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With learning and development, it all boils down to behaviour change. No matter how beautifully designed a course is, or how spectacular the technologies are, if there isn’t a change in the learner’s behaviours, the course amounts to nothing more than a feel-good exercise in ticking a company box. If a change in behaviour is the goal, then e-learning, as part of a blended learning mix, is the most effective tool in accomplishing it.

Transformative learning – learning that changes behaviour – is more than memorising steps or learning basic skills. In many cases, it’s about shifting values and beliefs to uproot old behaviour patterns.

In his excellent book Start With Why, Simon Sinek argues that businesses with a strong purpose are positioned best for loyal customers and loyal staff; it is those business that create commitment. To paraphrase one motivational trainer, motion starts with emotion. And in turn emotion creates engagement.

Since behaviours quickly become habits, it is unlikely that a single intervention can bring about long-term behavioural change. To this end, the ‘five stages of learning’ method was originally developed in the 1970s to better understand how smokers could quit their addiction. It has since been used to facilitate change in just about any type of behaviour – from eating unhealthy foods, to exercising, to the right interactions with a customer at point of sale.

1) Precontemplation

The first stage is precontemplation. People in this stage don’t see that they should make any change to their behaviours. They may be pessimistic about their ability to change or, even more likely, deny the negative effects of their existing behaviours on the organisation. This stage is widely referred to as the ‘denial‘ stage.

2) Contemplation

During the contemplation stage, learners are weighing the costs (e.g. effort, time, peer group pressure) and benefits of behaviour modification. Employees can remain in this stage for years without preparing to take action.

3) Preparation

People in the preparation stage have decided to change their behaviours. Learners in this stage are ready to get started, but they need action-oriented tools to help set achievable goals.

4) Action

The action stage is the process of changing behaviour. Individuals in this stage are at the greatest risk of relapse.

5) Maintenance

This is the stage of successful, sustained behaviour modification and, more importantly, change within the organisation’s culture.

The key to designing training courses that influence behaviour is to remember that change doesn’t come easily. At every stage, the natural human tendency is to revert to old habits. Because of this, we need to keep in mind some important points about human nature when trying to make learning stick. These are outlined in the full article.

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