The concept is so simple that it’s used with elementary-school kids: signing a “contract” that obligates the person to behave according to set standards. Does it work with adults in the workplace?
A popular book, “Results That Last: Hardwiring Behaviors That Will Take Your Company to the Top,” by Quint Studer, argues that yes, you can draw up an effective behavior contract. The contract itself will have to follow some rules. It must:
- Be signed by everyone in the company, from CEO to mailroom sorter. You can’t make it look as if you’re singling out a group of workers. And companywide signing underscores the fact that you have companywide standards. And don’t forget to have new employees sign it on their first day.
- Contain ideas from across the company spectrum. A document that’s handed down from HR or any top level will be ignored. Companies that have successfully implemented behavior contracts have first sought input from several departments or supervisors.
- Have business goals. It’s nice to get people to behave cordially toward one another or toward customers, but there should be some larger points — for instance, fewer communication glitches or better customer satisfaction.
- Contain specifics, over and above the simplified “I’ll be polite to everyone.” For instance, it might specify, “I will always knock on closed doors before entering,” or “I will always address customers by using the prefix ‘Mr.’ or ‘Ms.'”
- Be subject to change and updates. There will be new situations that need to be addressed, so the contract can’t be a document that’s written once and then allowed to collect dust.