Organizations have spent more than $370 billion globally to train their workforce and yet have 70% of employees claiming that they are not prepared with the right skills they need to master their jobs.

Organizations have shifted their learning and development (L&D) priorities toward building the skills learners need to address the challenges brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, namely a lack of agility low employee motivation. To build these skills and behaviors, there needs to be a specific learning approach: an approach that is reliant on using human’s mental power to unlearn previous practices, create processes for self-management and reduce the brain’s natural resistance to change. .

Traditional in-classroom training has failed to drive behavior change, as it is based on intensity and knowledge transfer. According to the Berkeley Center for Teaching and Learning, learning is a process that is active; builds on prior knowledge; occurs in a complex social environment; is situated in an authentic context; and requires learners’ motivation and cognitive engagement.

Corporate training often tries to convert knowledge into sustainable behaviors, but knowledge retention is not enough to make people want to use what is stored in their brains: This is where coaching becomes essential in its role of guiding and enabling change. It is specifically in the area of change of people’s routines and adoption of new behaviors that the use of behavioral science can optimize the coaching process. We can see this in the examples of influencing behaviors and habits formation, where researchers such as BJ Fogg, a Stanford University professor and behavioral scientist, have made a great contributions.

People can only acquire new behaviors through consistent practice, personalization, continuous feedback and measurement of progress. This is where the Fogg Behavioral Model has its biggest impact and potential. It can change individual learning, but also corporate cultures.

A Behavioral Model for Change

The Fogg Behavioral Model is built on the theory that three elements should converge to either allow the creation of a new behavior, restrict or simply refine an existing behavior: Motivation, Ability and Prompt. In the context of one-on-one coaching, these principles can be adapted to nudge people to activate a positive attitude toward change and start producing actions or behaviors toward a specific intention.

The three elements can be described as follows:

1. Motivation

Motivation is a volatile element for humans, as it may be temporary and often when we have a goal or intention. When people realize that their goals take effort, their motivation may decrease. For example, consider people who want to live a healthier lifestyle: How many times do people drop this goal as motivation diminishes because of the effort it requires? The role of the coach is to maintain the motivation for change while exploring options that don’t depend on motivation alone.

2. Ability

People must be able to execute the desired new behavior. If the action is too difficult, the brain will activate the “fear of change” signals that will create friction. In order to minimize this, the coachee should be provided with knowledge and practice in a way that can be maintained over time. Micro-actions should require little time and resources from coachees.

There is a significant positive persuasion to practice the new behavior by simplifying it with shorter duration to limit the physical and cognitive effort – the most important thing is to note is that these short actions are done consistently rather than with intensity. In the previous example about living a healthier lifestyle, one should start with micro-actions, such as getting in five minutes of daily walking.

3. Prompts

Despite the fact we may want to achieve behavior change, in our busy lives, we can simply forget to do the actual action required. It’s important that learning and coaching programs contain recognizable context or situations that will remind or trigger the learner to take the desired action(s). These triggers will activate the new behavior in the context of the learner’s work day. Clues to activate are often situations that will help retrieve the new behavior and, thus, the learner should be able to recognize existing rituals or timings for the trigger.


Catering to organizations’ need for agility and transformation requires a model based on “learning how to learn” rather than the simple transfer of knowledge. Technology makes it scalable and measurable, but learning must also be relatable with a human touch, frictionless in the face of volatile human motivation. Coaching is the human factor that allows removal of limiting beliefs and biases, creates trust and confidence and acts as a guardian of the process for change.

The priorities in corporate learning have changed drastically: The World Economic Forum reported the top 10 skills of the future, which included critical thinking, self-management, resilience, creativity, leadership and emotional intelligence, among others. Acquiring these new human skills no doubt requires a shift in the methodology of L&D, where behavior change is achieved with the support of a coach or change facilitator.

The biggest disruption in the way organizations approach cultural change and business transformation is in the integration of alternative methods to acquire meta-cognitive skills: The application of brain science in coaching reinforces the value proposition of coaching and makes it a more efficient process to support the individual change that, over time, will lead to organizational transformation.