Using psychology in your internal communications HEAD
1st Sep 2019
3 Min Read

Using psychology in your internal communications

Lindsay Kohler
Lindsay Kohler
Behavioural Science

Smart employee engagement and communication strategies include more than just cleverly crafted campaigns. They must also take in the “human factor.” How do we make decisions? How do we interpret and act on the information we receive?

Communication is critical to an organisation’s overall performance and success, so understanding the best ways to communicate with colleagues can be a big help.

Behavioural science is a vast field with numerous applications to our work. Whether we’re looking at the weird and fabulous world of heuristics and biases; examining how a population’s risk preferences impact their willingness to embrace change; thinking about how social norms and social proof influences behaviour and much, much more – the idea is: these are powerful tools you can leverage in your business. Let’s look at a few quick tools that are easy for teams to develop and deploy:

Implementation intentions

These are one of my favorite tools to make any action easier. Implementation intentions work because making specific plans on when and how to act can help people overcome one of the biggest barriers to action of all—getting started. They take classic goal setting a step further by adding a lot of extra clarity and context to your goals.

How do you do this? By adding in a fill-in-the-blank section on your communications for people to create their own implementation intentions. For example, a goal without an implementation intention could be “I will get a flu shot.” The same goal with an implementation intention would look something like: “I will get a flu shot at work on March 5 at 12:30 in Conference Room B.”

Social proof

We are social creatures, and we look to one another for cues on how to act in a way that fits in with the crowd. You’re already leveraging this in your work if you’ve ever used a testimonial. If you want to make your testimonials even more effective, know that they have more impact during times of uncertainty. Therefore, look to where those moments of uncertainty may be – perhaps when employees have to sign up for something – and embed testimonies along the communication path appropriately.

Loss aversion

Loss aversion is the idea that we’d rather not lose something we already have, then gain something we don’t. But it also crops up in one of the most common marketing messages of all time: “Don’t miss out!” In our work, we can use this concept to inspire immediate action if we frame our messages with a little bit of loss. Need employees to sign up for a workplace event or training? “Don’t miss out” is actually quite effective. Another take on loss aversion which anyone who has ever tried to book a hotel online has seen is: “Reserve your spot now—only 1 left!” The lesson here is - loss aversion spurs action, and it’s okay to use it in our communications.

Applying some general behavioural science to your internal communications can help you reach more people, engage them in your messages, and, ultimately, drive the business outcomes you’re aiming to achieve.

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