on proper handwashing techniques.
A behavior is anything an individual does and is observable. A practical example could be washing hands using the
procedure that has been taught, all the time, every time.
A consequence is something that follows and is caused by
the behavior. There is a feedback loop built into the behavior,
as what happened last time you behaved in a particular way
will have an effect on how you will behave the next time. Depending on the consequence, you will either sustain or change
your behavior. A practical example of a consequence could be
positive feedback from a supervisor because you showed a colleague the right way to wash hands and why it is important.
In this article, we are focusing on the “A” or antecedent to
provide you with examples of how what we know drives what
we do and how antecedents help us better understand what is
expected and how to deliver on these expected behaviors.
We need to do what we do better and smarter to optimize
the return on investment and effort, and drive compliance.
We also want to share some specific challenges related to
training as an antecedent and how you can get more out of
your training investments.
Importance of Managing the Antecedents
As part of this effective management, and to choose and set
the “right” and most effective antecedents for your company,
it is critical to undertake a robust root-cause analysis in a case
of poor performance or unacceptable behavior, or when needing to introduce a new behavior.
Potential findings of your root-cause analysis
Typically, when analyzing why a group or person behaved
in a particular way, there are two generic cases: They did not
know what to do, or they knew what to do. For each case,
there are several root causes. For case 1, I am not trained, and
I am new to the company; I was trained, but it was complex
and boring, and I lost interest. For such situations, antecedents
like dedicating time and scheduling training consistently for
new hires or conducting a training needs analysis to better
understand the learning need, learners, etc. will help correct
wrong behaviors caused by “I did not know.” It is essential to
perform a robust training needs analysis for each employee
based on the job they are expected to do and develop a com-
petency framework detailing the knowledge, skills, and behav-
iors expected for each job role.
For case 2, “I do know what the right thing to do was…,”
root causes could be “I was not physically able” or “I did not
bother.” For each, there are again antecedents that would help
drive the wanted behaviors. For example, are the tools for the
job actually fit for purpose? Is there a rewards-and-recognition
program specifically designed to motivate and inspire teams
and individuals to behave in the expected manner?
As illustrated, the root-cause analysis can lead you, potentially, to quite different root causes that would require completely different corrective actions. Traditional classroom train-ing/retraining is not always the answer, and you must select
your antecedents based on a detailed root-cause analysis and
needs assessment. When selecting, designing, and implementing your antecedents, you should also consider in your needs
assessment a couple of key factors: national cultures and the
impact of generations.
National cultures and impact on antecedents
It is imperative to take into account the deep culture (na-
tionality, where they were brought up, religious beliefs, ethics)
of your employees. Hofstede’s national cultural dimensions, 4
the Lewis Model, 5, 6 and Meyer’s Culture Maps7 are very useful
for the identification of some of the challenges you might face
when trying to improve the culture of your business. It will
also help you understand why an employee has behaved in a
• Communication: Some deep cultures prefer precise, sim-
ple, and clear messages taken at face value (e.g., Germany
or U.S.); others prefer more nuanced messages and reading
between the lines (e.g., Japan or Korea).
• Giving feedback: Some prefer direct and blunt feedback
(e.g., Netherlands); others prefer private, softer feedback
• Persuasion: Some prefer a practical approach with executive summary and facts (e.g., U.S. or UK); others prefer to
cover the theory/concept first, then move to the facts (e.g.,
France or Italy).
• Leading: Some prefer a flat organization (e.g., Denmark or
Sweden); others prefer a clear formal hierarchical structure
(e.g., Japan or Korea). This would have an impact on the
level of autonomy and ownership felt by those working
for the company and their authority to deal with potential
food safety or quality problems; achieving “empowerment”
might be more challenging for some.
• Decision making: Some deep cultures prefer consensus
that might take a while to achieve (e.g., Japan or Sweden);
others prefer the decisions to be made by the boss—it can
be much quicker, but then time will be needed to get everybody else on board (e.g., China or India).
• Scheduling: Some prefer clear, time-bound deadlines for
each activity (e.g., Germany or Switzerland); others prefer a
more flexible multitasking approach (e.g., India or China).
• Rewarding: Some prefer individual rewards and recognition
Figure 1. The ABC Model3