We’ve spoken to Joshua Ng, Behaviour Change specialist at People Potential, and one of our pioneers of The Reinforcement Revolution, about behaviour change in organisations and in sports.
He shared with us how important it is to be clear on the behavioural objectives that will determine training success, how reinforcement can finally unlock the value of the investment in training, and how to tackle Kirkpatrick’s Level 3.
Let’s dive in.
How long have you been involved in the work on training reinforcement?
I have just passed my one-year anniversary working on training reinforcement! When I started, my primary role was to analyse data from the training reinforcements that People Potential was already running. This helped me to understand the common patterns in workplace applications and engagement.
Six months ago, I started consulting with corporate clients to address the needs in post-training applications, and designing reinforcements with specific behavioral objectives in mind.
Which was the most interesting project you’ve been involved in?
I’m now working with a GLC in Malaysia, designing a post-training reinforcement that will help them shift towards a culture of collaboration between departments.
Initially, the client was unaware of what they wanted specifically with regards to a collaborative culture in their organisation. After a series of thorough probing and clarifying, we came to the conclusion that collaboration would be achieved through two behavioral objectives:
1) Participants apply Clean Language Questions (a questioning tool) when communicating in projects and meetings; and
2) Participants set a monthly meeting with their manager to discuss their KPI progression. Each KPI revolves around collaborating with another department.
Once these two behavioral objectives were identified, the solution to tackling a once-thought complicated cultural shift became quite simple.
You’re involved in a pilot project with a few coaches of the Squash Racket Association of Malaysia. What have you learned from that experience?
It has been a unique experience to work together with national-level coaches on building a digitalised reinforcement solution as part of the coaching system. In fact, it did feel revolutionising, given that most sports training systems only focus on the actual training, without much thought to players practising specific skills on their own and then reflecting on it.
The fact that Mindmarker, as a digital solution, provides an alternative platform for coaches and players is something almost unheard of in the local sports setting. The norm is to rely solely on coach-player coaching.
Coaches who have journeyed with their players for a long period of time often know better than the players themselves about their playing style, character, mental strength, and weaknesses. As a consultant, I tap into this wealth of knowledge and insights to extract behavioral objectives that are specific to each player. The next step would be to design reinforcements to suit each player’s learning style.
How is working with corporate clients different from that?
At the moment, I’m not involved in designing reinforcements for individual leaders or talents but, like with sports coaching, that can easily be done for leaders and talents who work closely with executive coaches.
My current projects with corporate clients deal with larger scale organisational issues. In such situations, the ‘symptoms’ of those issues might only provide a surface-level understanding that masks the real underlying problem. This complicates matters because the HR/L&D clients may not be clear about the specific behavioral outcomes that they want to see happening across different segments of the organisation.
Such situations require a lot of probing and in-depth exploring to get to the specific and measurable behavioral objectives that will be needed to bring about the desired behavioural changes.
Which problem is The Reinforcement Revolution addressing?
It addresses a specific post-training issue: soft skills or technical skills that are learned at training programmes are often not systematically and sustainably applied back at the workplace. That means that investments in training result in a lot of waste because most of the value is ‘locked in’.
The learners have gone through the training, have some degree of knowledge and skill, but they are not coming out as behaviour change and better work performance. This is costly to organisations.
The Reinforcement Revolution introduces a behaviour change solution that features inexpensive technology, robust methodology, and presence of key success factors designed to tackle Kirkpatrick’s Level 3 issue. Other common e-learning solutions only address Levels 1 and 2.
How will it impact organisations in your opinion?
Organisations will undoubtedly unlock more value from their investments in training. A much higher degree of knowledge and skills will be applied in the workplace after training, and L&D will have the data to show it. With such data, L&D will be able to better justify training investments because now, behaviour change can be effectively reinforced and measured.
If you could describe The Reinforcement Revolution in one sentence, what would that be?
Unlocking the stubborn problem of behaviour change to reap the full gains of training investment.
Bio Joshua Ng
Joshua is a Behaviour Change System Specialist at People Potential and advises L&D clients on how to create lasting behaviour change through post-training reinforcement solutions based on the Mindmarker app. He facilitates workshops for consultants and in-house designers, teaching them how to create and implement post-training reinforcements.
A qualified sports psychologist, Joshua is also involved in the sports scene with the Squash Racquet Association of Malaysia (SRAM), coaching national junior players and currently piloting a project with several SRAM coaches on reinforcing key performance skills among their players.