There are a few reasons why negative behaviour can appear in the office. It could be a workplace culture that’s a bit too constricting or unrealistic deadlines that are causing stress, for example. It’s really important to address these issues, to change behaviour for the better.
How? Well, no business wants to turn their employees into robots. It’s not a Big Brother approach, where all employees suddenly become yes people. But negative behaviour can spread in the office like wildfire, having a knock-on effect on motivation and productivity, so you need to do something.
What employees need to encourage positive behaviour will depend on the causes of anything negative, as well as other factors like personality and lifestyle. Let’s take a look at some of the ways this can be addressed.
Training and developing skills
It’s a pretty common misconception that only new employees need training, to be brought up to speed on their role – or maybe everyone can have a bit when a new policy or procedure is introduced. But the fact is, employees should have access to training consistently, to be aware of ongoing changes in the business or the industry at large, or (probably most importantly) for their own personal development.
Surveys have found that 6% of employees believe their job is beyond their skills and training. While that’s a pretty small percentage, that can mean a good few dozen people in large organisations who don’t feel up to the job, and this can have a really negative effect on their performance, or that of those around them.
On top of that, 32% of workers believe their current skills will prevent them from earning a promotion, which means employees wanting to climb a career ladder are at a bit of a crossroads when it comes to how they feel about their current job, something which can be very demoralising when it comes to trying to reach the next level.
All this – a lack of knowledge, no available training, and unachievable goals keeping staff from achieving a much-wanted promotion – can lead to work related stress, anxiety and even depression. Mental health issues like this account for 37% of all work related ill health cases, costing businesses big due to lack of employee output.
Employees who don’t add to their skillset are also at risk of automation taking their place at some point in the future, with some of the professions most at risk of being replaced by automation including telemarketers, mathematical technicians and data entry roles. The machines are coming! Make sure your staff are ready to transition to something new.
So, what can you do to improve access to training? Technology can help, making it cost-effective for businesses to introduce training programmes – 51% believe webinars are more or just as effective as in-person training, with apps such as Google Hangouts or Skype offering quick video chats where employees can be shown processes or ask questions to help learn new skills.
It doesn’t have to just be online tools either. Management and HR should be actively looking to identify training needs from performance and communication with its employees. Employee surveys can also be used as a way of identifying the need for extra training.
Offering extra learning opportunities for employees through your employee benefits scheme can also help keep personnel focused and feel more positive about themselves, having a huge impact on their physical and mental health.
Everyone knows what it’s like to have a bad manager, and a big part of that is probably because understanding what personally motivates individuals is no easy feat. But it’s essential for encouraging positive behaviour – Harvard Business Review surveyed 2,865 leaders in a large financial services company and found that the more effective the manager is, the more engaged the staff were.
With only 34% of organisations actively focusing on developing and retaining current employees, businesses need to ensure they look at their business aims and their culture before blaming employees for negative behaviour.
It’s all down to communication when motivating staff, something that can often be overlooked – only seeing the bigger picture of the team as a whole, while forgetting the people who make up that team, and their individual motivators.
For example, millennials and employees approaching the end of their careers will have different priorities, and different personalities that influence how they feel motivated to work – some will need reassurance throughout the day where others might prefer being left to it.
Improving performance can be achieved with personalised working for some employees, allowing flexibility in the way they work. If some find it easier to work at home or with flexible hours, for example, it can improve performance. Personalised working also gives people a degree of control over how they get their tasks completed, which can help with their wellbeing.
Some businesses use measurements and KPIs to help manage employees, and this can be effective for workers who like to keep track of where they are and compare themselves to other colleagues, But this management process won’t be popular with everyone. Brian Fielkow, author of ‘Driving to Perfection’ commented on using metrics to drive employee behaviour for CNBC, saying:
“You can’t manage it if you can’t measure it. This old axiom will always ring true however, some of your measures may be covertly hurting your business. It is our role as business leaders to carefully evaluate our metrics from a 360-degree perspective and to root out any unwanted side effects.”
If your employees’ performance is dictated by sales targets which they can’t achieve, it’s not always down to the employee being not fit for the job. Is the target too high? Is the deadline too short? Do they have all the tools they need? What’s stopping them from achieving it in the first place?
Some employees might need a little encouragement to stay on track – and this is something people are actively looking out for. Research by PWC, for instance, found that 50% of UK millennials find competitive wages and other financial incentives make an organisation an attractive employer.
Much is made of the-carrot-or-the-stick motivation technique – dangling a reward or penalty for achieving or not achieving goals – but there should be a fine balance. Rewarding employees for everything takes away the point of being rewarded as a bonus and becomes an expectation – whereas continuing to punish staff can be extremely demoralising and even fan the flames of actively bad office behaviour.
Incentives don’t just to have to be financial. Over a quarter of millennials said that recognition motivates them to do their best at work, and being thanked for hard work can go a long way to improving office culture. It’s been shown to lead to better job satisfaction, with 75% of employees who receive recognition at least monthly saying they are satisfied with their job.
Finding the right forms of non-financial recognition is the challenge – but whatever it is, make sure it’s an experience that people remember. People easily forget the exact bonus amount they received as soon as it’s spent – but an experience, gift or event as recognition for a job well done will make a much bigger impact.
Providing opportunities for training and a chance for people to develop their skills as an incentive can also lead to positive behaviour. Patrick Hall discussed in Forbes the positives of having education as an incentive:
“I believe that people respond to educational incentives and a number of companies offer incentives that pay for additional education. They’re great because your workforce can become more skilled and you’re creating loyalty.”
Offering benefit schemes which help with employee wellbeing are also nice and enticing to employees. Gym memberships are a popular option for staff, and the health benefits can actually assist with changing behaviour by encouraging a healthier lifestyle – which really does have a knock-on effect on people’s moods and productivity levels at work. Providing incentives for employees to walk to work instead of taking the car can also be beneficial for mental health, as found in a study by the University of East Anglia.
When it comes to changing behaviour, there are different perspectives to consider, as all employees are unique and have different needs. You need to talk to your staff to understand what’s required for a positive culture shift, whether it’s training, reviewing management procedures, incentives – or a combination of all three.