The power of habit and HR policies

January 23, 2017 - by: Katie O'Shea 1 COMMENTS

At the start of a new year, many individuals set goals and resolutions, hoping to change bad habits or form new ones. Exercising, eating healthy, reading more books, learning something new, and spending more time with family or friends are all common resolutions. 

But many of these well-intentioned goals and resolutions fall off days, weeks, or even months after people resolve to stick with them. After about three weeks into the New Year, how are your goals and resolutions coming along?

If you’ve found you haven’t been hitting the gym quite as hard as you’d planned, or that you’ve been unable to resist those sugary treats you vowed to give up, you may personally benefit from picking up the book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. The book delves deep into the science behind our habits and how to transform them.

In addition to focusing on how individuals can change habits, however, the book also explores how institutional habits can change in huge companies. Perhaps your organization has also started out the year by setting goals for tasks to accomplish this year. However, just as changing habits can be difficult on an individual level, changing habits and company culture on an institutional level can be even more challenging.

The book discusses how focusing on certain so-called “keystone habits” can help transform other areas of an organization. For example, in one case study, the book delves into how a new CEO of a huge international company transformed the entire organization, its habits, and ultimately its bottom line, all by focusing on safety. Safety was a keystone habit that management, employees, and the union could get behind. By focusing on changing safety habits to make the workplace safer, employees and management rallied around a common goal. In doing so, the company changed its safety policies and encouraged a culture of open communication. By demonstrating that the company was serious about hearing feedback from employees on how to improve safety, employees began to feel comfortable sharing other ideas as well, such as ways to increase efficiency. Soon, the company had both dramatically reduced injuries and increased efficiency, and in turn profits soared.

Now is a good time to seriously evaluate and audit company HR policies to determine not only if they comply with the law, but also if they contribute to good habits and company culture. If not, it may be time to attempt to find ways to transform those habits. I recommend adding The Power of Habit to your “to read” list both to benefit you personally, and to benefit your organization.

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1 COMMENTS

1 Tom O'Dea
14:44:35, 03/02/17

Hi Katie,

Thank you for the great article! We linked to it in the weekly newsletter that we send out to HR and policy management pros around the world. If you want to see your article in action, you can check out said newsletter on our blog (blissbook.com/blog).

Tom

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