Using behavioural change to drive employee engagement.

By Stephen Jolly, Managing Director, M&C Saatchi Transform and Mark Mason-Jones, Managing Director, Personal Presentation Ltd.

Nobody’s ever learned to ride a bike from reading a book.

Such a book (if indeed one has ever been written) would probably give you a theoretical understanding of the process: where to sit, how you transfer your energy to the back wheel via pedals and a chain, how to use the handlebars to steer, how to brake, but by the time you have finished reading you still would not be able to ride a bike. Until you actually get on one and have a go, all of that knowledge and understanding will be practically meaningless.

Classroom learning has an important role to play in the education process, whether school, higher education or professional development. However, it has its limitations. It does not suit everyone’s learning style and there are some things it just cannot teach.

Much of our conventional education system is based on the belief that thinking – and developing the faculty of thought – is an end in itself. If action is required, it is predicated on thought – we’re taught to think before we act. Our feelings barely get a look in, typically being bypassed or suppressed as unnecessary interference – Think – Feel– Do (or TFD).

It’s strange that we have persisted so doggedly with this model, because we have known of its shortcomings for a long time. Over a hundred years ago, experimental psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus formulated the ‘forgetting curve’, which plots memory against time. Ebbinghaus found that our retention of information absorbed in a lecture, for example, drops to around 40% in the first couple of days and then to 2‐3% after 30 days.

Experience tells us that very often it is precisely the opposite of TFD that’s at work, like when we first get on a bike. Here it is our body, through the intermediary of our feelings (a rush of adrenaline, as we feel we’re losing balance and need to correct) that is teaching our brain. Do – Feel – Think.

There is a mass of evidence (not to mention intuition) to suggest that effective, durable learning lies somewhere between these two extremes. Kinaesthetics is a learning system that advocates learning through carrying out physical activities rather than listening to lectures, or indeed, combining intellectual learning with physical activity, so that the learning is ‘embodied’. Its proponents argue that “learning doesn’t happen from the neck up, it happens from the feet up. Educators can no longer place movement, emotion, and thinking into separate ‘compartments’. Many students feel awkward when they want to move around or express emotions when teachers want them to sit, be quiet and learn. Educators would see their classrooms grow by leaps and bounds, once they realise that what their students are experiencing is a healthy integration of mind and body.” [1]

Designers and implementers of organisational change initiatives would see the same benefits. Behavioural change is in essence learning, retaining and acting on something new. So, a holistic approach to initiating and sustaining change – in which TFD, head, heart and body are all aligned and engaged simultaneously and without an imposed hierarchy – makes as much sense here as it does in the classroom.

That is why M&C Saatchi, world leaders in behaviour change, have joined forces world-class communication transformers Personal Presentation Ltd to revolutionise the all too conventional world of employee engagement.

On Thursday 20 June, we will be hosting Transforming Change, a 90-minute experiential breakfast workshop and discussion.

Date: Thursday 20 June, 08:00 arrival. 08:30 – 10:00am workshop and breakfast.

Address: M&C Saatchi, 36 Golden Square, London, W1F 9EE.

Together, we will share our new approach and explore:

  • Why 81% of organisational change programmes fail
  • How collaboration and transparency – two vital ingredients in any behavioural and cultural change initiative – can become lost in face-to-face interactions and how they can be re-established
  • How blockers to change can occur as a result of pre-conceived notions of people and what their behaviour represents. Plus, how a heightened awareness of these blockers can open the door to mutual understanding and a positive outcome
  • The power of energised articulation to give people the impetus, connectedness and confidence to engage in new ways of thinking and doing
  • The role of technology in measuring, sustaining and embedding change

Please contact Flick Hardingham, Senior Adviser at M&C Saatchi Transform on, if you would like to attend.

[1]  Mike Kuczala, Training in MotionHow to Use Movement to Create Engaging and Effective Learning.