155- Just knowledge does not change behavior



If you're anything like me, you're probably consistently late with your tax investment declarations or your reimbursement proof submissions. I ignore reminders, breeze past deadlines, and am generally notorious with these things.

I get by by being nice to my friends in payroll. But I know there are more like me in the Tardy Bunch who are a pain for payroll.

Now imagine the situation were reversed and I switched roles with a friend in payroll (it seems like a punishment to me but let’s look beyond that). What would I do? How would I survive chasing repeat offenders like me every few months? It would be cruel and unfair for sure but I would probably two things to bring some order to my life:

1️⃣Set the goal of the exercise as not submitting documents or even saving your hard-earned money. Set the goal as helping out a colleague. Non-compliant folks would not be missing a deadline; they would be leaving a colleague (someone from payroll whose job it is to compile all declarations) in the lurch. Humanizing the goal would involve making this unfortunate person come alive and sharing details of their less-than-acceptable life to drive home the point.

Knowingly making life difficult for a colleague is far less acceptable to the average employee than missing a deadline.

2️⃣Share data on compliance rates. Assuming that most people file their stuff on time, showing non-compliance as a minority activity (83% of employees submitted their investment proofs before the deadline!) would make the truants more aware that they are flouting social norms by their behavior. It would show them as a bit of a black sheep of the group—not a description people like to choose for themselves.

Both tactics are powerful because we’re social animals. We want to be seen as part of our tribe and hate to be singled out as the ones causing distress to our fellow tribe members.

It is possible to think of more interventions, such as highlighting best practices for compliance or making the submission portal easy to use, that help with behavior change. To my knowledge, my proposed steps demand the least effort.

Let’s imagine these tactics see some success and someone high up has the bright idea of making me the head of payroll. Again, looking past the pain of that appointment, what would I do? I would make a basic understanding of behavioral science a non-negotiable skill for recruits. If your job involves getting people to comply, it helps if you know how to persuade them. That said, I’m not a stickler for rules. I would be willing to look past any missing credentials if you can persuade me to hire you during the interview.

Of course, I haven’t mustered up the courage to share these tactics with my friends in payroll.

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