Thoughts While Shaving…
In improv comedy circles there is a saying. “Things are funny because they are true.” This doesn’t mean that all things funny are true. It means that comedy tends to work when it is based on some truth. This is an effective formula for the satirical late night talk/news shows (The Daily Show, John Oliver Show, Stephen Colbert, etc.) that are trying to shed light on hypocrisy in the world and it’s also a great formula for corporate educators who are trying to raise and maintain awareness about important corporate messaging. It’s an effective tool to accentuate some shared truth and to get people to see an issue or point of view in a fresh new way.
This is particularly important when your product or service is boring, scary or complex. Hellooo information security and compliance! It may seem counter-intuitive, but the more serious and complex the issue, the more effective entertainment can be as a tool for communication, education and employee engagement. In fact, these approaches are now being encouraged.
“Both the US Sentencing Guidelines and recent USDOJ guidance suggest that organizations must not only provide informal communication on risk topics but must do so in a form that is effective for the audience.” -Eric Morehead, Principal, Morehead Compliance Consulting
Despite this, companies still seem reticent to try new, creative approaches. Information security and compliance professionals often think that because of the serious consequences surrounding these issues, the topics needs to be addressed in a serious tone. This conservative thinking, when it comes to training, communicating and engaging employees, actually puts the organization at risk. Why? Because employees aren’t paying attention and learning.
I happen to run a creative shop that’s built on blending entertainment with learning and I’ve spent over 20+ years experimenting with fun, new ways to get people to pay attention, engage and remember boring, complex, often difficult issues. I find myself having the same conversations every day, which is why I’m writing this piece. These are the things I tend to hear.
Entertainment In Service of a Message
First off, entertainment doesn’t necessarily mean comedy and in this context, it certainly doesn’t mean “to make fun of.” That is a misnomer. Entertainment, based on truth, is simply an effective vehicle to get employees to listen. It’s a great way to hold a mirror up to what’s really happening. It’s a way to show empathy. And it’s a way to build trust.
“These issues are so important…we need to make sure our employees pay attention and remember.”
Data Privacy, Corruption, Conflicts, Antitrust, Harassment, Reporting, Phishing are all weighty, complicated issues. But remember…there is a difference between having a difficult conversation and a conversation about a difficult thing. It is perfectly acceptable and quite frankly more effective, to separate the substance of the message, from the delivery mechanism.
There are a variety of entertaining approaches that can be utilized in service of your messaging. For examples, just take a look at the way people consume information in their everyday lives. There are sitcoms, music videos, investigative reporter shows, movies and movie trailers, game shows, and infomercials. We listen to the radio and podcasts. Our eyes are drawn to GIF’s and Memes and graphics on social media channels. All of these devices can be utilized to tee up an important message in a format that people are comfortable with and will pay attention to. And these approaches tend to stand out even more in sterilized conservative corporate environments where the new beige is considered exciting. Remember, people are business people some of the time and regular people-people all of the time!
Advertisers have known this for years. Most products are boring. But most commercials are entertaining. What’s exciting about insurance or a new soda bottle design? What the hell is drinkability? Why am I still humming that carpet commercial I heard on the radio this morning.
I have no idea..but I remember it! This is the point. If you want employees to know that your ethics hotline is available for reporting workplace concerns, you can send them the policy and make them certify that they have read and understood it. Or you can write a song about it and have it stuck in their heads. Airline safety videos are the perfect parallel for successfully using entertainment to highlight a serious issues that people have been tuning out for years. They aren’t making fun of safety…they are using entertainment to ensure that you pay attention, engage and remember.
It’s Not About The Funny
It’s important to note that it’s not about the funny. These approaches are about breaking down barriers, opening up conversations, making emotional connections and winning hearts and minds. There is a halo effect. It can make these complex issues and you and your team, less scary and more accessible. If you show empathy for your audience, it helps build trust.
