Driving positive behaviour change in the workplace

Will Clarke

With increasing pressure on people’s time, shortening attention spans, and tightening economic conditions, interventions designed to drive positive behaviour change in the workplace are being re-imagined. Where previously much leadership development was focused on face-to-face programmes, there is a growing need for speed, scale, and efficiency.  

Digital or ‘mindset modules’ are nothing new, but their adoption is spreading fast, and their use is moving beyond leadership and management to instigate behaviour change at all levels of an organisation.  

In this blog we will look at the role of the digital delivery elements of culture change, and where they add most value. We’ll also explore in more detail two digital modules we have launched to tackle the big and topical challenges of psychological safety and speaking up. 


Digital programmes for driving behaviour change 

It’s important to remember that digital programmes are not a sole solution for driving behaviour change. They are designed to work in conjunction with other elements to deliver a more holistic and effective accelerant for culture transformation.  

For example, many of our clients will typically have gone through all or at least one of our Culture Insights Survey, Discover Culture Diagnostic, and Target Culture Mapping solutions to measure their current culture, plan their desired one, and identify the gap in between. These modules all have digital elements (for example, on understanding culture), but they are integrated with in-person focus groups, workshops, and interviews to create a qualitative and quantitative picture of what needs to change.  


What are the benefits of digital programmes on behaviour change? 

1. Scale 

Digital programmes serve as powerful catalysts for behaviour change within organisations, particularly by allowing the scalable dissemination of cultural values and practical implementation of new behaviours. This impact is especially notable in large organisations, where traditional workshops and focus groups may be targeted at leaders, and are too cost-prohibitive to roll out across the company.  

Digital delivery enables you to reach much deeper into your population. This is more inclusive, fosters greater alignment with defined values and behaviours, and overall increases your chances of sustainable change.  

Outcomes from a case study with an insurance provider include:

  1. Front-line teams reported that they have greater understanding of the transformation because their managers are cascading the content from the program.
  1. Key concepts relating to ownership and accountability are being used as common language at all levels of the organisation. 
  1. Stronger relationships are being built with the group by breaking down silos, leaders being more open and asking the right questions. This has been evidenced by the significant increase in NPS score for Global Operations from the local markets, over the past 9 months.

See the Global Insurance Provider Case Study for more information.

2. Speed  

The fact is, culture change takes time. But some of this time can be saved through digital delivery. For instance, we can send e-questionnaires ahead of workshops that ask participants probing questions to answer before they attend. By doing preparation this way, when they get in the room, we can focus on generating a rich discussion about the findings and next steps, rather than diagnosis. This is more efficient, it gets people into the right headspace before they come, and it accelerates action afterwards.  

The common belief is that culture change takes 2-3 years to occur, and while there is no doubt that it requires a focus on leadership, through carefully planning your transformation and engaging your people managers, you can make significant progress within 12 months. 

3. Sustainable  

While we create a lot of value from our face-to-face interventions, digital delivery of other elements enables us to support and complement in-person workshops. Digital provides additional information that leaders can use to prepare for workshops or refer back to in the moment of need when taking it to their teams.  


Where can they add most value? 


1. For 1,000+ people 

The strategic value of digital programmes is most evident when aiming to instigate deep-seated culture change within organisations. Many of our clients go through our culture mapping process first to define their desired culture, and use our digital programmes to make broader, and faster, progress towards it.  

2. For senior leadership, up to 300 people 

The integration of digital modules alongside workshops provides a more comprehensive learning experience and more detail on our frameworks and key concepts. By incorporating preparatory content and discussion points, these digital modules can facilitate more profound engagement during workshops. 

Let’s look at our two most recent digital modules:  

The role of Psychological Safety in the Workplace 

We define psychological safety as a climate of trust where people feel comfortable expressing themselves, sharing concerns and mistakes without fear of being judged, and asking questions when they are unsure. 


Why is psychological safety important? 

Feeling safe, both physically and emotionally, is important. We believe that it’s only when we feel safe that we can be our best selves, think creatively, and start to thrive.  

