The ABP Annual Conference (10 & 11th October 2019, London).
Summary by Richard Taylor.
‘The Big Nudge’
Behavioural Economics meets Business Psychology
(BE meets BP)
Ben Williams, Chair of The ABP opened the conference on Thursday to a packed room at the Holiday Inn, Regents Park, London, to over 200 delegates.
He explained the rationale behind this year’s conference theme, by stating that Business Psychologists are developing a closer affiliation with the discipline of Behavioural Economics. Ben stated that Behavioural Economics can be considered as “a field that aims to make realistic assumptions not only about people’s beliefs and preferences but also about the process by which people make decisions using psychological experimentation to unearth our biases and mental shortcuts”. As such, using behavioural economic theories can help influence business psychology practices.
The conference welcomed a series of keynote speakers who encouraged the audience to think critically about how business psychology can be presented and how Behavioural Economics can add value to their work. To find out about each of the keynote speakers please click the link here
Bruce Daisley (European Vice-President at Twitter)
Rory Sutherland (Vice Chairman at Ogilvy)
Claudia Hammond (presenter at Radio 4, BBC)
Eric Singler, Managing Director, BVA Nudge Unit
In addition to the keynote speakers there were 3 streams in which delegates could attend break-out sessions and listen to their talks or presentations. The 3 themes were:
– Theme 1: Behavioural Economics meets People Strategy – these were a variety of presentations given with emphasis on the practical application of Behavioural Economics in the workplace. These sessions were dedicated to linking theory and research together and demonstrating the extent of success in implementation.
– Theme 2: Behavioural Economics meets the Employee Lifecycle – these sessions consisted of examples of how psychology and behavioural economics can be used to map the range of employment challenges. These sessions covered topics in recruitment, accessibility, social mobility and returning to work.
– Theme 3: Behavioural Economics meets the Consumer: – these sessions looked at how Behavioural Economics can have an impact on us as individuals. Topics explored included ‘to what extent is the influence of BE’ and ‘is there a limit on how ‘nudging’ can transform our lives as individuals?’
During the afternoon sessions of the first day, round table presentations and discussions were given by shortlisted awards finalists. There was a buzz of anticipation pervading the atmosphere as the awards dinner to announce the category winners was just a few hours away. To find out about the winners click the link here.
The closing session was led by Dean Benson, (Founder and CEO of Visualsoft) who recognised the benefits of using Behavioural Economics to shape his employees’ behaviour in his own company. Speaking to the conference floor, he calls for an open discussion, asking for delegates to make practical suggestions that they were going to take from the conference, with a view to implement some of them in their own line of work. Suggestions included the careful consideration of offering additional flexible working, a realignment of KPIs with culture shift, and for larger organisations, recognition that units of maximum of 150 people has been identified by BE experts as eliciting the greatest “happiness” and productivity.
Whatever the interest, there was something for everyone. It was a unique learning experience combined with an unrivalled opportunity to network; it was another excellent conference.
The ABP is grateful to the following sponsors and supporters for their generous support:
- 10X Psychology, providers of assessment tools and relevant analytics.
- Hogrefe, suppliers of a wide range of validated psychometrics.
- Lumina Learning, for personalised selection and development solutions.
- Pearson TalentLens, suppliers of recruitment and development tools.
- CommsMultilingual, suppliers of translation and adaptation services.
- PSI, one of the world’s leading Talent Management organisations.
- Thomas, worldwide supplier of range of assessment suites.
- Talent Liberation, A specialist Talent Management partner for organisations.
- Mosaic Consulting, Specialising in ICT Transition and Transformation Consulting.
- Coventry University, providing MSc courses and Online Learning in Psychology.
Additional sponsorship from Sten10, Oxygen Insurance and advertising from ExecutiveVA.
Here is what some of our sponsors had to say about the conference:
Pearson Talentlens were delighted to participate in this year’s conference, with our workshop on Personality and Values. Presenting the results of a study looking into intergenerational differences in the value and personality traits measured by SOSIE, generated some really useful discussions around the changing world of work. We’ve had many inspiring conversations during this engaging event and thank you ABP for another engaging conference, “Simone Lewendon, TalentsLens UK”
We loved being part of the 2019 ABP conference. It was a fabulous opportunity to share our thinking on Talent Liberation and to launch our Talent Compass tool – a practical talent strategy tool based on Talent Liberation. We were delighted with the response! We met some great people, engaged in some stimulating conversations and we’ve come away inspired. It really was a wonderful event – well done to all who organised it! Maggi Evans, Director and Lead Consultant, Mosaic Consulting.