“In info security, we’re not always the greatest communicators. We often talk in techno-babble. We’re the office of “no.” People tune us out. Having some fun materials in our bag helps us to simplify our message and communicate more effectively.” – Chief Information Security Officer, Global Technology Organization
I’m No Longer The Scary Compliance Professional
“…people now stop us in the hallway and talk to us! Some tell me how much they appreciate the effort. Others tell me that they didn’t like a particular video very much. But these interactions themselves are invaluable because we’re getting to know each other and are building trust. They know that I care enough to try and make it interesting. I’m no longer the scary compliance professional.” -Compliance Director, Global Pharmaceutical Company
Is It Okay If We Laugh?
“I thought we were running a pretty successful compliance program and I was unsure about the idea of introducing humor, but my team really thought it was a good idea. So at my next big presentation, I was in front of 500 employees and I thought I’d give it a try. I played one of the shorts and absolutely no one laughed! They just stared at me and I was embarrassed. Then a person raised their hand and sheepishly asked, “Is it okay if we laugh?” I said, “of course!” and the room erupted! And in that moment I knew that we had a problem. There was so much angst and tension in the room that they weren’t engaged. Therein lies the value…to get employees to pay attention and listen.” Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer, Fortune 100 Insurance Company
Science and Memory
- Emotional Connections: Humor, music and other entertaining content tends to make emotional connections with people.
- Retention: Humor, music and other entertaining content tends to have a higher content retention rate. People remember things that are provocative, interesting and fun!
Employees will likely forget most of your PowerPoint presentation and your E-learning module with the voice over and bad stock photography. They will remember the fun song and the humorous video. That will stick with them. The most effective education is a blend of both emotional and cognitive approaches. When giving them the medicine, don’t forget to mix in a little sugar.
Conservative Approaches Put The Organization At Risk
Most corporate training and communications tends to scrub out all that’s interesting and fun. This is the unintentional consequence of the process which takes great pains not to offend and tries to ensure that the organization communicates in a way that all levels of the organization can comprehend. These are important considerations. But by the time a training, newsletter, intranet policy portal or corporate communication has gone through all the checks and approvals, it may have all the correct punctuation and some great information, but it’s just plain boring. And this puts your organization at risk…because no one is reading the newsletter. No one remembers the policy. No one cares about the issue. This conservative approach is what creates the conservative culture which leads to a culture of apathy and complacency. We need to raise the bar and choose to communicate like humans.
One of my favorite quotes is from the legendary improv guru, Del Close, who was a bit insane but spouted much wisdom.
“Treat your audience like artists, poets and geniuses and they have the chance to become them” – Del Close
Can You Measure That, Please?
“We were rolling out a new Code of Business Conduct and decided to use a comedic approach showing how the Code changed throughout our companies history. We had it translated into 15 languages and spent a lot of time and care rolling out a campaign to generate some buzz. We also measured the results which presented some interesting findings. We received an 88% positive response rate…Good news! However, we also received a 6% negative response rate and 6% were neutral. We have 50,000 employees so that’s about 3,000 people who really disliked it. That’s a lot of people! We decided to take the initiative to reach out to those 3,000 people to engage them in a discussion about their concerns. This took some time, but in the end, we were able to use the negative responses as teaching moments about compliance. Ultimately, we think its important to try and get a pulse out of people, positive or negative. You won’t engage the masses by being dull. Anything is better than apathy.” -Director of Ethics & Compliance, Global Technology Company
Employee Engagement – Variety is the Spice of Life – Try New Things!
There is a solid business case for using entertainment as a vehicle for raising and maintaining awareness around policies and corporate risk. If you continue to push out beige, you will engage absolutely no one. That’s risky.
I think it’s important to be thoughtful about the styles and formats you use to engage employees, but don’t get hung up on creating the perfect thing. There is no one single way to engage a multicultural, multigenerational, diverse workforce. I encourage you to try lots of different creative approaches and a variety of different entertaining formats and styles. There is no need to put all your eggs in one basket. Some will work better than others. But it’s important to try new things. You will be most successful through variety and surprise, which gives you the best chance of engaging the most people over time. It also shows that you care enough to make it interesting for them, which goes a long way toward building trust. Entertainment and learning is not about the funny, it’s all about breaking down barriers, opening up conversations, making emotional connections and winning hearts and minds. It’s not only more fun, it’s more effective.
Ronnie Feldman is President & Creative Director of Learnings & Entertainments, a network of comedians, musicians, writers, and production crew that focus on employee engagement, communication and corporate education.
