Four ways to impact behavioural change through learning

Four ways to impact behavioural change through learning

Digital learning is the talk of the town. With byte sized and on-the-go learning, people are able to learn almost anything, and that too on their own. Employees prefer to learn online and pick up new skills as and when they need it.

However, new marketable skills are not the only things people need to know, and it is not possible to teach everything through a digital format either. Discussions on learning and development encompass a wide range of topics, which also include behavioural change. When it comes to changing behaviours or habits, learning requires a human touch.

People behave in a certain manner, in response to their own experiences, which consist of biases and stereotypes. A chatbot or a simulation can only go so far as to put the message across, which is not enough to bring about a change in behaviour. Behavioural change occurs when there is an appeal to the emotional side of a person. One of the challenges posed by digital means is that it cannot direct such change on its own.

Jayati Roy, director-HR, Barco, says, “Digital can reinforce a message till it becomes a thought, but it cannot impact a behavioural change beyond that.”

Technology is merely an enabler. The human element is vital in such learning.

Structured process

A well-thought-out programme or a classroom session is usually what works. A classroom encourages cognitive learning. It facilitates discussion when employees come together and interact.

Rani Desai

“Technology has always been an enabler. Leaders need to ensure that conversational learning takes place”


Engaging in role plays, discussing possible approaches to handling different situations and ensuring a process, which sparks further conversations outside the classroom can leave a mark on any individual who comes in to learn.

Social learning

Theorised by Albert Bandura, it has been called the bridge between cognitive and behavioural learning. Employees can learn from one another and from senior leaders by observing favourable behaviours and imitating them. Senior managers can literally lead by example here. This approach works because individuals quickly learn what is socially accepted and favoured and what is not. This gives them the motivation to act in a similar way.

Conversational approach

This can be one the most effective ways of learning, which is easy to deliver and effortless as a process. Leaders or teachers can engage in informal casual conversations with employees on issues that need to be corrected. The reason it can be more effective is because it encourages a constant engagement with the topic at hand.

Jayati Roy

“Digital can reinforce a message till it becomes a thought, but it cannot impact a behavioural change beyond that”


In a conversation, it is a continuing discussion of ideas between individuals and not merely a one-time exchange. For this approach to have maximum effect, leaders need to walk among the employees and try to understand what they think and why they think so. This will ensure that better quality of discussions take place.

In the words of Rani Desai, managing partner, CoSM, “Technology has always been an enabler. Leaders need to ensure that conversational learning takes place.”

Native tongue

Language is a powerful motivator and the native tongue has an emotional appeal. It is an oft overlooked but definitely important element when it comes to teaching or trying to put a point across. For instance, if an employee is from a Marathi background, leaders can ensure that someone who knows the language speaks with that person. Doing this may ensure that the message is conveyed faster and more accurately.

Digital technology has improved the manner of providing new experiences. Online learning today has animation and gamification with real-life situations added in. Such simulations are doing a far better job in triggering thoughts in individuals, by reinforcing a message over and over again. However, its effectiveness is limited and to take the leap from thought triggering to behaviour changing, experiential and interactive learning is essential.


  1. The major cause for concern is the behavior correction. People should give very serious thought to this most neglected element in organizations. People are not machines they are bundles of emotions and feelings which play a significant role in making or breaking of an organization.

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