Driving behaviour change through effective communication
If you want your internal campaign (or any campaign for that matter) to deliver real ROI you need to ask yourself what behaviour are you looking to change?
Creating understanding, changing attitudes, shifting beliefs, driving support or embedding knowledge means nothing if it doesn’t result in people doing things differently.
Smaller budgets, bigger expectations and a strong focus on measuring impact are all influencing the nature of how we market businesses – both internally and externally. And, rightfully, as the pressure to justify spend intensifies, we need to be able to objectively, quantifiably and demonstrably show what we’re giving, for what we’re getting – and the only way to do this is to focus on changing behaviour.
Advertising arrived at the party pretty early because, for them, things are a lot more straightforward. Nine times out of ten the answer that they’re looking for is changing the buying behaviours and patterns of consumers. Buy a new product. Buy a product more often. Understand the touted benefits of a product so that they’re willing to pay more to buy the product. Like a bull run on the stock exchange, it all comes down to buy, buy, buy.
But internal marketing is messier because the objectives are broader and often less defined. The range of behaviours covers everything from adopting new processes, to selling new products, increased participation in training, reduced absenteeism or attrition, more safety compliant behaviours, reduced turn-around times, increased sales volume and a thousand other possibilities.
And even more concerning is the fact that often the behaviour isn’t defined – an amorphous goop of phrases like buy-in, understanding, support, endorsement, sponsorship and champion that collectively amount to little meaning and no impact. The line of thinking isn’t always followed through to its logical conclusion: what behaviour are we looking to change? If this question can’t be compellingly answered then the conclusion can only be that this communication isn’t required and, worse, it’s adding to the communication clutter and watering down the impact of every other message directed at employees. If that’s the case, then walk away and free up the airtime and budget for messaging that matters.
On the other hand, if you know what you’re trying to change then the question is what drives behavioural change? What makes us tick? What makes us willing to deviate from our well-trodden behavioural paths?
According to Einstein, fear and greed are two of the three great forces in the world – the third is stupidity.
And while there may be more than a little merit to his argument, a more nuanced view may be helpful to us.
Enter Dan Ariely. Dan Ariely is the James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University and is the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight. He’s smart. He’s funny. And he’s smart.
(*Dan, if you’re reading this, call me. I think you’re hot. I mean, I think your theories are hot. I mean…never mind, just call me.)
According to Dan three things drive us to work harder and perform better.
1. Autonomy – The urge to control the who/what/when/where of work
Providing a level of autonomy demonstrates respect for employees’ time and intelligence. It creates empowered individuals and an empowering environment and these, almost invariably, lead to ownership and accountability.
2. Mastery – The drive to get better at what we do
People have an innate drive to get better at things, be that golf, cooking, figure skating, pole dancing or full contact chess. Most importantly, we want to get better at our jobs. People perform at their best when they’re learning and mastering new skills. Conversely, a sense of mastery is quickly extinguished by a command and control culture, repetition and the fear of failure.
3. Purpose – The sense of connecting to something bigger
When work has a sense of purpose, we don’t feel trapped by mundane tasks and necessary, but boring, activities. These become contextualized by something bigger, more meaningful. There are two significant factors that contribute towards success:
- Making a positive contribution to others
- Making progress every day
If these two boxes are checked, even the most mind-numbing meeting, arbitrary chore or unstimulating activity takes on a sense of meaning.
If we can trigger a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose we can drive behaviours that create meaningful change and impactful communication, and the trick to this is to begin at the end.
The biggest failure in the campaigns we see are when the brief starts with ‘what we want to tell people’ or even worse…we need posters.
You’ll get much more ka pow by working backwards:
5. What is our end goal (what is our greater purpose)?
4. What behaviour is required to support this?
3. What do employees need to understand/think/feel?
2. What do we need to tell them?
1. How do we reach them?
Begin at the end, end at the beginning. Much smarter.
To see these principles at work, click here #ninetynine case study