Building a Positive Workplace that Deals Effectively with Today’s Stresses
Caroline slumps in her chair, stares out her kitchen window, and wonders how it came to this. She looks down at the e-mail from her boss and shakes her head thinking, “She doesn’t understand.”
The kids are arguing in the background… something about whose turn it was to take out the dog. Looking around the kitchen, she notices that the dishes from last night’s dinner are still in the sink, unwashed. In fact, the whole house is a mess, clothes lying where the kids dropped them, the half-done puzzle pieces litter the table, dirt tracks from the dog across the floor, mail is strewn about the countertop, unopened. The only part of the house that is reasonably orderly, she realizes, is the part right behind her, the part that is seen in the background of her Zoom calls.
Numerous companies have a difficult time building engagement and trust with their employees.
The problem doesn’t always have to do with their processes or procedures or even management behaviors –in many cases it has to do with how they communicate to their employees. In over 20 years of helping companies solve these issues, we’ve found that companies often don’t communicate with their employees in a way that helps them understand and buy-in to the very programs that are designed to engage them.
While some companies have significantly improved their ability to create professional-looking presentations and graphically appealing brochures, they still have not fully embraced bringing a behavioral science approach to their internal communications to communicate in a more human way.
This article highlights the key learnings from Kurt’s presentation at the “2020 World at Work Spotlight on Sales Conference”. The original slide deck is available below.
In 1937, paleontologist Gustav von Koeningswald was working on the island of Java in Southeast Asia, searching for new evidence of our early human ancestors. To achieve this goal, he needed to find fossils, and the apex of fossils was the skull. With an intact skull, paleontologists are better able to distinguish between ape and human.
But skulls were rarely are found
Instead, paleontologists needed to piece together a multitude of small skull fragments in a complex 3D puzzle. It was difficult work – difficult to find all the pieces and difficult to fit them together in the right way to reform the original skull.
To help alieve the burden of searching and finding the skull pieces, von Koeningswald enlisted the help of people from the local village. He did this by giving them an incentive. He paid them 10 cents per skull fragment that they delivered to him.
Friction is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the force that resists relative motion between two bodies in contact” or “the clashing between two parties of opposed views.”
In our last article, we identified three types of organizational friction (the resistance points within a company that limit its performance). Those friction points were caused by oversight or shortcomings in Policy, Culture, and Environment. Each type of organizational friction has its own unique root causes and manifests itself differently within a company.
No, this isn’t one of those government studies where you wonder how it ever got approved (i.e., how long can shrimp run on a treadmill or does playing FarmVille on Facebook help people to make friends and keep them?*).
Socks and behavioral science. The two do not seem to fit together, yet I consistently use my socks as a personal behavioral modification tool.
In today’s hyperconnected technology-driven world, it can be easy to overlook the simple time-tested solutions of the past. This holds true for communicating with and motivating your sales force.
With the consistent advent of new communications, new sciences, and new methodologies – shaking things up with a new (old) method can be a refreshing way to tap into your teams’ motivators.
Let’s take a little step back in time and talk about direct mail. Simple, well designed, customized mailers that tap into key behavioral insights can be just as effective as the newest technologies or communication tools when utilized correctly.
Think about it, we are flooded with messaging all day every day – both personal and business. With each organizational department trying to get their message out on top of that, it can be hard to manage all of the information. Technology can get lost in the fray, but unexpected personalized direct mail can disrupt the norm and grab back that attention. Combine this with behavioral science and you have a simple yet powerful tool.
Let’s take a look at an example, a postcard series we designed to help top achievers keep achieving and to nudge bottom achievers to end the plan period on a high note.
One customized to a high performer:
And one customized to a moderate performer:
While these may seem simple, there are some key behavioral insights that are being strategically targeted to drive performance.
In both versions we utilize:
Idiosyncratic Fit: We have higher motivation if we think that a program is customized to us. By adding the employee’s name, stats, and a customized message to help them improve we tap into this drive. Each message is framed for the greatest impact based on their performance and adding the physical component of the postcard further personalizes it.
Social Proof: We look to others to see how we should behave. There are two elements at play here. One: the messaging addresses the performance of their peers, pushing them to stay with or ahead of the pack. Two: this can be shared with a spouse, partner, or family member who can provide an additional level of support – for example, the reminder of a chance to partake in an awards trip with a partner can be very impactful.
Now, note that in the high performer card we tap into:
Loss Aversion: The pain of loss is greater than the pleasure of a similar gain. For high performers, the idea of having something valuable and then losing it is far more motivating than a “carrot” on a string.
And in the average performer card we use:
Gain Messaging: Framing the statement to focus on what can be gained from increased performance. With the moderate performers, where the perception is that there is more to be gained than lost, the gain messaging can drive a higher participation rate.
Try this with your sales force or reach out with the form below for help customizing and implementing this simple, effective technique within your team!
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