What Is Organizational Behavior Management (OBM)? (With Examples)

By Lilly Chesser - Jan. 29, 2021
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Business organizations across the board are concerned with increasing both profit and productivity, but there are numerous other areas of concern along with these goals.

OBM is a set of techniques that aims to address these issues in a systematic and effective way.

In this article, we’ll tell you all you need to know about the basics of OBM, including what it is, how it works, and how you can start working in an OBM field.

What Is Organizational Behavior Management?

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is a type of applied behavior analysis, which is a scientific technique concerned with utilizing analytic principles and management tactics to change or guide behavior within an organization, such as a business.

The main goals of OBM are to assess, influence, and change a company’s work culture to optimize employee productivity and performance and create a great working environment that attracts and retains the best talent.

With these principles, OBM employs different types of workplace interventions based on an organization’s goals and objectives. There are antecedent interventions, which seek to influence someone’s actions before those actions occur, and consequence interventions, which occur after and as a result of someone’s actions.

OBM managers and OBM consultants can work within any industry, including health care, government, food service, and more. Regardless of the industry, they are focused on achieving measurable change within organizations and ensuring that these changes are productive and long-lasting.

OBM workers provide various services based on an organization’s key objectives. They may create and optimize systems and processes, work on employee development and retainment, increase organizational growth, and much more.

Effective OBM techniques can have far-reaching results for an organization, including improvements in the following areas and more:

How Does an Organizational Behavior Management Consultation Work?

According to the American Psychological Association, OBM consultation can tackle a number of problems within many different industries, the basic steps of OBM consultation are as follows:

  1. Have clear results in mind. OBM is results-focused, so it’s crucial to begin the process with a clear understanding of the results you are trying to achieve. Without clearly-stated goals, it can be incredibly difficult to measure success in a meaningful way.

    An OBM practitioner will meet with executives, managers, and other organizational leaders to determine the desired results. The organizational leaders may already know what their desired results are, or they may work with the OBM practitioner to come up with useful and realistic goals.

  2. Determine your “targets”. “Targets” or “pinpoints” in OBM are significant behaviors and the direct results of these behaviors. They are referred to as such because they are crucial actions that can be targeted to create specific change that will ultimately help to achieve the organization’s goals.

    Once again, the OBM practitioner will work with executives and managers to identify important targets.

  3. Decide how you will measure and record key factors. In order to keep track and assess the interventions, OBM practitioners must develop a suitable measurement system. Organizational leaders, or whoever else will be making use of this data, need a reliable and accurate way to record the targets and the results.

    A good measurement system will take into account current behaviors and results and provide a baseline measurement that can act as a control to determine the effectiveness of specific interventions. The measurement system will also likely need to take into account associated costs and other important factors.

  4. Figure out the main problem. With all of the groundwork laid, OBM practitioners can begin diagnosing key problems causing workplace dysfunction. But first, they’ll need to get managers acquainted with the measurement system and train them to conduct useful observations and ask helpful questions.

    Managers will help OBM practitioners collect data on the following main areas of concern: staff knowledge and skills, work processes and equipment, and antecedents and consequences.

  5. Use assessment to create a solution. After all the necessary data has been collected, OBM practitioners will make an assessment with the help of the managers.

    Using this assessment, the OBM practitioner will work with managers to create and introduce practical solutions to achieve the key goals stated at the beginning of the process.

  6. Evaluate the results. Finally, you’ll finish up the last steps of data recording and assessment by measuring the results after the solution has been implemented. OBM practitioners typically focus on any of these three main categories of results: cost-benefit results, behavior change results, and treatment acceptability.

    The cost-benefit evaluation will examine the results with all of the associated costs of the intervention in mind. Behavior change results identify the effectiveness of the solution on influencing targeted behaviors.

    And finally, treatment acceptability will look at how employees and managers view this solution and whether they think it is practical, useful, and do-able.

Interventions in Organizational Behavior Management

In the world of OBM interventions, there are two main types. These types are antecedent interventions and consequence interventions.

Antecedents are triggers that can influence and cause desired behaviors. Antecedents take the form of something within a worker’s environment that, for whatever reason, will make them more likely to engage in the desired behavior.

Antecedent interventions can be used to address many different behaviors. Their goal is to create a win-win in which both the worker’s experience and the day-to-day operation of the organization are improved. The specific type of intervention used depends on the behavior being targeted and the desired goals.

Antecedent Interventions

Some of the most common categories for antecedent interventions are task clarifications, job aids, equipment modification, goal-setting, and training and development, explained in further detail below:

  • Task clarification. These interventions are used to clearly define employees’ specific job requirements and responsibilities. They both clarify tasks and encourage their completion. Some basic task clarification interventions include the use of checklists and memos.

  • Job aids. These interventions involve the use of prompts, signage, or other items in the work environment that serve as reminders. These can be reminders such as posted guides detailing the steps for completing a work task or signs reminding employees that a certain behavior should or should not occur.

