Is your organization behaving?


“Oh behave”! as Austin Powers would say in the Spy movie. Behaviour, or lack thereof, is very important in an organization, so much so that it affects not only the culture and employees’ performance but the company’s bottom line. The news is flooded lately with examples of poor behaviour in the workplace. Uber and Amazon comes to mind. Uber with the toxic woes of diversity issues, discrimination and sexual harassment. It was reported, via an editorial in the New York Times, that Amazon has a culture of punishment, overachievement and fear. These factors influence how employees behave at work – their attitudes and attributes in the workplace.

The field of organizational behaviour is a very important one as shown in the two examples. It is concerned with predicting, explaining and managing people’s behaviour at work. For better or worse, we all participate in some form in our organization’s culture. I work for a major insurance company which is on a tear of a culture shift brought on by many variables –  both internal and external. The internal factors are heavily weighted by the external factors such as the current social and technological climate. Yes, the robots are here. Welcome to the age of automation.  The name of the game is: adapt to survive or perish.

Organizational behaviour goes hand in hand with the field of organizational psychology. Organizational Psychologists study the behaviour of employees at work and how they shape the culture of an organization. Why do people stay with a company? Why do they leave? What motivates people? How can teams work together effectively? These are all questions an organizational psychologist would analyze as part of their work in organizational behaviour.

We all want to work for organizations that cultivate synergies with their people, processes and systems. Organizations that are strong, collaborative, engaging and innovative. Cultivating and maintaining those attributes start with the social aspects of an organization – the effort of its people. Let’s not forget the role of leaders in organizational behaviour. It starts at the top. Employees typically model what they see and experience.

When employees are engaged, demonstrate a willingness towards learning, are motivated etc. they in turn create positive, rewarding organizational cultures. It starts with cultivating critical behaviours.

The move towards performance in the workplace


The word performance has many connotations but I think we can all agree that it indicates that you need to do something. To perform is an action word. In our daily lives, we have a number of ways in which we perform – if you’re an actor/actress you’re on stage in front of a crowd hopefully an adoring one. For those of us who are not physically on a literal stage, the “stage” is our lives. Many of us play a number of roles in our personal lives – wife, husband, father, mother, sister, brother, friend etc. Each role requires a different performance. We are expected to do something pertaining to that role and do it well by producing a favourable result.

Let’s apply this same concept to the workplace. At work, you have a title, belong to a department or business unit, have a job description which reflects your title and outline your duties and responsibilities for that role. In short, you are expected to perform and produce results for your department and company.

Consider this scenario:

Simone works in the sales department for Would Rather Play Merchandise Company as a sales representative. She uses a Customer Relationship Management system (CRM) called Salesforce. This is the main tool she uses as part of her daily duties. Although Simone is very familiar with Salesforce, at times she misses some key steps in the system whenever she completes a sale. The end result produces a transaction that is not complete. Simone has performance issues but how do we course correct? Is additional instruction the right solution for Simone?

Let’s analyze this situation a bit more. Salesforce is not a new technology for Simone as she’s been using it for some time. The problem is that she is not using it well. Additional instruction on the technology would be a waste of time. Another remedy would be more effective and efficient in this instance. A performance improvement remedy could be to provide a job aid for Simone for example a step-by-step procedure on how to use the technology. The guide is an easy point of reference that Simone can use to complete a transaction from start to finish. She can then fill in the gaps in her knowledge. Another remedy could be observation. A manager or a colleague could shadow Simone during a transaction to see what she’s doing wrong and provide guidance in real time.

Training is only one intervention in the performance improvement ecosystem. Depending on the problem, training may not be the best solution. It is the job of the Learning/Training & Development professional to analyze the situation and provide the most effective solution. At times the solution may call for a task redesign, more documentation or additional tools or equipment.

Organizations are moving away from throwing training at every issue and hoping for a quick fix. Continuous performance improvement allows the people resources of an organization to do things in a productive fashion using current knowledge, skills and abilities. Although instruction can be an effective intervention, it is only one of many tools available. Performance is encompassing and serves the purpose of continuous maintenance rather than having to do a complete makeover.