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 is where we help.
Our work utilizes behavioral science insights to implement exceptional copywriting and impactful graphic design to create communications that engage employees and drive action.
The positive impact of this approach is apparent in two projects we recently completed where we were brought in to help each company effectively communicate their sales incentive plans to drive an increase in understanding, engagement, motivation, and buy-in.
In one case, a large medical device company was concerned that its salespeople were not fully understanding or engaging with their new incentive plans – specifically around what they needed to do to maximize their payout. The company’s plans are complex and nuanced, and changes were often minor in appearance, but significant in their impact. Our analysis found that sales representatives believed that they understood the plan when, in reality, they did not.
We developed a pilot campaign with one of their sales teams that brought in a video-based overview of their plan along with a short infographic that highlighted the key incentive plan components. This was significantly different than the text-heavy PowerPoint and word documents that were traditionally used to communicate their plans. We took this approach because we knew that the video would tap into a number of behavioral science insights including vivid visual progression (i.e., vivid anticipation leads to greater engagement and recall of information), narrative transportation (i.e., stories, like the ones we can tell in video, help immerse people in the information), and graphical recall (i.e., according to a 2006 University of Minnesota study, graphics have 38% higher information recall than copy alone).
Based on this pilot, we found a:
- 49% increase in the field’s understanding of how they could maximize their incentive payout
- 26% increase in general plan understanding
- 15% improvement in plan satisfaction
We have subsequently expanded our work with this client to 28 additional sales teams and added new, interactive PDFs as part of the communication mix.
The other case involves a top 20 pharmaceutical company that needed to effectively communicate its incentive plan during the COVID-19 pandemic. The company realized that its sales force was going through significant stress and uncertainty and that they could not continue with their normal communication cadence or messaging. They reached out to see how we could help.
Our initial analysis showcased the need to provide a sense of security and hope moving forward while maintaining transparency and avoiding false promises. To achieve this, we needed to highlight the human-centered approach that the company was taking (i.e., not having salespeople in the field but still paying them out their target bonuses) while also pointing out the future was bright (while not sugar coating the pain that people were experiencing).
To achieve these objectives, we created a specific campaign that introduced an entirely new incentive brand and focused on providing human-centered messaging.
The new brand focused on taking the sales reps on a journey through 2020 into 2021. The concept highlighted the great start to the year, the dark scary detour that COVID-19 created, and maintained a focus on the bright future that they could expect on the horizon. We created a series of videos that used this messaging to convey the way that the company was handling its incentives, transparently conveying what was still uncertain, and looking at the possibilities moving forward.
In addition to the new branding, we focused on “emotionally proofing” all of the communications. Behavioral science shows that people, particularly in times of stress, often negatively interpret vague information. All scripts and copy were looked at through this emotionally sensitive lens to ensure that we didn’t inadvertently send the wrong message. This emotional proofing process also ensured that our communications focused on the salespeople as humans first and employees second.
The incentive department’s communications were highlighted by the company president as being best in class during this time. Additionally, the team earned the top award from an outside organization, which the director of the team attributed to the great communications that we were able to produce.