Employers concerned about their workforce’s ability to adapt to changes in the business environment (competitors, technology, etc.), may benefit from development strategies that acknowledge and leverage the innate abilities of their employees’ brains. A dive into brain functioning research illuminates what drives employee behaviors and capabilities on a deeper level.
CHC Theory asserts that human intelligence originates in different regions of the brain and may be divided into two broad categories:
- Fluid intelligence is related to problem-solving, reasoning, abstract thinking;
- Crystalized intelligence is the accumulation of facts, figures, experiences, and knowledge over time.
The interplay along the neural pathways between fluid and crystalized drives intelligence: new information is evaluated, interpreted and sorted by the brain based on past experiences, accumulated facts, and feelings. This brain activity drives human behaviors and the choices made in all aspects of life, including the workplace.
For quickly changing business environments, where emergent conditions disrupt accepted norms, fluid intelligence is especially prized over crystalized intelligence, which is linked to the past. Some studies find that fluid intelligence decreases as the brain ages; however, recent neural plasticity research indicates that new neural pathway growth is possible throughout life. When properly stimulated and challenged, the human brain has the capacity to maintain vigorous fluid intelligence and the ability to adapt to changing conditions and master new skills.
Additional studies indicate new neural pathways in the brain are created as a result of “effortful learning” of skills such as learning a new language or how to play a musical instrument. A salient finding is repetition; an estimated 10,000 repetitions of a desired skill are needed to achieve mastery.
What implications might these brain research results have for employers who seek to maximize employee performance and organizational effectiveness?
- Underperformance by any employee is in part the result of crystalized intelligence: learned behaviors from previous experiences that have been reinforced through subsequent acceptance, approval or inaction. Thus, from a brain-centric perspective, repetitive efforts are needed to reverse the impact of life experiences that fostered undesirable behaviors. It is not realistic to expect immediate skill mastery after sending employees to one class; that is only the start.
- Organizational effectiveness arguably results from the performance of individual employee brains; as such, sustained and repeated effort is needed to support fluid and crystalized intelligence throughout the organization. For sustained improvement, an organization must identify ways to systematically and frequently reemphasize the value and necessity of desired skills and attributes.
Although these efforts are not mandated by employment law, the law of supply and demand may necessitate such an approach. The war for talent in many marketplaces requires employers to maximize existing employee capabilities, especially their brains. Learning moments of all types (class, workshop, retreat, conference) are but the start of a journey toward improvement that takes many steps–perhaps 10,000.
Employers Council members may access a variety of resources to maximize employee performance and organization success, including classes, consultation, coaching, and more.