Have you ever watched Per Espen Stoknes’ TED talk about the ‘apocalypse fatigue’ caused by climate change communication?
He talks about the consequent five barriers to action, which are summarised as:
Distance – “Is the problem close to me, can I see it?”
Doom – “These scare tactics just make me feel helpless.”
Dissonance – “Well, there is a reason I don’t follow that advice.”
Denial – “It’s easier if I pretend this problem might go away, or that others will sort it out.”
Identity – This message conflicts with the way I see the world, or with the type of person that I think I am.”
Watching this got us thinking about the parallels of inaction that exist between this and employees on the receiving end of more traditional learning experiences and comms.
OK, so in the context of L&D and corporate comms, we are not talking about climate change or global antibiotic resistance. However the challenges faced by some L&D departments are sometime so significant that individuals feel distanced, meaning that people then default to familiar ‘business as usual behaviours’; despite high traffic metrics and/or completion rates suggesting otherwise.
So, how do we change this? Perhaps by shifting the message from negative framing to a more positive supportive one. Think less about top down teaching, and more ‘how can I help you do your job’.
Simply put, move from the five communication styles listed on the left, to those listed on the right.
Principally, individuals that feel close to the issues being addressed, can relate to the problem and can see a frictionless path to change, are more likely to embrace the message.