People, not processes, drive profit and change.

By Stephen Jolly, Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Transform, and Sir Gerald Howarth, former Government Minister and Chairman, Addveritas.

Last week, M&C Saatchi Transform, the leader in organisational behaviour change, partnered with whistleblowing consultancy Addveritas to host a panel discussion exploring how workforce behaviours can drive change and profit in a rule‐governed world.

There is an increased focus from regulators, investors and customers on organisational culture. Behaviours are the manifestation of culture and positive workforce behaviours are a key driver of profit. From increased profit and knowledge retention through to improved productivity, customer experience and innovation, behaviour drives the bottom line.

However, in a market dominated by large management consultancies, systems and processes are almost always prioritised over people and their actual behaviours. The same rule applies to change programmes and repeatedly, change is done to people, not driven by them. As a result, a shameful 81% of all organisational change programmes fail. A figure little changed since the early 2000s (Smith, 2002).

Time and again, it has been proven that regulation, however complex, and compliance are not enough to drive positive workforce behaviours. The recent exposure of 456 patient deaths at Gosport War Memorial Hospital due to gross misconduct compounded by a cover‐up culture is yet further shocking proof of this.

Transform is M&C Saatchi’s latest business venture, established to tackle this people deficit by using behavioural science to drive organisational change. Transform was launched to bring employees back into view, give them a voice and enlist them to deliver real change for their organisations, whether that organisation be a global bank, a major charity or a government department. The partnership with Addveritas, a consultancy that specialises in the ‘hard‐wiring’ of governance and whistleblowing, offers a clear complement to Transform’s focus on the ‘soft wiring’ of people and behaviour.


Stephen Jolly introduces Richard Storey, Sir Gerald Howarth, Mary Inman and Bandini Chhichhia (left to right).

Hosted at M&C Saatchi’s Golden Square offices in London, the panel discussion was chaired by former Government Minister and Addveritas Chairman, Sir Gerald Howarth, who opened the discussion by asking: could the disaster at Gosport War Memorial Hospital have been prevented through a thorough understanding of the people involved, not just a focus on processes?

Richard Storey, Global Chief Strategy Officer at M&C Saatchi and our first panellist believes so. Richard has spent most of his career trying to understand how to get people to do what we would like them to do. He is a firm believer in understanding people deeply, before seeking to change their behaviour and shared some of his biggest learnings.

•     People are irrational, irregular and will not do what they are told

Richard shared the example of a recent M&C Saatchi project, where his team was tasked with convincing young men not to risk their lives by racing trains at level crossings. Interviews revealed they knew they shouldn’t and they knew the risks, but they believed they were invincible. Richard realised they couldn’t simply tell them what to do. He needed them to work it out for themselves.

M&C Saatchi’s creative solution, which dramatically decreased the number of incidents, was a video game simulation, which allowed the young men to witness and feel the true risk.

•     People act on incentives rather than instruction

How can we help people understand what is in it for them, rather than simply demanding compliance? The modern organisation needs to support employees to understand what it will do for them, to attract top talent and drive behaviour change, rather than simply expecting them to fall into line.

The second panellist, Mary Inman, agreed that we overlook employee behaviour at our peril.

Mary, an international lawyer, is a partner at Constantine Cannon representing whistleblowers in the UK, EU and worldwide. In her view, it is the message, rather than the messenger, that is most important and whistleblowers should be celebrated. Mary noted that whistleblowers often have the organisation’s best interests at heart, seeking to speak up within the organisation, before they are driven to speak out publicly if they do not feel heard. However, this is generally not the case. Throughout her career, Mary has repeatedly witnessed whistleblowers being demonised and expelled from organisations.

Tricia Newbold, who suffers from a rare form of growth deficiency syndrome, ran security clearance at the White House for many years. Tricia revealed that a number of people, including Trump’s son in‐law Jared Kushner, should not have been granted clearance under current rules. She was swiftly vilified by colleagues, who went as far as moving her files to the top shelves out of reach, before finally being suspended from her job.

Mary advocated seeing those who speak up as allies, allowing the organisation to correct negative behaviours, prevent scandal and minimise adverse impact on the bottom line.

Our final panellist, Bandini Chhichhia from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), is particularly interested in driving the right behaviours for ethical outcomes.

Bandini works within EBRD’s Office of the Chief Compliance Officer to promote good governance and ethical behaviour, so that the highest standards of integrity are consistently applied to all Bank activities in accordance with international best practice. As a Principal for Policy and Ethics, she is part of a team responsible for establishing, communicating, monitoring and implementing fundamental rules regarding the required ethical conduct of those working in the EBRD.

One of Bandini’s key challenges is ensuring that the ‘right’ behaviours are internalised by new staff members joining the Bank. One of the greatest insights of her role has been linking the ‘how’ to the ‘what’ of any job, so that staff members are continually motivated to behave in an ethical fashion, whilst pursuing the Bank’s mission to develop open and sustainable market economies in countries committed to, and applying, democratic principles. Her key learnings to date include:

•     The need to consistently link motivation and behaviour to the purpose of the organisation, so that people can connect ethical behaviour and values to the end impact of their work

•     Ensure that an organisation’s training strategy is bespoke, responds to the organisation’s risk profile, and where possible, training should be adapted to the needs of different parts of the organisation. For example, procurement would face very different risks to communications

•     Ensure talking about ethics is normalised, and forms part of the organisation’s internal dialogue, so that tricky conversations will not be avoided, and bad behaviour swept under the rug

•     Always listen to your workforce, celebrate those who highlight misconduct and protect whistleblowers, including their identity when requested

During the evening’s discussion, it became clear that the most impactful and profitable organisations listen to their workforce, understand how to adapt messaging to suit the audience (for example, Richard Storey revealed that Millennials tend to prefer casual language) and ensure people, rather than process, are the priority for any change initiative.

Stephen Jolly is Managing Director of M&C Saatchi Transform, helping ambitious leaders harness workforce behaviours to deliver change, mitigate risk and enhance performance through behaviour change communications.