Unlocking Behaviours for Success

By Francisco Reyes Pereira, Co-Founder of Behave4

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou was so right: it is our emotions, brought about by how we feel when interacting with other people, that has the propensity to leave an ever-lasting impact on our memory. As business leaders, our responsibility is to create a culture that makes our people feel good, worthy, and understood. Furthermore, a workplace should be a place where people can flourish, follow their purpose, and develop a defined sense of belonging. It is the combination of these factors – both purpose and place – that can have the most profound impact on an individual and workplace.


Since the first lockdown started in March 2020 (already one year ago), you’re seeing a high number of conversations, lectures, clubhouse rooms, conferences, and webinars addressing different topics: People First, Humanistic Workplaces, DEI, Humane Leadership, how to engage in a remote/hybrid workplace, etc. What is the main reason people are talking about these topics? As you can guess, there are multiple answers to this question. Our modern society is living the most serious and prolonged Public Health crisis, and we are struggling to find great examples of positive leadership (which extends beyond the business world). Bad managers or “bosses” behave worse now than in normal times (e.g. by increasing the micromanagement of people); while even good leaders struggle to keep their teams united, cooperating, and trusting of each other.


It is perhaps an over-simplification of complex situational and environmental factors, but when everything is stretched and the context changes quickly, evolving to permanent and over-whelming uncertainty, these factors can induce chronic stress and mental health issues in employees, that if unmanaged can lead to misbehaviour and reduced productivity in the workplace.


Therefore, many leaders are craving to see “Extreme Humanism” in our workplaces, as described by Tom Peters. In order to thrive in the face of adversity, a People First approach is required. Organizations need to address a radical and lasting humanisation of the workplaces during the 21st Century. The time to help people excel, flourish, and evolve has come. There is a new way to transform companies into better places to work, while reaching higher productivity and performance rates. That redefinition begins with the application of Behavioral Economics methods to link people’s behaviours to business results.


In pre-pandemic times, many companies were only worried about KPIs and productivity, and were less concerned about a truly People First perspective. Any businesses results are, however, partly subjective – for instance key performance indicators may not represent real value and instead are merely figures attached to a concept of performance.


When the strictest lockdown began a year ago, the traditional expectations employee performance were challenged. This is not to say that before the pandemic this perspective was not important, but that the current situation has dramatically amplified the issue. Many businesses started to suffer while figuring out how to adapt, be flexible, and engage their team remotely. Yet numbers are not the problem, the key is in what numbers we look at. From our own research at Behave4 and our knowledge about the HR world, it seems clear that organisations need to shift their mindset and get a different type of data, in particular, behavioural data. People’s behaviours can, and do, create value in developing loyal customers, collaborative colleagues, and willing partners. The use of behavioural metrics can transform workplaces by going beyond “traditional” data: evidently, human behaviour has a tremendous impact on workplace dynamics, interpersonal relationships, and ultimately the success of a company.


Behave4 is an HR Tech company that helps organisations have more impact and create value, whilst being as productive as possible, by applying the latest methods within the scientific field of Behavioural Economics. At Behave4, we provide organizations with a better understanding of people’s behaviour to excel and build more humanistic workplaces.


Companies who embrace this approach, are in a better position to be competitive in uncertain environments. One of Behave4’s main mantras is that, “one size does not fit all”. Every organisation is unique, with a culture created by its people. When you discover why people behave the way they do in the workplace, you reveal the key for those people, and therefore the whole organisation, to excel. So, how might we address the many upcoming challenges and uncertainty affecting people, culture, and organisations? The strategic deployment of Behavioral Economics – the powerful scientific discipline that studies human behavior from an operationalised perspective that allows for innovation. Behavioural Economics is built upon the premise that employees are humans and their decisions are influenced by emotions, preferences, and context. As put by Dan Ariely, “we’re all predictably irrational”.


A key differentiator within this approach is HRIs Optimisation. This process is based on the prediction of human resource indicators such as engagement, attrition, talent, wellbeing, diversity, and of course performance among others. Using key behavioural data measures within these topics allows for the mapping of links between individual behaviours and business results.


One of our client case studies of this can be seen within an IT department of large corp that was struggling to maximize the performance of teams (squads) using an Agile framework. Why do some squads perform better than others? Faced with the same task, what are the elements that make one team high functioning and able to deliver extraordinary results, compared to another team who struggles, drives inefficiency, and is underperforming? To answer these questions, we assessed a representative sample of their employees using our Behave4 Diagnosis Platform. The behavioural economics assessment collected 30+ variables for each person and squad including risk aversion, loss aversion, social preferences, etc. The analysis showed that the teams that were formed by more cooperative and long-run oriented people had better performance. Based on these results, we recommended several interventions related to both key behavioural predictors (cooperativeness and long-run orientation), focusing on employee rotation, hiring, coaching/ training, and organisational environment modification. Upon implementation, the analysis suggests that the interventions could increase the average squad performance by up to 30%.


HRIs Optimisation can also be applied to predict individual, rather than team, indicators. Let’s see an application to individual KPI. One of our case studies applying this technology to individual KPI’s comes from a multinational call-center. They wished to maximize individual sales and reduce the strong disparities noticed between sellers. Which behaviors differentiate top sellers from poor sellers? Why are some sellers brilliant while others suffer to get a single sale, even having the same ‘hard skills’ set? To tackle these questions, we assessed the entire sales department using Behave4 Diagnosis for a total of 28 behavioural variables. The analysis showed that ‘top seller’ were found to be behaviouraly defined as risk neutral, loss averse, long-run oriented, socially efficient, and low in numerical ability. On the other hand, ‘poor sellers’ were found to be behaviouraly defined as irrational about risks, immune to losses, short-run oriented, concerned about social comparisons, and high in numerical ability. Our 3-fold recommendation was to include training programs during the onboarding process to improve decision-making under risk and potential losses. Second, to introduce an incentive program around group recognition to foster long-run orientation and reducing inter-departmental social comparison. Lastly, to set training programs for people highly analytically leaning employees to improve their emotional intelligence and empathy communication skills.


In the above examples, our clients were able to understand the dynamics of organisational performance from a people-first perspective in order to adapt their processes to their people and achieve better results by developing a more humanistic workplace.


After going through the cases, what’s clear is that knowing the underpinning behavioural forces affecting team dynamics, relationships, employee engagement, and motivation is essential to being successful in the face of uncertainty. However, many companies are not aware of how the action-reaction cycles impacting their businesses. The first step to any cultural organisation change starts with high-quality information gathered on a behavioural human level.


It is a universal truth that every action provokes a reaction. In work and life every reaction is motivated by another’s behaviour and is shaped by context affecting us in many different ways. To be an organisation making a difference, we must think about our organisation differently. This starts with conceptualising a more humanistic workplace, achievable through behavioural science. If organisations truly want to be competitive and thrive in a very atomised market, they can’t do the same things. They should approach their unique organisation of people through new eyes and curiosity to unlock key #behaviours, not just common-place themes.

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