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The Neural Pathway to Getting Employees to Say "Yes" to Wellness

June 17, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 214

In the last decade, scientific discoveries of the mind have revealed amazing insights into how human emotions and thoughts influence our actions and behaviors. 1Previously, we believed that our analytical-mind (prefrontal cortex) was at the forefront of our decision-making. However, brain studies clearly show that our neuropath way to decisions are first filtered through the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain where we determine first, how we feel before we think or act.

Therefore, you successfully engage people in your wellness programs when your communication, content, culture and employee-supervisor relationships function at the emotional level (feelings) that are then converted into productive behaviors.

What you say, how you say it, when you say it, and to who are critical components to engagement because they have the potential to activate inspiration, competency, satisfaction, pride, accomplishment, loyalty, a meaningful life, and a sense of belonging.

Using the Power of the Environment (Culture) to Influence Behavior

The cultural environment (rules) of the workplace dictates how we behave in public.New studies in sociology, especially in social networks, clearly demonstrate the power of social influence within our environments.In fact, your local grocery store most likely knows your behaviors better than you do.The floor plan is purposely created to guide us through a deliberate sensory experience.The sound, touch, taste, and smell components are not merely pleasant coincidences. Almost our entire understanding of our environment is experienced thorough our senses which are linked to our memories and can tap right into our emotions through the brain's amygdala.

We are unlike Pavlov's dogs, however, in which we are not conditioned to respond to the classical bell for no intrinsic reason. Grocery store managers use predictive models of behaviors to control for the environment which influences the wanted behavior. The grocery store knows that women are most likely the main shopper of groceries. They also know that men, more so than women, conduct their grocery shopping over the weekend.According to The American Time Use Survey, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, thirty-seven percent of all shopping trips by men come on Saturday or Sunday, compared with only 31 percent of the trips by women.The profile of grocery shoppers also evolves over the course of the day. From mid-morning into the evening, the average age of shoppers declines, while their incomes rise. Therefore, the store managers know when to offer certain products and services during these "engaging" moments of known behaviors.

Therefore, if you want to change your employees' behaviors you must first control the environment where you can predict or create a specific behavior.The built environment such as the location of offices, the lighting, and even the colors of carpeting, furniture and walls all help to change perceptions whichultimately changes their behavior.Science has revealed that when the environment in which a person is accustomed changes the individual becomes more suggestible because the further they are removed from their norm the more likely it is to gain their agreement.This is also why grocery stores periodically move products and "stations" to change the environment and the passive (habitual) purchasing behaviors of consumers over time.

Communication Practices that Influence Behavior

Believe it or not, even with the economic decline, the average consumer is bombarded with more than 3,000 brand messages a day!Nearly $250 billion was spent on all advertisements with 1.6 billion of that spent on mobile ads and 5.5 billion on social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.Even within the workplace environment, messages are competing for employees' attention.

  • Do this, don't do that
  • Wear this, don't wear that
  • Focus on safety
  • Be conscious of what's going on around you
  • Focus on your work
  • Look over here, we have a walking program
  • Look over here, we have healthy food choices in the cafeteria
  • Now, we have healthy food choices in the vending machines
  • Now we want you to log your walking steps online
  • Simon says, sit
  • Stand... awwsorry you're out!

Not only are multiple messages competing for your employees' attention they are most likely also contradicting.The confused mind can't comprehend and employees don't value what they don't understand.

Again nuro-science comes to our rescue to show us that communication - whether it's verbal or nonverbal, is first filtered through the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain where we determine first, how we feel before we think or act.

Therefore, the more information your employees must consider the more they must evaluate and the more information you'll need to give them which causes them to want less.This cycle will most likely generate a "NO" especially if you go into greater detail.

To generate a "YES," from employees to engage in your wellness program, your communication messages must be tailored towards the diverse "persona's" (personalities or if you will, avatars) of your employees.A persona is a realistic character sketch representing one segment of an employee population. Each persona is an archetype serving as a surrogate for an entire group of real people.It brings to life the research regarding their likes, dislikes, attitudes, behaviors, beliefs, values and norms.

Effective communication messages that are engaging must consider the following:

Prior Knowledge-How much does your employees know about health and wellness and the various components of nutrition, fitness, and mental health will determine how much information you should share.If you provide detailed information about the benefits of nutrition to a group who already has a strong prior knowledge base, you risk "turning them off" and internalizing a "NO" response.Provide features to those who have prior knowledge and benefits to those who do not.

Self-Referencing- Help your employees "see" themselves involved in your programs.Communicate how they will feel and act after completing your program.Use testimonials that show how others have went from sickness to well-being.Publish a step-by-step guide so individuals can picture themselves being "capable." For example create a guide on how to go from a non-walker to a daily walker.Again use personal stories to allow them to "feel the success" and that they too are capable of accomplishing the same outcome.

Activating Emotion- To activate the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain, focus on your word choices. Set the communication tone by using positive wording that conveys non-controlling language. Omit words such as "should" and "must" with "consider," or "think about."

I've come to learn that our environment, culture, relationships, and social networks direct more of our emotions than we may care to acknowledge.It is possible to strategically activate the amygdala to engage people in your wellness programs when your communication, content, culture and employee-supervisor relationships function at the emotional level (feelings) that are then converted into productive behaviors.

1. Lane, Richard D.,Nadel, Lynn. (2000).Cognitive Neuroscience of Emotion.New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Hi Everyone, I'm Denise Campbell and I've been working in health & wellness for over 20 years. I've been featured on ABC, American Baby Magazine, New Woman Magazine and countless other media appearances. What has made me so successful was knowing my client match and providing them with valuable resources and information that transformed their lives! I've worked with everyone from national and state non-profit organizations to large corporations, small businesses and individuals.

I don't tell you all this to impress you but rather to press upon you that I've been there and done that and you can too!

Source: EzineArticles
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Article Tags:

Predictive Modeling


Built Environment


Productive Behavors


Employee Engagement


Wellness Programs

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