- L&E Employee Engagement & Communication Suites – Privacy & Info Security. Integrity & Compliance.
- L&E Learning – Improve Communication & Leadership Skills Through Improvisation
- L&E Live – Live Talk Shows, Game Shows, and other Live Event Programming
- L&E Productions – Custom creative training and communication program development
www.LearningsEntertainments.com * info@LearningsEntertainments.com
Information Security Awareness is an Everyday Activity…An Advertising Approach Can Help!
It’s well known that the human factor accounts for the vast majority of information security incidents. So, in addition to all the dollars being spent on technology solutions, companies typically spend the majority of their efforts on training, tracking and measurement. I get that the 100% completion rate serves a purpose, but the majority of training deployed is tedious and preachy and isn’t actually educating anyone. In fact, it often leads the employee feeling resentful. They’ll forget the lesson and remember how you and your department made them feel! If the goal is to win employee mindshare, change behaviors and mitigate risk, an advertising approach can help. This is because of a very important, sophisticated scientific principle:
PEOPLE FORGET STUFF!
FREQUENCY MATTERS: Smart, intelligent people still screw up. That’s in part because knowledge and understanding is only part of the equation. This is why even great, fun, interactive training doesn’t get at the root of the issue. Advertisers use the term “Effective Frequency” to refer to the number of times a person has to see something before taking action. Annual training and quarterly push campaigns aren’t enough because the relevant info will not be top of mind at the time of need. If you want to integrate your messaging into the culture, you need a regular cadence of simple, positive, interesting communications. This means more than just monthly newsletters. It means finding ways to show up where employees already are and that means, working with other departments to get them to integrate your messaging within the business. Regular vitamins are more effective than training inoculations. Strive to make your messaging ubiquitous. Here’s why.
- Short Attention Spans: Now 7 seconds…shorter than a goldfish.
- The Forgetting Curve is Steep. 87% of corporate learning is lost within the first month.
- Limited Working Memory: This is the temporary storing of information for reasoning and decision making. You need to have messaging top of mind when the situation for needing that info occurs.
Upping your frequency is a great start. However, if your messaging is dull and boring, you may not get the results you are looking for. They will tune you out! That’s because:
INTERESTING MATTERS: Cyber security programs need to start taking advantage of the many company communication channels available, but to get “air time” you need to have something fresh and interesting to share. Nobody likes the finger-wag. A regular stream of short, preachy communications can lead to message fatigue and resentment. Boring messages will go unnoticed and will be quickly forgotten. We know that frequency matters, but its also important to communicate in interesting ways. It’s not about being funny…it’s about standing out and getting attention, bridging connections, being memorable and winning them over. More communication channels will become available to you if you have something interesting to share. Get creative. Be interesting!
- Emotional Connections & Retention: Music & humor makes emotional connections and tends to have a higher content retention rate.
- Breaks Down Barriers / Builds Bridges: Laughter comes from shared recognition and makes tough-to-get-at topics more accessible. Humor is a great technique to highlight and comment on things that are true. It’s great for opening up conversations, bridging alignment and building trust.
- Some Examples: The Fun Theory * Airline Safety Videos
TAKEAWAYS – WHAT TO DO
DON’T JUST TRAIN…ADVERTISE! – People forget stuff. Knowledge and understanding is only part of the equation. You need to have messaging top of mind when the situation for needing that info occurs. That can be solved by communicating more frequently.
SHOW UP IN MORE PLACES – Partner with your business colleagues to integrate your messaging within their communication channels. Place messaging where employees already are – other department newsletters and websites, screen savers, video message boards, social collaboration sites like Yammer, Jive or Slack, high-traffic areas (bathrooms, whiteboards, break rooms), sales meetings agendas and pre-meeting slides, webinar/conference call waiting rooms, leave voicemails, etc. Get creative. Communicate frequently to have a more consistent positive presence and increase the likelihood the the messages will be top of mind when problems occur.
COMMUNICATE DIFFERENTLY – Complex, scary topics can be inaccessible. People’s eyes gloss over. Look for opportunities to communicate differently…positively and in entertaining ways. Take a look at how your policies are written, the tone of your training, what your intranet site looks like, how your emails are written, and how you talk to people. Spend the extra time to make you, your policies and your program more accessible. People won’t go to the office of “no.”
