Surprise! Behaviour change & big moments

 In Change management, Client Projects, Digital Transformation, General thoughts


It’s almost scary how clever the print media is in matching our ‘moments’? The Sunday Times Travel and Homes sections seem to know me too well. When I ponder if we should move out of London it has a feature that very week on the best places to live outside of London. When I think maybe we should convert our loft it has a double page spread on Loft conversions. When I kick myself for leaving it so late to book a holiday it comes up trumps with a top ten list of places you can still book a holiday. It is spookily spot on how they hear my daydreams just as they start whispering in my ear

But wouldn’t corporate communications be so much more engaging if businesses did this too, tailoring communications around their employees’ moments?  For any organisation trying to change behaviours (which let’s face it is a permanent need in this digital age), those moments can be used to open a mental door to new behaviours.


Why moments help with behaviour change

There is a reason that moments are particularly relevant for behaviour change. All the things we do work to scripts. Scripts for work, scripts for home, scripts for school, scripts for first dates, scripts for everything. People do the same moves in the same order, with different content, every day.

For work we might arrive, send emails, attend meetings, go for lunch, fill in documents, move post-it notes around, watch the clock to see when we can go home or go to the pub for drinks on people’s birthdays who we don’t really know but go to because we know the boss will pay. Another script.

We do an awful lot through our understanding of ‘how we do things around here’ – aka culture. Like everything else in our lives, work becomes an ingrained habit. Albeit with a Mac, Brompton or trainers to make a rebellious streak clear.

Behaviour change isn’t as much about changing the content of the work as it is about changing the habit. To change habit, what you need is something to take your habitual behaviour based subconscious and…play really loud music at it!!! Or whatever works to get its attention.

Work inevitably has triggers to reset the autopilot, however many of these get stripped of emotion which is a huge missed opportunity. BIG moments are something to work with for behaviour change, not something to make bland.


OK here are a few BIG transformative moments.

  • A new CEO, director, manager or team leader (though obviously, this can be a risky situation if the change is an unpopular one.)
  • An office move or even a refit are fantastic opportunities as physically changing the workplace has a direct link to behaviours.
  • An anniversary or something like a work centenary is gold dust! Never waste this. Build this into your engagement plan in much bigger ways than a party.
  • Even a new bit of tech can help you create a flutter of excitement if approached right.


All of the above are moments that shake things up. Think of them as ‘meerkat moments’ providing opportunities to inject behaviour change strategies into.  If you know when a meerkat moment is coming then you can make sure, at that moment, you are stood on the horizon ready to engage.


How to do this – a new type of change plan

You know those traditional Gantt charts that used to go with change? Well, imagine instead if it looked like this?

Courtesy of the article: 10 most interesting examples of Customer Journey Maps

Customer experience is about exactly what it says it is, the ‘experience’ not the thing.  The customer experience map that shows the emotional journey a customer will go through for a particular activity and using that knowledge to increase engagement can work just as well for employees.


Employee learning journeys

When these employee experiences are linked to behaviour change, we at Arc call these employee learning journeys. Each employee group will have its own learning journey around those moments. Think of it as a big learning journey for the whole organisation and then targeted learning journeys for each group like HR, IT, Customer Service and so on.


Mapping on to a learning journey the moments employees will go through and then layering a behaviour change plan into that gives a much more emotionally intelligent and compelling change plan.


Using the approach for corporate planning too

This also works for corporate planning to provide a more connected approach to communications.  Looking at what’s going to happen – what change will employees experience and how will they feel about it? Mapping how people will feel and working with those highs and lows. Of course, using different tactics for both

Highs you can do great things with to build pride in the organisation and increase employee engagement. Highs lend themselves to experiential approaches. Think events, experiences, surprises and the unexpected.  Wrapping sensory experiences around events and providing a powerful emotional connection with the organisation. If the design is right, those moments become a part of the organisation’s happy memory bank. This also fits with the values-based employer brand, organisations are striving for (see my previous post, Harnessing the Power of Values to get Buy-in).

Lows are sadly unavoidable. So, you want to turn that frown upside down (sorry). Or at the very least you want to minimise the negative impact. Managed right, the change person’s job is to provide air cover to stop those negative messages derailing engagement. Be prepared. Know when they are coming and manage them well. Think of the examples you hear in social media when companies have handled a crisis well. That’s what you want to do – display your core values in bad times as well as good and don’t underestimate the work that takes. Invest in your moments!


Some tips

  • If you don’t have any moments to work with then see if you can design one. FitBit does this very well with its badges. Many are completely meaningless (March of the penguins) but designed to make a day stand out above the day before.
  • You don’t want to latch on to every moment – you want ones that can change the way employees think about their day to day tasks and allow you to rewrite the script.
  • Stretch out that moment’s energy – work also with the before and after. Get as many pictures as you can of lots of smiling faces at those peak moments. Use them to take people back emotionally to that moment.
  • Be careful not to fully reset the status quo. Be careful you don’t reset the norm in ways you can’t follow through on.


Acknowledgments: As part of researching this post I came across the Chip and Heath book ‘Moments’ which is a great read and provide the FitBit story as well as other inspiration. Definitely worth a read.



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