Probably we all know the saying: the grass is always greener on the other side. This is something that a lot of our employees are feeling, seeing, and hoping. They hear the stories from their friends, see from different Facebook posts of their friends and company pages that they are following, and read from the articles what great things other employers, like Google, Facebook, or others are offering. Then they look at their employers and see that a lot of it is missing there.
All true, but I would say that they’ve been primed! So in case, you do not want to let your people go then in addition to different other important topics you should think of using priming yourself as well.
So what is priming? Lately, I have been studying the topic quite a lot and here are some things for you to know.
According to Psychology Today, priming is a nonconscious form of human memory concerned with the perceptual identification of words and objects. It refers to activating particular representations or associations in memory just before carrying out an action or task. For example, a person who sees the word “yellow” will be slightly faster to recognize the word “banana.” This happens because yellow and banana are closely associated in memory.
There are two great studies about priming that I’d like to share here. The first study was conducted by psychologists John Bargh in 1996 in New York University. A group of students was exposed to several words related to the elderly, such as gray, bald and wrinkle, in the course of the experiment. After the task was completed, students walked down a hallway to complete another task while experimenters secretly timed their walk. Students who had been primed with words about the elderly walked slower than control students, although they had no idea their actions had been affected. They didn’t even notice the trend of words related to being old. The second study was conducted in 1999 as a field experiment in a grocery store. For two weeks, stereotypically French and German music were played on alternating days and the amount of French wine versus German wine sold was measured. As it turned out, more French wine was sold on days when French music was playing and more German wine was sold on the German music days. Additionally, purchasers of wine were asked to fill out a brief survey, the results of which revealed that they were “unaware of the effects of music on their product choices.”
So yes, studies and experiment with priming have shown the effect on people actions. Based on which we can conclude that based on the information people receive via different communication channels they are primed to believe that “grass is greener on the other side”.
What can employers do to keep their employees and fire back? Well, it is time to use priming as well.
(1) use Social Media to post pictures and short movie clips of different team activities, of your workplace, and company achievements, etc. Offer some common hashtags that your people can use like #lovemyjob, #funatXYZ or similar. But please do not forget the GDPR before doing any public posting with your people.
(2) use your internal Thought Leaders as Spokes Person’s to spread the word during different meetings, gatherings, or internal seminars. One of the Spokes Person’s should definitely be the CEO of the organization. As one of my colleagues said a long time ago, “CEOs and other top managers are like celebrities to the majority of the workforce, this what they say or do is closely and keenly followed by them”.
(3) use pictures and post them around the workplace. You can use different pictures, like pictures of your people during some team events or pictures of a colleague with the quota of why this person likes to work at your company or what he/she likes the most.
(4) use motivational pictures with positive quotas to energize your team. For instance*, research has shown that exposing students to lists of positive words can result in them working harder, longer, and with more motivation. This is why in some offices firms replace, for instance, pictures and artwork with lists of positive words. But this is a place where you should keep in your mind the culture of your organization and its location. For instance, this kind of technique tends to work better in the U.S. than in Europe.
(5) encourage teamwork and networking inside your company. It is well-known information that those employees who have a close friend at work are more engaged and will less likely leave their work.
There are definitely other options available as well that you can use to prime (positively) your employees to make them see that the color of the grass is the same everywhere. So share your experience, leave your comment!
Sources used in this post:
*Kinley, N., Ben-Hur, S. Changing Employee Behavior: A Practical Guide for Managers. 2015