  • Equipment modification. These interventions involve altering or replacing work materials and equipment or providing a new piece of work material or equipment for employees.

  • Goal setting. Goal setting interventions are used to establish a standard for employee performance within specific time frames. It may also involve access to rewards for completing these goals as intended, but the rewards aspect falls under the purview of consequence interventions.

  • Training and Development. These interventions are used to address significant gaps in employee skills or knowledge, or simply to improve on these aspects to achieve the desired goals.

Antecedents are perhaps the most common intervention strategies used, but it’s important to remember that these are only the precursors to behaviors. They don’t guarantee behavior change will occur or be maintained; they simply set the stage for them.

Consequence Interventions

Consequence interventions don’t just set the stage for behaviors; they directly correlate and occur as a result of behaviors. For this reason, consequence interventions may be used as a more concrete way of implementing change.

Consequence interventions are a change in a work environment that directly follows a worker’s behavior. These interventions make it more likely that a worker will remember to engage in this behavior in the future.

Because of the powerful effects of reinforcement on human behavior, consequence interventions are often seen as one of the most important aspects of OBM.

The concept of reinforcement is important in the study of applied behavior analysis. When a behavior is reinforced, it is likely that this behavior will occur again if similar conditions are present. Consequence interventions of any kind use the principle of reinforcement, guided by the specific organization and its goals.

When it comes to consequence interventions, two main types are largely used within all OBM settings: feedback and incentives, which are used in the following ways:

  • Feedback. Feedback is the most common and perhaps the most successful intervention method used in OBM. Giving feedback is a process in which someone, typically a supervisor, expert, or colleague, relays information to an employee about their past performance.

    Feedback can be delivered in many different formats, and the context around giving feedback can be tailored to best fit a specific organization or group of people. Feedback can be given to groups or individuals.

  • Incentives. Incentives are essentially prizes given out to employees based on a standardized measure of performance. In these interventions, if an employee performs at the level outlined in the terms, they gain access to certain rewards.

    Typically, incentives are monetary rewards; however, there may also be non-monetary incentives such as benefits or items.

Types of Organizational Behavior Management Work

If you’re looking to get involved in OBM, keep in mind that this work takes on a few forms, such as:

  • OBM external consultation. This is the most common type of OBM work, and it involves working with a consulting firm and taking on clients from different organizations, typically businesses. Consulting firms may be generalized, or they may work exclusively on certain behaviors or end goals, such as safety consultancies.

  • OBM internal consultation. Many larger companies actually have internal job roles that are either explicitly focused on practicing OBM or have all of the same responsibilities and goals essentially. To get a position like this, it’s a good idea to closely read job descriptions and see if the items mentioned fall under the purview of OBM.

  • OBM Teaching. OBM teachers don’t necessarily practice OBM on behalf of an organization, but they are broadly focused on spreading information about OBM. These individuals need to be highly-practiced with OBM methods, as well as having a great understanding of selling themselves to a specific audience.

How to Get Into Organizational Behavior Management Work

  1. Practice OBM at your current job. There are so many different challenges that OBM can address, from employee retention to safety concerns to accurate billing and more.

    Ask yourself if there are any areas of improvement at your workplace and single in on one that’s meaningful to you.

    Once you’ve found the issue you want to tackle, talk to your manager and see if there are small projects you could take on in regards to this issue. Systematically approach the projects, and keep a detailed record. This is a great low-stakes way of trying out OBM techniques.

  2. Search smart. After you’ve found some small ways to practice OBM, you can decide whether or not you’d like to pursue it as a career more fully. Try searching on job boards to see what kind of work is out there and what might be interesting to you.

    Keep in mind that OBM jobs will likely not explicitly mention OBM and will instead have titles such as human resource consultant or performance management. Make a note of the qualifications required for these jobs, and figure out if you will need to pursue further education or certification.

  3. Get the proper training. To have a flourishing OBM career, it may be necessary to pursue another degree, to complete a certification, or to otherwise undergo specialized training.

    With further training, you’ll develop a better understanding of OBM skills as well as how to develop, implement, and evaluate your techniques.

  4. Build a strong professional network. For many reasons, this is a crucial step for expanding your career. Take the time to meet other OBM workers, whether going through a special online network or independently developing professional relationships.

    Look for mentors and other OBM workers who you consider to be successful and well-equipped in their field, and be willing to learn.

  5. Learn how to talk about your work. As an OBM consultant, you’ll need to be able to talk about what you do in a concise, informative, and catchy way. You’ll need to do a lot of work in advocating and advertising for yourself as a consultant, so take some time to formulate an elevator pitch or personal motto.

    Keep your portfolio up to date with great examples of your work, and practice with yourself how to best describe and market this work. You can always make up for what you lack in experience in the demonstrated quality of your work.

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Author

Lilly Chesser

Lilia Chesser is a professional copywriter and content writer based in Columbus, Ohio. She graduated from Denison University with a BA in communications.

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