What Is a Functional Behavioral Assessment, and How Can It Help Your Organization?
An educative tool in the workplace
Commonly, a functional behavioral assessment is associated with addressing problematic student behavior in education establishments. However, the methodology is gaining traction as a technique for improving workplace culture, personal relationships, and goal attainment. As such, it is a tool which forward-thinking human capital executives and middle and senior managers are utilizing to great effect. Where successfully implemented as a strategic management focus, functional behavioral assessment informs managers of the underlying issues that affect employees’ behaviors and will have a positive impact on individuals, teams, and an organization’s bottom line.
What is a functional behavioral assessment?
Behaviors at work have a wide-ranging effect. Negative behaviors might include: neglect; aggressiveness; lack of concentration; apathy; resistance to instruction; failure to complete assessments; absenteeism; constant complaining; and so on.
Functional behavioral assessment doesn’t simply identify problematic behaviors, but seeks to identify attitudes and underlying causes (the functions of behavior). It is this deeper examination and understanding that empowers the manager to develop appropriate strategies – which will include coaching and training – on an individual and team basis. These coaching programs will be better targeted, more instructive, and lead to direct solutions.
In its base form, functional behavioral assessment enables the organization to tackle the function (a poor-working process that inhibits production, for example) rather than the behavior (lack of motivation, aggressive behavior, etc.).
How to conduct functional behavioral assessment
There are many techniques that are used in functional behavioral assessment, though the first task is always to define the behavior in certain terms. For example, labelling someone as obtuse is vague, while describing irrelevant comments during team meetings provides definite behavioral context.
In order to build up complete pictures, behaviors must be observed in different settings and during different work processes. Others’ observations also need to be considered. Once this process has been conducted, only then can appropriate action and reinforcement strategies be planned and delivered.
Is a functional behavioral assessment the ultimate business strategy tool?
All too often, when judging workplace practices and management capabilities, organizations judge functions and behaviors incorrectly. Performance – good or bad – is discussed in terms of behaviors rather than the function of those behaviors.
The inexperienced manager often fails to understand the relationships between function and behavior, and so functions are not considered unsuitable. A complicating factor in assessment is that the same function can cause different behaviors: for example, some people react positively to pressured environments while others collapse into stress-induced panic.
Understanding that different people react in different ways to different situations will enable the organization to place its people in the most appropriate positions, and target workload most effectively. When this happens, people work with greater motivation. The resulting productivity improvement is positive on all aspects of the business.
In the next article, we’ll look at how Sears changed the way it did business in the late 1990s by concentrating on the functions of behavior and its outcomes.
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