How to Motivate Your Employees to Change

By Heather Campbell

“People know the truth — that they’re literally risking their lives. But we still can’t get them to change their behaviours…”

Health & Safety doesn’t always get the best press, even when it really is a matter of life and death. Like at this company, involved in heavy industry, where I was talking to the Head of HR. She was exasperated because crucial new safety measures were being ignored.

The company had spent a vast amount of time and money communicating the new procedures, emphasising that staff were putting their lives at risk if they weren’t followed. There were numerous posters and briefings that highlighted safety as “The No.1 Priority”.

And the workforce systematically ignored it all and continued to cut life-threatening corners.


For the same reasons that so many senior leaders continue to view long car journeys as a great opportunity to catch up on their call backlog. Most know that, even when talking hands-free, this substantially increases the risk of having an accident.

But — whether an industrial accident at work or a crash at the wheel — somehow we don’t quite believe that it will happen to us. And as long as that remains the case, all calls for us to change our behaviour will go unheeded.

And that’s why so much communication about change in general is ignored for so long too, often leading to the change not happening as a result.

People hear about the change repeatedly, but somehow they just don’t believe that it will actually impact them. Or, worse still, that the change might even mean they personally have to do something differently.

If you want people to engage with change, or to make personal changes, all the communicating in the world won’t work unless the message is believable.

Crafting a believable message certainly worked in this particular organisation. What actually had an impact was sharing with the ‘old hands’ the fact that they were having a bad influence on the recruits and young apprentices who copied their poor habits.

You see, the experienced engineers didn’t believe that, by cutting corners, they were putting their own lives at risk; they felt they were far too shrewd for that. But they did believe that that their inexperienced colleagues just might get it wrong, and they also believed that these same individuals followed their example.

No one wanted the death of a young colleague on their conscience — or even to take the risk that this might happen.

Getting buy-in to change is not primarily about creating memorable or exciting messages. It is far more important to create messages that people believe.

And that often means ignoring the big-picture messages and focussing on the immediate and personal things instead.

CommsMasters has years of experience helping leaders to identify messages that will really resonate with the people they lead, as well as designing the messaging campaigns that follow.

If your organisation has a big change to communicate and would like help developing communications that genuinely motivate people to change their behaviours, drop me an email and let’s talk about how we can help you.

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