KEEP IT SIMPLE – Employees are busy, have short attention spans and limited working memory. Keep messaging simple. They won’t remember everything, so focus on giving them simple tips on what to do, tell them where to go for more info and let them know that it’s okay to ask for help. Think of your messaging as an advertisement so they get the idea but know where to go for more info.
BE INTERESTING! BE POSITIVE! BE UBIQUITOUS!
Contact L&E to view our library of short, entertaining employee engagement and awareness communications. Over 150 “commercials” that engage employees in 75 seconds or less.
* www.LearningsEntertainments.com/Suites * Info@LearningsEntertainments.com * 872.302.7529
CHICAGO, April 26, 2017 – L&E, a network of comedians, musicians and writers who focus on employee engagement, communication and corporate education, has launched their newest subscription library, the L&E Privacy & Info Security Suites, to help companies raise and maintain employee awareness about the risks associated with this increasingly troublesome topic. The Suites are a large collection of short, fun communications and micro-learnings that act as commercials: songs & jingles, video shorts & animations, memes & GIFs, that surround, support and socialize learning to engage employees in 10-60 seconds.Request a preview of these catchy, musical shorts at http://learningsentertainments.com/suites/info-security/
“Anyone who watches TV, listens to the radio or surfs online is familiar with advertisers embedding short, catchy commercials to promote their services. We’re approaching this risk area the same way by providing companies with a customizable toolkit of social media style assets that can be pushed out periodically or integrated into the fabric of the organization, like advertising, to raise and maintain awareness all year long. We want to enable cyber security teams to have a presence wherever employees already are with messaging that is simple, positive, interesting and memorable,” says Ronnie Feldman, president of L&E.
“We use the L&E shorts as entertaining advertisements – on screensavers, on newsletters, on departmental websites, on video message boards, in conference call waiting rooms – to not only deliver quick reminders and reinforcements, but also to drive traffic back to tips, tools and resources that can often be ignored. This fun and entertaining method of security awareness helps us get more value out of the resources we’ve already invested in,” says Marc French, CISO, Constant Contact.
“We believe security awareness is extremely important and needs to be kept at the forefront of our employees’ minds. L&E’s creative approach helps us stay engaged with our teams through brief, but memorable trainings that are a great complement to our broader security awareness program,” says Doug Graham, Chief Security Officer, Nuance Communications.
“L&E has brought a lot of fresh, fun ideas,” says Bob Trovato, Manager Information Security, Progressive Insurance. “We can now capture a wider range of audiences quickly, with a consistent message, and have fun doing it.”
The Suites were created in collaboration with privacy and data security professionals from Constant Contact, Nuance Communications and Progressive Insurance. The Suites cover topics including phishing, cloud usage, careful communication, securing devices and surroundings, working remotely, password sharing, social media risk and more.
For more information, go to www.LearningsEntertainments.com.
I recently reread The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell and was struck by the many principles that have applicability to corporate learning and corporate culture. It underscores the thinking that behaviors can be influenced and shaped by regular, positive, proactive communication. Here are a few thoughts.
Fundamental Attribution Error: This social psychology principle states that when it comes to behavior, we tend to overestimate internal stimulus and underestimate external stimulus. We think, he or she is a “good person” so we don’t need to worry about them, but the truth of the matter is that these seemingly smart, knowledgable, “normal” people still sometimes do things you wouldn’t expect – stealing office supplies, cheating on their expense reports, looking the other way or covering up problems, giving and receiving gifts (bribes) and so on. These things are often implicitly supported because the situation or environment makes it seem okay at the time. Said another way, Environment Matters.
Effective Frequency: This is an advertising term which essentially refers to the number of times a person needs to be exposed to a message until it makes an impact. Training and communication can’t be annual things. Eighty-seven percent of corporate learning is lost within the first month. People need reminders and reinforcement. And guess what, the advertising model works. There is benefit in regular, simple, positive, proactive, multichannel (web, print, audio, video, live) communications as a way to raise awareness, improve engagement, reinforce learning, affect behaviors and influence corporate culture. Frequency Matters.
