At the recent National Ergonomics Conference and Exposition in Las Vegas, I spent a morning at Naz Dardashti’s seminar about the Psychology of Ergonomics Programme Implementation. The following day, Michael Melnik’s keynote presentation about Generating Enthusiasm & Influencing Positive Change drew on similar thinking.
Looking at workplace ergonomics from the American perspective provides interesting insights and, whilst the legislative landscape is very different, there are common themes. I have explored the psycho-social issues for individuals elsewhere so it is logical to look at the psychology behind a corporate or departmental implementation. How do you get “buy in” from your people from the outset and how do you sustain it?
Imagine going into a room full of people and announcing that you are going to give each one of them an iPad – absolutely free and with no strings attached. Now imagine going into a room full of colleagues (or clients) and describing the new Ergonomics or Health & Safety initiative you are about to start. How will the responses compare? If they are much the same, please stop reading now and contact me: I would love to know what you are doing and how you do it!
If, on the other hand, the second response is less enthusiastic, here are some ideas that should help to increase enthusiasm and energise your programme. Please remember, also, that I am always pleased to receive comments, ideas or criticisms to further the discussion.
The first issue is to address the two key sets of stakeholders: management and employees. If you have management support, it’s easier to get employee involvement and this puts you on the right track. If there is no management support or managers are simply paying lip-service, you should probably be looking for another employer! If, however, employees can see that the organisation’s management is actively supporting, encouraging and funding the initiative, you can get on with the next part of getting buy-in.
I am assuming you will also be involving key stakeholders in the development of the programme before roll-out so that those “at the coalface” have had the opportunity to shape it into something they can help deliver.
When explaining the proposed roll-out, don’t ask people what they think (a common approach). Instead, ask how they feel. This will help you understand their motivations and concerns. It will also help you identify whether or not they understand what you are planning to achieve and how you will go about it. Ensure the programme addresses 3 key responses:
- Rational – does this change make sense to all the parties involved?
- Emotional – does everyone recognise “what’s in it for me” if they help to deliver the planned changes?
- Physical – what needs to happen in the working environment for the planned changes to take hold?
The WIIFM issue is key and must be answered in a multiplicity of ways. Individuals have different personal needs and expectations so be sure to justify and promote the programme on different levels. A single reason (e.g. a safer environment or greater productivity) will not suffice. Naz refers to Tony Robbins’ Six Basic Human Needs and Michael refers to his own Ten Energy Sources (Commitment, Communication, Consistency, Accountability, Inclusion, Respect, Recognition, Creativity, Flexibility & Fun). Keep asking yourself the WIIFM question on behalf of the different stakeholders and making sure you have valid answers.
Find ways to engage with different individuals according to their own needs and preferred communication methods. Give them a sense of predictability and control, remembering always that, whatever the actual reality of the situation, their perceived reality is what is real to them.
Finally, when the programme introduces new equipment for users, ensure that it is easy to use and proper training is given!
This article skims the surface of some of the key ideas I have learned about this topic and I welcome further thoughts and contributions.