Founder & CEO The Chemistry Group
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Weight loss: the perfect analogy for culture-driven transformation

HR leaders are embarking on the most radical period of culture change we’ve seen in recent history, but how can we ensure our people are on board? Culture is rooted in behaviour, and for our behaviour to change we need to address it head-on. This is how weight loss groups work, and we could all learn a thing or two about behaviour change from their approach.

3rd Aug 2020
Founder & CEO The Chemistry Group
In association with
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group of people People Attending Diet Club Listening To Instructor Holding Different Fruits
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If it wasn’t already, transformation is now front of mind for leaders. The pandemic has led to an overhauling of working practices that transformation executives could have once only imagined. While there’s still uncertainty about what the coming months hold, we can confidently plan for an increasingly distributed and digital workforce, as some of those who previously worked in offices become permanent remote workers.

Behavioural change is hard and you need support from people who are all going through the same change as you. Not only does instituting the change in a group encourage support, but it also adds motivation. 

The current transformational challenge then, is not about change implementation, but instead how leaders can ensure employees stay engaged, confident, and productive as they adapt to their post-pandemic working environment and culture.

Develop support networks

Change needs a support group. For businesses having to adapt and transform, leaders must implement necessary changes to working practices slowly and in groups. There is a reason weight loss programmes are usually carried out in groups. 

Behavioural change is hard and you need support from people who are all going through the same change as you. Not only does instituting the change in a group encourage support, but it also adds motivation. 

It’s useful at this point to make the distinction between knowledge and behaviour. Knowledge is not behaviour, because if it were, we wouldn’t keep eating foods that we know do us no good. We wouldn’t speed, smoke or fail to keep a two-metre social distance from each other when we know that these things are bad for us and those around us. 

Whether people lack rigorous self-discipline or have a competitive streak that means they perform best against others, a group dynamic can motivate people to adopt the behaviours they know they should more quickly, and more effectively.

Culture Pioneers link

Embrace a peer-led approach

A subject expert is the wrong teacher. The person leading a weight loss group is often not the kind of fitness influencer we see plastered all over social media – that’s the point. Behavioural change has to be led by one of the cohorts going through the change, not an expert. It must be someone who understands first-hand the challenges they are facing.  

Managers are far more likely to listen to one of their peers who has achieved the change they are trying to make and accept candid feedback from this person. Having a peer in the behavioural change process is also likely to result in more effective and accurate feedback, as they will have a more in-depth and immediate experience of the context and process, rather than just a finished idea of what the end result should look like.

Adopt a human-led culture

Most transformations systematically undervalue the behavioural change required of employees. For instance, 88% of digital transformations fail, mainly because they focus on technology and not the people. This is a big mistake. In the midst of a humanitarian pandemic, organisational transformation is, at its very core, a human one. 

Aimlessly delivering extra computer monitors or state-of-the-art gadgets to your employee’s homes in a bid to sustain productivity is to fundamentally ignore the impact of your people’s personality and motivation upon any transformation strategy. 

As such, leaders must adopt a human-led culture that involves first listening to employees to develop a true understanding of how their individual circumstances impact how they receive and respond to change. Not doing so is almost willfully shortsighted, and it will cost you. 

Take one step at a time 

Do one thing at a time, get great at it, be consistent, then do the next thing. Focus on one aspect of change at a time, introducing too many new ways of working at once will lessen the chances of long-lasting behavioural change. 

With one client, I specifically remember working on one behaviour for three months, and only when we hit a level of consistency, did we introduce the next behaviour. 

Failure is discouraging, and unrealistic expectations within an unrealistic time frame can lead your people to give up during the learning phase. At that point, disengagement is inevitable. Leaders must implement small and manageable changes, because behaviour change achievements – however small – can increase self-efficacy, which in turn inspires the pursuit of further change, in other words, successful transformation. 

Interested in this topic? Read Culture change in the coronavirus era is about ‘meteorology’, not ‘archaeology’.

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