Three reasons why ‘what’s in it for me?’ isn’t always the right question to drive change.

Unpopular opinion alert! ‘What’s in it for me?’ (WIIFM) has long been the go-to question when trying to influence employees’ desire for change. It’s in a multitude of communication and change management training and books and the consensus is that providing messages that directly speak to the benefits of a change to the individual employee is the only way to get buy-in. Whilst we agree that this is sometimes the right approach, increasingly we’re finding that employees have more unselfish motivations. Sometimes, what they most want to know is ‘How can I help?’. Here are three reasons why:

  1. Science supports it. Biologically, ‘giving’ can help people to feel happier and activate the regions in the brain associated with pleasure, connection with other people and trust. The ‘feel good’ chemicals – serotonin, dopamine and oxytocin – get released when we give to or help others. So, the message is, ‘when we do good, we feel good’. Happy employees, happy workplace.
  2. Productivity can go through the roof. Research by Bain & Company showed that the productivity level of an employee who feels connected to the purpose of their employer is 225%. Huge! By truly fostering a sense of purpose, businesses empower employees through a shared commitment to collective needs – it’s an ‘us’, not a ‘me’ philosophy.
  3. When you see it in action, it drives results. The global pandemic’s key workers and London’s Olympic ‘Games Makers’ are two brilliant examples of a collective group of individuals inspired by their shared ability to give for a cause, not receive. Both phenomenal examples of what people can do when they’re empowered to help.

Change is rarely easy; and creating the right desire for change is half the battle. So, next time you’re writing your plans, drafting up the WIIFM narrative and thinking about how you’re going to ‘sell’ this latest change or transformation to employees… remember to consider how you can better connect employees to the power of purpose; and support your people to see how they can help.

If you’d like some different thinking on how to successfully embed change, get in touch with the team at hello@the-thread.com.



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