Changing behavior in your organization means that employees have to work on themselves. Asking for this work usually meets with some resistance. Watching someone cycle up a mountain? Nice! Getting up there myself? I’d rather not!

Behavioral scientist BJ Fogg emphasizes that it’s important to realize that people are naturally lazy. We feel resistance when we have to put in effort, and this is also true when it comes to learning or refining behavior.

Use this insight to help change behavior!

As teacher and researcher at Stanford University, Fogg mainly focuses on the ways behavior can be influenced. Fogg argues that someone will act when there is motivation, ability and a trigger.

To teach people a new behavior or to refine behavior, he identifies three steps:

1. Motivation: Be Specific

It’s difficult to make desired behavior specific. Customer-friendly and results-focused, yes. But what does that mean for Aaron, an account manager who’s talking to Charles, a complaining client? Translate the goals of the organization and the desired effects to behavior as specifically as possible, says Fogg. The most effective way to teach employees is microlearning, in which employees practice a certain behavior or certain skills in small amounts of time. When you offer them training in phases, employees will make steps more often, and they will be able to apply the new behavior sooner.

2. Create Ability and Simplicity

In order to execute the desired behavior, employees must be able to do so. Because you cannot influence the situation (a dissatisfied customer, a challenging negotiation or critical colleague, for example), only the employee’s skills can make the desired behavior relatively easier. Make the behavior simple in training, Fogg says, by minimizing these six factors:

  • Time
  • Money
  • Physical effort
  • Cognitive effort
  • Social acceptance/desirability of the desired behavior
  • The way the desired behavior is different from the routine behavior

Shorten training using microlearning and online training, which limit physical efforts and minimize costs. Cognitive effort will always be necessary, but with online microlearning, employees will no longer need to maintain attention for an entire day or part of a day. Online training also allows for immediate practice of new skills. Once the new behavior has been internalized by practice and application, it will become the new routine behavior.

3. Create Triggers

The last step is the most important, but it is also the most difficult. Sometimes, you don’t do something while you want to do it, according to Fogg. How often do you forget to turn on your favorite TV program when it starts or use the coupon you have in your wallet? When was the last time you called your mother? Employees also need a trigger to apply the behavior. A good training program contains recognizable situations. When these situations happen in real life, they will trigger the practiced behavior. Managers also play a role in this process: Do they stimulate the desired behavior? Do they address it in team meetings? Do they make a good example? Also think of visible clues in the work environment, such as posters or a newsletter.

Follow these three steps in your training, and change the behavior of your employees!