When mistakes are made in an organisation, the last thing you want is for someone to try to cover them up or keep them a secret. When you openly admit mistakes, then you can get help from others to resolve the issue and then you can share what you have learnt and then other people can benefit from that, and it means that you avoid that mistake being repeated.


How can organisations create psychological safety? 

Our module builds upon our ‘Above the Line’ mindset and requirement of personal responsibility. Psychological safety is not about accepting poorer results by removing all pressure or stressors. It’s about fostering a sense of caring by challenging others because you care about their growth, as highlighted in harnessing a ‘Team B’ mentality in the module. 

This involves the deliberate creation of safe spaces, whether physical or virtual, where individuals feel encouraged to express themselves openly. Leadership plays a pivotal role in this process, actively listening, valuing diverse opinions, and championing an environment where everyone's voice is heard. 


How to drive positive behavioural change in your workplace 

Creating positive and sustainable behaviour change in the workplace begins with a bedrock of psychological safety. Once this foundation is in place, your people will feel free to speak up, and this is what will help you achieve your desired culture quicker.  


Why is speaking up important? 

Speaking up is crucial as it brings awareness to situations, whether it's acknowledging mistakes, presenting innovative ideas, or addressing issues that need correction. It empowers individuals to contribute to positive change by ensuring that influential parties are informed and can take appropriate actions. 


What is the module on Speaking Up all about? 

Speaking up comes with an inherent personal risk. This module provides a framework – The VOICE Model – which learners can use to navigate this personal hazard and decide whether to speak up or not. It underscores that positive change occurs when individuals bravely speak up, bringing important issues to the attention of those with the influence to affect change. 

The Speak Up module is an example of what we at Walking the Talk do when designing digital programmes. We bring our 25 plus years of experience in the field of culture change, look at recurring client pain points, and create a key concept – in this case, the VOICE (Values, Outcomes, Inquire, Context, Engage – more below) Model – to give people a framework to keep coming back to when considering how to think and behave in future circumstances. We’ve found that having this anchoring idea makes learning more ‘sticky’, engaging, and relevant.   

You can find more information in this video from the Speak Up Module.


What’s the VOICE Model? 

The VOICE Model serves as a framework for effective communication, guiding individuals on when and how to speak up. It emphasises speaking up with confidence, ensuring accuracy in assumptions, addressing the right person, and choosing the right time. 

Values led 

Above all, VOICE is values-led, encouraging individuals to stand up for what they believe in, even if not directly affected. For instance, I’ve spoken up many times about colour contrast ratios, despite not being affected by this personally. I speak up about this because I care about inclusion and making learning content accessible to all, and know that 1 in 12 men have a colour vision deficiency. This is an example that shows that speaking up doesn’t have to be about addressing a huge challenge, it can be about something relatively minor and low risk but that you’ve noticed and it’s important to your values that it changes.  

Minor changes add up 

Small changes and improvements add up and can have an enormously positive impact on your organisation. If everyone across your company starts speaking up about the small things, then you soon create a tipping point for culture change. 


What’s the connection between psychological safety and speaking up? 

The word ‘psychological’ in psychological safety shouldn’t take away the importance of ‘safety’. Although it’s just a feeling, it can have dire consequences if it is not present. There are many well documented instances in aviation and healthcare where people don’t have the psychological safety to speak up about grave issues, resulting in catastrophic consequences.  

Driving positive behaviour change in the workplace is not a question of digital versus face-to face. They each have unique features and benefits, and serve different purposes. But by combining the two, you can achieve scale, save time and money, and significantly increase your chances of successful culture change.   

Our modules on Psychological Safety and Speaking Up can be integrated into any of our culture change solutions. For more information, contact us.

Contact Us

Subscribe for blog updates

How to Improve Team Effectiveness

How to Improve Team Effectiveness

While there is no doubting the impact that talented leaders and individuals can have on culture and business performance, a great team has
Hiring for Culture – The Ultimate Guide

Hiring for Culture – The Ultimate Guide

With the growth in skills-based hiring, fractional employment, and the transactional gig economy, there have been questions about the
White Paper: Shaping a culture of inclusion

White Paper: Shaping a culture of inclusion

Walking the Talk is delighted to announce the release of our 2023 white paper on 'Shaping a culture of inclusion'. One of the hottest