What’s the Difference Between Behavioural Change and Culture Change?

Behavioural change and culture change are both important factors in the new world of work. Changing how staff and leaders see themselves and their roles within an organisation can help increase problem-solving and productivity.

But what is the difference between behavioural change and culture change? And can you get one without the other? We look at this in this month’s blog.

Behavioural Change

Behavioural change takes time to truly embed. Usually, the process goes a bit like this: you train your team to make them aware of the new behaviours they need, your team then has to implement those behaviours every day, and eventually the behaviours change.

Let’s take a look at bringing in a new IT system as an example. You want your team to use this new software as you know it will make their lives easier. Only at the outset, it’s going to make their jobs a little harder. They have a new system to navigate, and new processes to learn. Yet they don’t know it like the back of their hand like they do the current system.

You get pushback from some members of the team. They want to know why you need a new system because the old one did the job just fine, thank you.

Behaviours Are Difficult to Change

The problem is that behaviours are difficult to change. Our brains don’t like change and they see it as a threat. Even if that change will make our lives easier in the long term. As you implement the new system, your staff feel like they don’t know how to do their jobs. It will feel like it did on their first day as they are learning something new again.

So when you run training on the new system, it will still take a while to embed the behaviours into the team.

It doesn’t need to be a new IT system. The same process will happen for wider changes. If we look at how we use paper in our offices, we can see a similar pattern.

It was not so long ago that it was common to print out emails, letters and invoices to then store physical copies in big metal filing cabinets. When they were no longer needed, these were then shredded or put into the bin.

Over time, our behaviours changed. We no longer print out, we save to the cloud, and everything that we can recycle, we do.

Culture Change

When you start changing behaviours in this way, you also make moves to change the culture. Culture change is much more complex than behavioural change and takes far longer to see the impact. Looking at our paper example, the culture of recycling has monumentally changed and is still in the process of changing.

It’s why making creating internal comms on a company culture needs to be reinforced with the actions and behaviours to make that change happen.

At the moment, we can see examples of businesses trying to create a cultural change in how and where people work. Over the past few years, the disruption to where we work has embedded new behaviours around working remotely and in a more flexible way.

Some businesses want to keep some aspects of this while others want their staff to return to the office. In order to communicate what’s expected, actions need to be put in place to encourage the behaviours which shape the culture.

Changing the Culture

Let’s say this fictional company wants their staff to return to the office some of the time while also keeping open hybrid working. Some members of staff will want to be back in the office full time. They like having those water-cooler moments and bumping into people for a chat in the tea room.

Other people might want to be at home for the whole week. It means they can respond to their caring duties or simply avoid the daily commute. Either way, the company is likely to get pushback from both parties about changing their behaviours.

Changing the culture so that the team accepts the changes will take time. It needs managers to model the behaviours they want to see in their staff and it also involves listening to and addressing their concerns.

Eventually, like our attitudes to recycling, the culture will change over time. Often without anyone noticing it has happened.

Awareness, Behaviour, Change

In order to create any kind of change within a business, you first need to raise awareness that this change is needed. Going back to our IT system example, if you tell your staff that they have a new IT system without explaining why you’ll increase resistance to it.

Whereas if you build the story around why the change is needed, engage with your comms team to make sure the messaging is right, then more people will adopt the behaviours.

We know that new behaviours aren’t sticky. To make behaviours last, that awareness still need to be communicated. When the behaviours change, you can then start to see a culture change. It’s a process that takes time and effort.

Tracking Change

Finally, it’s important to track any changes that you want to put in place. If you want to see how well hybrid working is impacting innovation and productivity, then work out what data you need to tell you this information.

If you want to track how behavioural and cultural changes are impacting sick and stress levels, then you need a clear understanding of what your staff’s sick and stress levels are.

Or if you want to track how well a new IT system is helping save time, then you need to look at the long-term data around your team’s output.

For any help tracking holidays and sick, do get in touch.

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