People’s mindsets and behaviours can be the greatest enablers of true transformation—or its toughest barriers. Behavioural science can help enable change that sticks and delivers business results.

Things have changed. We’re seeing disruption in behaviours as humans, citizens, employees, and customers. We have unlocked some ways of working that will stick with us, and revealed others that have held us back.

Think of it as an unplanned workforce transformation, at a time when many organisations were already thinking of new ways of working. As shared in Workforce 2025, in financial services alone, 7–10 percent of tasks will be highly automatable by 2025. Further, up to 48 percent of tasks could be augmented by technologies like artificial intelligence (AI). At the same time, the World Economic Forum forecasts that overall job losses will be offset by job gains—different types of work, different roles and crucially, different skills.

One day, the COVID-19 pandemic will be behind us. But it’s hard to imagine that we’ll go back to how things were. So organisations, leaders, and individuals have a choice about how we move forward.

Will you react to changes as they come, or will you take conscious action to encourage the behaviours that will help people succeed—and discourage behaviours that don’t?

Why behavioural science matters

Focusing on mindsets and behaviours can mean the difference between low and high performance—and that can help build a future business.

Our Transformation GPS analysis, based on a sample of 5,000 employees and managers, indicates that 85 percent of transformations that fail do so because of organisational dynamics, especially due to issues of fear and trust. In other words, transformations rely on people, their behaviours, and their mindsets. Organisations can differentiate themselves by understanding what their people need, and by investing in behavioural change.

Behavioural change, grounded in science and data, is the glue needed across any transformation to unlock value. Our approach is grounded in multidisciplinary behavioural science, which includes psychology, behavioural economics, neuroscience, and more. It also incorporates data-driven analysis, experimentation, and scaled analytics that provide pace and precision to large-scale change. Together, these capabilities mean we can put people at the heart of any transformation.

We can shape the conversation that begins with ‘What if we…’ and ‘How do we do things around here now?

With a bit of help from Don Draper, behavioural science has made its way from labs into organisational and leadership discourse. It provides new ways to analyze, understand, and shift how and why we behave the way we do and make the decisions we make. It can be applied to achieve numerous business outcomes, ranging from growth and performance, adopting new digital technologies, shifts in leadership, better cybersecurity, improving customer experience, and more.

Business benefits of using behavioural science

Behavioural science can help organisations generate growth by driving innovation and customer-centricity. Consider that:

  • Research shows that when organisations instill growth mindsets in employees, innovation increases by 65 percent. This, in turn, helps firms maintain market relevance, as 84 percent of customers expect brand innovation.
  • A human-centered approach leveraging behavioural insights improves business performance, with organisations earning 30 percent more revenue when their employees are inspired and engaged.
  • Behavioural science can help encourage a smart spending It’s not just about the numbers. Smart spending is key to handling risk and promoting ethical, responsible decision-making. It can also support in resolving cultural conflicts following mergers or divestments.

Why is that? When you use behavioural science to identify the behaviours that matter and then scale them, you effect real change that can fuel transformations and improve business performance. Often, change is approached from a wholly rational point of view, and then we wonder why customers and colleagues didn’t change (or worse, actively opposed it).

In fact, humans can change—we’ve seen this in many ways over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic—but we need to think differently.

  • Start by understanding the behaviours that matter in the transformation. What are the behaviours today and what do we want in the future? What are the desired behaviours that will fuel transformation and improve performance? This determines where you’ll focus your efforts.
  • Next, make the behaviours real for people. Move from vague concepts and help each individual develop their own versions of what that looks like.
  • Then, find out what motivates the new behaviours initially and what can mature and embed them as new habits and working practices. Measurement is important—for example, if your goal is to improve collaboration, then you could measure the volume of interactions on collaboration tools (minutes on video calls, team time spent in design thinking activities). Pilot interventions and scale the ones that work, using the data that you collect.
  • Remove the barriers to new behaviours and help people walk away from old behaviours. Clear leadership with clear expectations is one enabler. Another is normalising new behaviours and creating new daily routines to form habits—at scale.

Case study: Adding fuel and reducing friction to drive behavioural change

A global oil and gas provider wanted to drive adoption of a data platform. The new platform is critical to the future of the business and its transformation to become more of a data-driven culture.

Its leaders knew they needed to tackle three key behavioural science principles in order to change end users’ behaviours: address cognitive dissonance (the tension we experience when we have contradictory beliefs), reduce friction (challenges and hurdles), and add fuel (practical interventions to move towards desired behaviours).

By using a behavioural-science driven approach, it doubled the number of active users on the platform in just nine months. And that enabled the company to contribute to unlocking $2 billion worth of value in benefits realisation.

Unlocking people potential through behavioural science

Many firms are moving to new business models that require agile, digital, and collaboration behaviours. These transformations will be hindered unless they also change the way that people work—as individuals, teams, and an organisation.

Behavioural science can help unlock potential in people and organisations. By grounding in data and science, you can shift people toward high-performing behaviours and adopt innovative mindsets today, support new behaviours in the future, and create an environment that supports individuals and teams.

In my next post, I will explain how to apply behavioural science successfully in your organisation.

To find out more about how to use behavioural science as a driver of change in your firm, please contact me here, or @andyyoungACN on Twitter.

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