements remain undeveloped because managers and employees do not know how to systematically identify and track behaviors that would solve problems, increase quality, decrease waste, and increase sales.
Anyone who has been through a behavior based safety initiative knows how to identify specific job behaviors that pose the risk of injury for the employee. If one behavior, "attaching fall protection when working above 4 feet," was used 100% of the time thousands of lives would be saved in the United States and around the world each year.
It is obvious this one behavior could save lives and hundreds of millions of dollars in direct and indirect cost to the organization. Bottom line profits would soar in the absence of this one source of serious injuries and fatalities. There are many other behaviors that would have a similar payoff.
One operational behavior could have the same effect on quality, if operations personnel were to extend their BBS capability to include pinpointing behaviors that are currently barriers to high performance, behaviors that would increase performance, or behaviors that would solve performance problems.For any one person, the behaviors leading to improved job performance would be different from an employee in another department, but similar for coworkers doing the same job.
Another valuable capability that the behavioral approach provides is an understanding of why employees consciously choose to do or not to do certain things that are clearly included in their job descriptions. In safety, we know that asking an employee to do one thing - to put on a specific piece of protective equipment, may not be performed. Why? Simply because the consequences to the employee for engaging in that behavior are uncomfortable or inconvenient.
The evidence based principles of human behavior identify the influence of positive and negative consequences that are built into systems and management practices which discourage employee performance. Organizational systems that are functioning well are being aimlessly redesigned and re engineered - not because the existing system is dysfunctional, but because the system is not being performed to specification. In other words, employees feel that the tasks or the tools, or the job aids, or the paperwork are punishing, troublesome, overly complex, redundant, time wasters, repetitive, or dysfunctional in a multitude of other ways. So they don't do them.
The behavioral solution is to work with employees to identify the behaviors within job tasks that have built in negatives which discourage employees from performing them. In many cases task analysis and job redesign is indicated. Often redundancies, parallel tasks, wasteful tasks, and time-consuming needless tasks can be eliminated or redesigned to make them less onerous.
Often the negative issues in performing a task can be mitigated by increasing positive feedback and recognition. Attaching one's fall protection cannot be made to be more convenient, but positive recognition from one's supervisor and one's peers can compensate for the inconvenience and help make that behavior a habit and hence increasing employee safety.
Most organizations that have implemented BBS have failed to utilize the valuable tool they have in their hands. It seems quite simple to deduce that if observing, recording, and providing positive feedback to employees for doing a safe behavior will in turn increase the performance of that behavior, then using the same tactics for operations behaviors linked to quality and production would create the same outcome.
The failure of organizations to take a tool they have invested in and apply it to other areas to maximize their investment is costing business and industry worldwide tens of billions of dollars in lost opportunity.