EngagementInjecting behavioral science into engagement

Injecting behavioral science into engagement

Can behavioural Science be injected into the workplace effectively to increase engagement and remove uncertainty? To develop a better understanding of behavioural science, and what impact this can have on a workplace, HRD Connect Spoke to Dr Helena Rubinstein, Head of Behavioural Science, Innovia Technology.

Businesses are continually discovering new ways for their employees to work effectively and to the best of their abilities. Today, many companies struggle to understand the needs of their employees and create an effective program to accommodate for the needs and expectations of their workforces. Organisations can no longer follow a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to business. A new approach is needed to maximise engagement and understand the behavior of a workforce. Employees’ behavior is vital to organisational success.

“For any positive behavior to occur, people have to have the capability to do it and be motivated,” said Dr Helena Rubinstein, Head of Behavioral Science, Innovia Technology.

“If those things aren’t in place, people don’t work optimally. If businesses are constantly introducing new ideas, then managers will never discover whether there are underlying problems that need to be tackled.”

A behavioral scientist follows the scientific method of any business problem. They understand the problem, make hypotheses, and conduct experiments to validate their hypotheses before implementing solutions to see if they are effective. This results in producing a reliable and efficient system to deal with the presented problems. Many organisations can benefit from following this strategy.

“When business leaders are introducing a completely new way of working, or they want to upscale their businesses, they assume that any changes they make will be well received by their employees,” continued Helena.

However, constant developments in the workplace mean that there’s no evidence that a certain working style will work for a business.

Implementing new, trending work features could perhaps result in employees feeling demotivated and lacking productivity. How can businesses understand what works best for their workforces? That’s where behavioral science comes in.

“What you can do is a very detailed behavioral diagnostic, using psychological principles to understand what those barriers are, and then design interventions based on evidence, and then experiment to see what works,” continued Dr Helena.

“The scientific method finds out what the problem is, and comes up with the hypotheses, and then designs interventions to solve the challenges.”

Using this method is an effective way to ensure that businesses save resources and time. Using behavioral science is more likely to result in new working systems being well-received, rather than experimenting with something new and possibly negatively impacting employees. A challenge in adopting this new approach is being comfortable with behavioral science taking time. It takes months to fully examine a workforce and understand their needs.

“Companies worry about how long it takes to do things. They think that taking this very rigorous and systematic process will be very time-consuming. They want to do things fast,” continued Helena.

“It’s a lot quicker and cost-effective to do the right thing over months than to do the wrong thing over a shorter period. The big challenge is to not jump to the solution right at the start. Giving space and time to think about what needs to be done will be more beneficial long-term.”

Applying behavioral science to the workplace is still a new, emerging process in the business environment, which means there can be many challenges in finding the right talent to lead it.

“Five years ago, when I started the team here, most of the clients that I worked with would be unaware of what behavioral science was. But as time went on people started to understand what it was and now, we’ve started to see businesses hiring talent with that expertise in house,” continued Helena.

“We’re starting to see people using the principles of behavioral science in lots of different ways, especially in the data science area. There’s been a lot of bumps on the road, as people learn how to apply it to business.”

Although it is a modern concept, businesses need to have expertise in this area to fully reap the benefits.

“Using behavioral science can increase the success rate because it takes evidence and theory-led approach to understanding human behaviours and to addressing peoples’ needs. Used well, it can be a source of competitive advantage,” concluded Helena.

Investing in talent that can apply behavioral science to business could heavily benefit companies looking to delve into the world of people analytics and engagement. Finding the right talent to take a step into this new world of analysis could remain a challenge. Consequently, initially investing in learning & development could heavily aid businesses in swiftly adapting to this new age.

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