Approachability: Boring doesn’t work. Scare tactics have a short shelf life. People have limited tolerance for the finger-wag. They will tune it all out. You, your team, your policies, your trainings and resources need to be accessible and approachable. The way you present information makes a difference. There are great improv-based professional development programs that are fun and effective from a skills-building perspective. For corporate communication, use humor, music, fun visuals, interactive games, anything interesting because it leaves an impression. People won’t go to the office of “no.” Fear and apathy eats culture. A regular stream of short, interesting, and positive can help. Positivity & Interesting Matters.
This is why as leaders, educators and communicators, to actively affect culture we need to be omnipresent with our messaging and that messaging needs to be interesting and positive. It’s not enough to train once a year and put up a poster every now and then. It’s not enough to post your values accompanied by stock photography. It’s not enough to circulate policies and ask employees to certify that they’ve read and understood. Training, knowledge comprehension and measurement are important. But in addition, to mitigate risk, we need to be vigilant with our communication to counterbalance cynicism and negative group-think, i.e. “everybody does it,” with our own, positive messages, “integrity matters,” “we’re the kind of company that does things right” or even simply “you can call us…we’re here to help.” It’s important to have regular, proactive, positive, creative campaigns that appear in the places where employees are, to to actively influence, build and shape the culture we are striving for.
Environment Matters * Frequency Matters * Positivity & Interesting Matters
#corporatecommunication #compliance #infosecurity #safety #corporateculture #positivenotpreachy #poweroffun
Ronnie Feldman, President & Creative Director, Learnings & Entertainments
Shameless promotion: We do comedy, communication and corporate education. We have libraries of short, interesting, fun, creative, advertising-like communication assets – Songs, Videos, GIFs, Memes, Articles, Top-10 Lists, Slide Shows, Commercials and more. To request a demo, please reach out to us – info@LearningsEntertainments.com.
L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites – promote the Code, promote the Helpline & Speak Up Culture, promote Business Integrity, promote the EC team as a helpful resource.
L&E Information Security Awareness Suites – coming, April 2017 – phishing, careful communication, physical surroundings security, cloud sharing, password protection and more.
p.s. don’t forget to have fun today !
Comedians Developing New Info Security Employee Engagement & Awareness Campaign – Partnership Opportunity – 2 Spots Left
L&E is excited to announce our next multi-company funded development project…this time we’re building a suite of fun, advertising-like employee engagement communications focused on Information Security awareness! As comedians and musicians we will continue to leverage entertainment and fun as the primary vehicles for communication with an emphasis on music and multimedia – songs, music videos, jingles, top-10 lists, articles, GIFs & memes and other short, quick-hitter assets – all designed to help companies engage employees around these important issues on a regular basis. We’re looking for 2 more companies to join the partnership / development group by Nov. 18th.
#positivenotpreachy #entertaintoengage #acampaigntosustain
We are seeking 2 more companies to join the advising partnership development group by November 18th. This is an opportunity to help build and shape this new suite of assets as a subject matter expert and in return, receive a preferred structure. For more information and to see samples from a similar project, L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites, please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We’re excited to collaborate, innovate and create to bring effective, new products to market. These projects are a lot of fun! We hope you’ll join us.
I’m old enough to know who Alan Funt is without having to look it up on Wikipedia. For those of you not in the know, Candid Camera was a popular prank shows prior to Punk’d, Impractical Jokers and the like. A client of mine sent me this clip to discuss the perils of groupthink and now I’m thinking about this particular show with a fresh eye.
The powers of conformity and groupthink can be subtle, but powerful. We are all influenced by our surroundings whether we realize it or not. I am continually amazed by the number of executives who see themselves as only passive participants in their corporate culture. They don’t seem to recognize that they are an integral part of it and they are influencing that culture every day…sometimes positively and sometimes not so much. If you are in one of those “conservative,” “negative,” “we-have-always-done-it-this-way-and-always-will” environments, you can reflexively conform or choose to actively influence that culture by choosing to communicate differently.
