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!
Back in September, I partnered with Tim Houlihan to start “a monthly gathering of curious minds” which we called Behavioral Grooves. We thought it would be interesting to get like-minded people together to talk about applying behavioral science to life and work.
We had no idea if others would be interested in this…
We announced the meetup and were hoping to get at least a few of the friends that we had contacted to show up. We ended up with 24 people for that first session where we talked about habits – how they are formed and what people can do to improve them.
We were thrilled!
From there, it took off. We have over 180 members signed up to our meetup group and it is growing fast. We have had three monthly sessions as of early January 2018 and our fourth is lined up for two weeks from today. We have over 20 people who have made it to two or more of the sessions.
I guess we struck a nerve.
For our second session, we invited Professor James Heyman to speak and thought, hey, since he’s here, why don’t we interview him and make a podcast out of it. Thus, our Behavioral Grooves podcast was born. Tim and I both loved that so much that we decided that we didn’t want to wait for the next Behavioral Grooves session to record our next one – so we started to invite people and interview them – both live and over the internet.
To date, we have seven interviews recorded and three more in the works. These podcasts mirror the Behavioral Grooves sessions in that they are conversational in nature where we geek out over behavioral science and how we can apply behavioral science insights into our daily work and lives.
They have been a blast!
In reflecting on this, it appears to me that these two outlets provide us with a way of both learning and sharing. We want to be advocates for good, ethical use of behavioral science. We believe that there is much to learn and we can improve our work and lives by understanding and by applying these principles in a thoughtful and deliberate manner.
We also realized that we love the community that this is creating. A community of curious minds who are interested in science and the application of that science. A community of people that we can bounce ideas off of. A community of people that can push us to think about things from new perspectives.
This is ultimately what we have been building and hope that it grows and provides a place and outlet for others, as well as ourselves.
If you are ever in Minneapolis on the third Thursday of the month – please come and join us at our meetup (find out more info here) and if you can’t make that, please listen in to our podcasts (click here to find the latest).
Sometimes, it is the unexpected things that can inspire us.
I remember ripping this ad out of a magazine. I pulled it out and taped it on the wall next to my computer. It was the right time, the right moment in my life for this particular message. I had decided to quit my job and start a company.
Those first few months of going off on my own were scary. No steady paycheck. No insurance. Having just enough money in the bank to survive for three months. This message was one that helped inspire me to keep going.
To not let my fears stand in the way of my hopes.
To try something I never tried before.
To risk it.
To just do it.
Sometimes we need that inspiration. Words can create emotional appeals that grab us and don’t let go. Words can tug at the heart. They can move us to think in new ways. To explore new options.
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