Adults use behavior modeling to teach children. Business owners, managers, mentors, staff trainers, coaches and human resources professionals also use behavior modeling to teach people in the workplace. If you use behavior modeling in the workplace, be sure to consistently model what you want employees to do and give them a context for that behavior.
Behavior modeling comes under the umbrella of social learning theory, which focuses on how human learning is influenced not only by what goes on in the brain -- or cognitive factors -- but also by environmental factors. People learn within a social setting, and part of what they learn comes from watching others and imitating that behavior. When you're eating dinner and confront an unfamiliar dish, for example, you probably wait until you see how someone else eats it and then copy his behavior.
Behavior modeling is important for helping employees to develop desired behaviors and to prepare to apply those behaviors in various situations. If you model a script for how employees should answer the phone and they practice it multiple times, they will code that pattern into their brains. In the future, the same pattern of speech will function as a guide for action.
While the value of behavior modeling seems obvious, it is possible to overlook its use in the small business. You can put different systems into place in your company so employees know what behaviors are expected and when they are applied. The performance measurement system, used to give employees expectations and measure their performance, is an important component. This system must give clear signals for expected behaviors. It needs the support of management and their continued efforts at minimizing other influences that contradict those signals.
Employees need reinforcement to continue following expected behaviors, and you can use other methods -- such as compensation, bonuses, employee recognition, better work assignments and promotions -- to reward their performance. It's better to get employees focused on long-term goals as well as short-term goals. Long-term higher performance will help you make your company's increased profitability sustainable, whereas short-term higher performance will give the company a temporary boost and then the short-term higher profits fade.
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