For leaders, corporate educators and other positions of influence (Ethics & Compliance, HR, Learning & Development, Privacy & Info Security, Corporate Communication), the way you communicate with emails, newsletters, training, policies, meetings and conversations can have a tremendous ripple effect on the entire organization. Will employees conform to a negative influence – “This isn’t right but I’m going to go along with it anyway because everybody does it.” Or a positive influence – “This isn’t right and I’m going to speak up about it because that’s not who we are.” Your style of communication – positive or preachy, and your frequency of communication – annual or ongoing, combined can lay down a foundation for how the group will react and respond to you and your team. And that can have a halo effect on workplace behavior.
Integrity and the “Big Brother Eyes Study”
I found this study to be pretty interesting. In 2006, a team from Newcastle University conducted an experiment where they provided a coffee and tea service, posted a price list and asked people to drop payment into an “honesty box.” They rotated different pictures on the wall in the background and measured the change in payment patterns. What they found was that payment increased significantly (3x) when there were picture of faces or eyes in the background. It suggests that people behave differently when they believe they are being watched, because they are worried what others will think of them. I’m not an advocate of big brother watching techniques, but I do believe that we are influenced by our social environment and what others will think of us. (See Candid Camera example above) And perhaps most importantly, groupthink can work for you or against you. This is where leaders and people of influence in the organization should have their focus as a way to mitigate risk by creating an environment that polices itself.
When it comes to honesty and integrity, people need to be reminded. It’s not that telling someone to have integrity will automatically make them have it. It’s more of an acknowledgment that we all think we have integrity, but we are intelligent human beings who are really good at justifying our own behaviors, particularly the bad ones. Integrity is something that people have to actively work at every day. We’re all judged by our actions not our intentions.
Communicate Colorfully: Core Values * Code of Conduct * Speak Up Culture
Every company has a code of conduct and a set of core values that are meant to be a statement for who they aspire to be as an organization. They tend to be quite similar with many variations on the same theme. “We operate with the utmost integrity.” “We treat our coworkers and clients and vendors with respect.” “You can do this.” “You can’t do that.” More often than not, these end as lonely documents that are rarely accessed or boring posters that turn into faded wallpaper or training courses that make you want to claw your eyes out. These are all important topics that when combined with poor choices of communication, in effect gives them no power of influence or perhaps even generates a negative impact. If you bore people, waste their time, nag and wag the finger at them, they will resent you for it. And when the time comes, whether we realize it or not, they won’t think of the Code or Core Values or other important policies as they make a poor choice because they feel “they deserve it” and “everybody does it.”
This where we can all have an influence. We can choose to have an active hand in influencing our culture by choosing to communicate interestingly, colorfully, with an open hand and more frequently. We need to regularly, proactively and positively remind and reinforce what’s important to us, to increase the likelihood that these messages will break through to improve the odds of groupthink working to your advantage.
Positivity & Fun – Take your work seriously but don’t take yourself too seriously. Are you communicating by scaring people – “do this or else.” Are you nagging and wagging your finger at them? According to The Fun Theory the best way to change behavior is through the power of fun. When we laugh, we relax and our capacity to retain information expands – Laughter & Learning
Approachability – Are you and your team people that employees will approach with a question or a problem? Do you have the reputation (earned or not) as a coach or the cops? You may have to be both, but you can’t educate and influence behavior if people are indifferent or afraid. You first need to work at making your team, your policies and your trainings more accessible and approachable.
- There are some great improv-based skills building workshops that can help your team develop a “Yes-And” mentality. Improv Workshops
- Are your policies, trainings and resources created to engage and help employees learn? Does it respect their time and intelligence? These are your calling cards that establish your reputation. They’ll make you approachable or they won’t. Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites
Effective Frequency – Training isn’t enough. 87 percent of corporate learning is lost within the first month. People need to be exposed to a message several times before they tend to remember. There is benefit in more regular, positive, proactive communication as way to influence corporate culture.
I love the idea that we all are Alan Funt doing the elevator experiment in our own companies. The experiment is actually going on whether we acknowledge it or not. The question is, are we going to take an active hand in shaping it to our mutual benefit.
To read more posts, visit Thoughts While Shaving
Check out the new L&E Culture, Code & Speak Up Suites