How to Help Employees Perform Better in Front of an Audience

How to Help Employees Perform Better

Capitalize the Effects of Social Facilitation

It is a proven fact that "performance alone" and "performance in a crowd" produce different results. Social scientists call this phenomenon Social Facilitation. The presence of a group (Social) can influence (Facilitate) a person to perform better or worse. Dr. Robert Zajonc, a social psychologist, discovered the defining factor for what causes people to perform better or worse:

Simple tasks performed in the presence of others are likely to be enhanced. Complex tasks performed in the presence of others are likely to be impaired.

Hundreds of studies (pg. 221) have confirmed Dr. Zajonc's discovery. What makes this discovery even more powerful is that task complexity is relative to each person.

Consider the following:

Many famous athletes, musicians, and public speakers accomplish incredibly difficult feats in front of large audiences. They are able to do so because they have transformed a complex task into a simple task. Through repetition and training, they've made it a habit.

A few months ago, I heard Brett Harward, author of 5 Laws that Determine all of Life's Outcomes, explain his perspective on habit formation. In that meeting, he explained that people, whether they like it or not, spend most of their waking life following habits. Without thinking, people move from one habit to another. Jokingly, he explained that he once found snack food in his hands while he was watching a movie. He didn't even notice that he had gotten up, grabbed food from his pantry, and sat back down. It was an automatic behavior.

Building on Harward's idea, the leveraging point for training and development is to help people transform a complex task into a simple one. One way to do this is to train a skill until it becomes automatic. After doing this, individuals are far more likely to succeed when they are in the presence of others because they've turned a complex behavior into a simple one. This is how Social Facilitation can get flipped on its head.



Other Effective Tips for Leveraging Social Facilitation

Social Facilitation creates many other issues for training and development. Here are a couple of pro tips to leverage it.

  • Give learners space to learn on their own. Having the presence of a trainer can inhibit performance. Learners can feel intimidated, overwhelmed, and nervous around a trainer. An effective tip for trainers is to give learners time to practice skills alone. This creates the space necessary for learners to grow without evaluation apprehension.

  • Train on simple skills and build up to complex ones. Complex skills can be demotivating if they produce repetitive failure. An effective tip for complex skills is to scaffold with simpler skills. This is an approach we practice at Bitesize.

  • Rate performance strategically. An observer will almost always affect rating results. People will over or under perform. To be strategic, a leader may rate an employee without the employee knowing.


How to Overcome the Psychological Roadblocks to Success

The path from learning to habit formation has a lot of psychological roadblocks and challenges. Bitesize has found many innovative ways to overcome these challenges. Visit our methodology page to learn more about how we transform organizations.