There is huge growth in interest in the business sector in using Neuroscience in the workplace, and having worked in the Neuromarketing arena and being an experienced neuro practitioner for many years, it doesn’t surprise me that organisations are waking up to the benefits it can bring. And so they should. Neuro methodology can measure the deep seated intuitive gut reactions and associations of employees and give insights that traditional research methods simply can’t deliver.
What we have learned from advances in technology over the last 20 years, and from continued research by Neuroscientists and Psychologists, is that our nonconscious brain, or System 1 (as named by Nobel Laureate, Daniel Kahnemann) is far more powerful and influential in driving our feelings and behaviours than we ever previously realised, or understood. It is a powerhouse that shapes our personalities, skills, habits and emotions, including how we feel about the organisations we work for and the people we work with!
No wonder then that business is placing greater emphasis on trying to find ways to engage and understand the automatic, nonconscious and intuitive motivators that drive employee behaviour and engagement.
The Big So What…
The challenge for organisations and leadership teams in this new ‘Neurosphere’ is how do you practically bring this into the workplace and make it affordable, relevant to your own business and accessible to every region and country in which you operate. And which technique should you use?
Many of the advances in Neuroscience have come from studying the brain in fMRI scanners – converted MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scanners that look at the blood oxygenation levels in the brain – or Electroencephalography (EEG), which records electrical activity in the brain via electrodes placed on the scalp. These are highly technical procedures and require not only the use of expensive medical equipment, but also the right environment and trained technical staff to both administer them and produce the results.
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Now talking about the brain, it doesn’t need a surgeon experienced in this area to work out that if you want to understand how thousands of your employees feel about working for you in various parts of the world, you can’t put them all in multi-million pound magnets in lead lined rooms or attach electrodes to their heads.
Not only that but these methods wouldn’t give you the type of information you want to know anyway.
Fortunately though there is another method which combines neuroscience and psychology, can all be done online in any language or country, doesn’t require anything other than a PC, Laptop or smartphone and can simultaneously survey thousands of employees about exactly what you want to know and give you the results immediately.
It’s called Implicit Reaction Time testing, or IRT.
So how does this fantastic method work. Put simply, we know from neuroscience that concepts in our brain are represented by groups of neurons and when they are activated, other groups of neurons that are closely related start ‘firing’ as well. So the term ‘Doctor’ will start firing ‘Nurse’, ‘Hospital’, ‘Ambulance’ etc. The faster they fire the closer, or more congruent the terms are with Doctor.
It’s measuring these associations that reveal the answers to the questions businesses couldn’t ask before (and expect an honest, useful answer.)
In Truthsayers’ IRTs there are no questions and respondents are not asked to choose their response. We combine what our clients want to test, for example how engaged their employees are – with a range of statements/affirmations about working for them in multiple paired trials. The employee is then required to press a particular key on a keyboard – or button on a tablet or smartphone – very quickly, but they do not have a choice of which key or button to press, this is controlled by our Truthsayers Neurotech platform and the test design NOT the employee.
In short the statements/affirmations act as a prime and will affect the task response time depending on how congruent, or incongruent, each pairing is in the mind of the employee, and to what extent. Because our brain responds to congruent pairings faster than to incongruent pairings, our Truthsayers platform can compute thousands of individual timed responses and rank order them so employers can see exactly which of the statements/affirmations is most implicitly associated with working for them. By controlling the test in the way described, employers get responses that are not modified by conscious biases and capture the instinctive automatic, gut responses of the employees.
And because of the way the survey works, employees can’t fake (or be careless about) their responses, so you get the most accurate data possible on which to base your business decisions. Even so, we guarantee complete anonymity to respondents.
Now that’s something that is really important if you want to get quality insights! Especially when you consider that the employees taking your test maybe suspicious of who might see their answers, or have been coached by a manager to respond in a certain way, or can’t express consciously how they feel, or just can’t be bothered and simply tick boxes or use other strategies to get through the test.
I’m not suggesting that we stop asking employees direct, explicit questions in the right circumstances, but asking them is only of use if they know the answer and are prepared and able to give it to you. This however, is usually restricted to questions about the functional nature of the business, whereas what you really need to know is how they feel, because this is a much stronger connector to your organisation and more powerful indicator of how effectively it is performing.
In most employee engagement surveys there is a long list of questions which employees have to rank by consciously thinking how they relate to each of them. This is both difficult to do and also doesn’t get to how they really feel with any accuracy because the task is too hard and they can’t consciously access the information they need to complete it. But this is exactly what an IRT will identify without the individual ever realising what they are doing and without them having to consciously think their way through it.
True Implicit Reaction Time testing can be an incredibly valuable tool to unlock the deep seated intuitions, emotions and attitudes employees have to your organisation, customers, leadership and management teams. What’s more they overcome the biases inherent in different cultures around the world. For instance in Asia, it is often deemed to be impolite to be negative about a subject, so consciously people are often more positive in their response than they actually feel. Because IRTs work below conscious thought processes, they are able to capture the true feelings and attitudes of your employees and these are often different depending on the region of the world in which you operate.