Promoting behaviour change with learning and development

When your L&D team is tasked with developing a learning experience to change the behaviour of learners, this might be a more difficult task than expected. How can a single learning experience make learners change behaviours they’ve been performing for months or sometimes even years?

In this article we explore the psychology of behaviour change; techniques that reinforce changed behaviours, and how to incorporate behaviour change techniques into your training campaign. 

What are BCTs?

Behaviour Change Techniques (or BCTs) are strategies that have been used in academic literature to encourage the adoption of new or altered behaviour. In this article, we use the taxonomy of behaviour change techniques developed by Abraham and Michie (2008). This taxonomy was originally developed with the adoption of health-related behaviours. Here, we show you how you can use these same techniques to help your employees adopt new habits.

Instruct, demonstrate, and guide

When you introduce a new habit or behaviour to your learners, you first need to show them what behaviours are expected of them. Model or demonstrate what they should be doing, and tell them how to perform the behaviour in simple language that is easy to understand.

Take note of any preparation your learners should take before performing the task. Will they need safety equipment, or will they need to install the latest version of their software? Make sure you cover all the bases so your learners are ready for the demonstration.

You can demonstrate the new behaviour in person if required, but if the COVID-19 pandemic taught us anything, it’s that we can always go mobile when appropriate. You might wish to share a video on your LMS or LXP demonstrating how to perform the new task.

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When you demonstrate the new behaviour, take a moment to outline to the learner what benefits the new behaviour will have on their work. Any behaviour change strategy relies on buy-in from the person doing the task, so you’ll need to clearly outline the drawbacks of existing processes and the advantages of the new behaviour.

Set goals, monitor progress, and review

The next step to promote actual adoption of the new behaviour is to ensure the learner is accountable. Managers can set specific goals for their direct reports to achieve. These goals should be specific and measurable. 

It’s also important for learners to receive adequate encouragement and attend regular catchups with their managers. This way, managers can keep abreast of what is and isn’t working and catch small issues before they become bigger problems. In their catchups, learners should have the opportunity to reflect on their progress in adopting the new behaviour. 

Questions like these below will help learners to reflect and self-monitor their behaviour:

  • What supports or helps you to practice the new behaviour?
  • When was a time that you failed to adopt the new behaviour?
  • Was there a roadblock that stopped you?

Setting, reviewing, and regularly discussing these goals will ensure learners hit the ground running with their new behaviours.

Work with others

If a group of learners are all adopting the same new behaviour, there’s a great opportunity for your learners to receive and give encouragement to one another. Dedicate a collaboration space just for learners adopting the particular new technique on your Learning eXperience Platform (or LXP). In that workspace, learners can ask advice, seek clarification, and serve as mentors for other learners.

We know that students learn better when they teach others than if they were just learning themselves. In the same way, encouraging learners to help others adopt new behaviours can help learners reinforce the new behaviours in their own practice. Encouraging learners to positively respond and interact with each other in a Workspace is the perfect way to implement this for yourself.


Use Totara: Androgogic Edition to create change that sticks. Contact us for a demo or to find out more about how you can build lasting learning for your people.