Emerson Human Capital Consulting: Boosting Organizational Performance through Behavior Change

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Tricia Emerson, President & CEO, Emerson Human Capital ConsultingTricia Emerson, President & CEO
Tricia Emerson has a lifelong fascination with human behaviour. As the CEO of Emerson Human Capital Consulting, she uses that passion to help companies get what they want. Trish believes the key to unlocking any organization’s potential is the behavior of individuals. She says that if her company can help clients align those behaviors with their strategy, there’s no limit to what they can do.

That belief inspired Trish to launch Emerson Human Capital. They were the first company of full-time professionals focused only on behavior change for organizations. Many consulting firms have change management service lines to augment their business, but behavior change is all Emerson does. Trish says the reason for her company’s focus is simple. “The number one reason business transformations fail is the people. Not because they aren’t smart or don’t have good intentions, but because the company hasn’t invested in the ‘people change’ the way it has invested in the rest of the initiative.”

“We think about this domain differently,” Trish explains. “You can find a lot of consultants who talk about executive sponsorship, change agent networks, and how to ride out a performance dip after a change. But can they tell you about the science that drives someone to change toothpaste brands after 20 years? It’s the same expertise you need to deal with employee resistance to your new technology. We consider all of behavior science as part of our arsenal and we use it on whatever challenge our client is facing.” Emerson draws from research in psychology, marketing, political science, and communication to inform their methodology.

We consider all of behavior science as part of our arsenal and we use it on whatever challenge our client is facing

The consultants team up with their clients on projects ranging from M&A to systems implementation. They take the team through a series of structured workshops that culminate in a custom plan to get them to their business goals. They consider it their job to push clients to think about their goals in new ways, shooting for targets they hadn’t considered in ways they thought impossible. Along the way, Emerson helps their client’s teammates consider the entire landscape of the organization, including its culture. “The culture of an organization is powerful! It drives how employees conduct themselves in the absence of the management—the unspoken rules by which work gets done. It also acts like the immune system of the organization, repelling anything that doesn’t fit. That’s why it’s so important to understand your culture and use it to your advantage.”

Scientific research and decades of hands-on experience have taught Trish and her colleagues what works, no matter how big or intractable the problem is. For example, they teach clients that the 90-day mark is important to any project. “It’s a tipping point,” says Trish. “You have to get measurable traction in 90 days or you lose momentum.” Emerson also helps clients implement their solutions with an eye on what makes changes stick. For example, they use the science of perception to focus employee attention on what’s critical to make the change work. And they help the client overcome resistance by making new behaviors and processes feel familiar, controlled, and successful. Employees internalize new ways of working until they can’t imagine doing it any other way. Trish feels that once the client hits their business goal, the new way is the default, and they have the tools they need to sustain the change, that’s a win. “That’s what we shoot for—leave the client better and stronger than we found them.”