The keynote speakers
Bruce Daisley (European Vice-President at Twitter) spoke about how psychology and behavioral science can help us fix the burnout epidemic. He talked about how we have lost control over our work, citing the advent of the Blackberry smartphone, supposedly helping to facilitate work but resulting in an average increase in daily working hours of 20%. Alongside this, the growth of social media thrusts people into a world of mass connectivity. He stated that the average human can only build trusting relationships with a maximum of 150 people but we are “encouraged” to be “friends” with thousands of people on social media - it is little wonder that increasing numbers of days are lost through stress and burnout as the race to ‘keep up’ with everyone and everything gets ever faster.
Bruce stated that in this sense large organisations have become dysfunctional and there is an there is an urgent need to fix work, to rediscover the joy of work again and suggested his “30 Ways to Fix Your Work Culture and Fall in Love with your Job”.
He used examples of: the tyrannical rule of Ferdinand Piech of VW, the Dieselgate scandal, Elon Musk and his exhortation to employees of the virtue of more than 55 hours work per week and the architect Frank Lloyd Wright and his inability to appreciate that open plan offices don’t work and increase friction.
He stated that Reid Hastings is working hard at Netflix, recognising the need for the creation of an environment to generate ideas, and including:
- allowing “downtime” or event boredom periods, allowing the brain to ferment thoughts,
- allowing people to experiment together,
- an understanding of how we relax at work (e.g. a 15 mins break with colleagues results in increased performance levels),
- re-engineering of work based on what is unique for each employee and plugging into happy experiences
- most importantly understand how we crave the need for belonging.
Rory Sutherland (Vice Chairman at Ogilvy) talked about the peculiar aversion to Behavioural Science and how we fail to test “persuasion” before we resort to “compulsion”. Using numerous quotes from his book “Alchemy: The Surprising Power of Ideas that don’t make Sense” he tore into how, time after time, decision makers used ‘economics’ to make decisions but then failed to look at the psychology behind that decision making.
He states that they use three pillars of economics:
- perfect trust
- stable preferences
- transitive preferences to anticipate “certainty”, but the only certainty we have is that the future is uncertain.
What most organisations fail to do is to define an appropriate choice architecture. Choice is the “Magical Alchemy”, and the value of the marketing mindset is in the offering of choices to influence behaviour. So, if you want to influence behavior one needs to frame the options in terms of choices (e.g. where there are 12 things you can do, just choose 4), as psychologically we (humans) tend to react to things better when we have a choice rather than being told what to do. Framing choices in a manageable way increases the chance of greater “Purchaser Cooperation”.
Rory advocated the greater use of psychology in economic decision making and introduced the concept of Ergodicity Economics, developed at the London Mathematical Laboratory, which starts with the axiom that individuals optimise what happens to them over time, not what happens to them on average in a collection of parallel worlds. Human behaviour as interpreted by pure behavioural economics is the “correct physics” but using the wrong form of maths. The “correct solution” can be found by using an appropriate dose of psychology which, when you put them together, can point you in the direction of the “correct maths”.
Claudia Hammond (presenter at Radio 4, BBC) reviewed how money affects the way we think, feel and behave. Using examples from her book, “Mind Over Money,” she described how money is a unique commodity. She stated that it can provoke controversy e.g. when the K Foundation burned £3m in a fire in 1994, and it can also have an immediate response to stimulate incentivised action before an event (unlike chocolate which only feels like a reward when given). It can also have an influence on itself, as witnessed by the Mini sold in a car auction which fetched a higher price just because it was sold immediately after a Rolls Royce.
Money encourages irrational behaviour and forces cognitive biases. The main biases manifest themselves as:
- Anchoring Bias. These can be the result of distraction by an irrelevant number, such as the restaurant Studio 97 having greater perceived experience and quality than its sister restaurant Studio 17 simply because it has a larger number in its brand name).
- Loss aversion. It is very painful to lose money and we are all prone to treating money as a means of assessing fairness, whether it be ‘income comparisons’ or ‘prices.’
Such is the power of its influence that it can create an excessive amount of optimism bias and over reaction on loss. We need therefore to be clear about when financial incentives work as they need to reflect the message being sent. She made the following points to consider in regard to money (in relation to transactional relationships):
- The meaning behind the corresponding amount involved in the incentive needs to be correct for it to be maximized.
- Piecework/Incentives need to reflect the input by the earner. The intrinsic motivation may disappear overnight if not correctly assessed.
- Never underpay a friend for a favour e.g. if your friend offers to help you cater at a party, once you offer them money, they think about the amount you offered them, is that all your value them at etc. Presents (a token) are more appropriate.
- The offer of a large amount of money can unsurprisingly affect motivation but needs accompanying with clarity and understanding.
- Payments when introduced can eventually become a simple meaningless financial transaction. E.g. a £3 fine was introduced for parents where were late for pick-up, with the hope to curb late pick-up behavior. As it transpired £3 was seen as a small penalty to pay when comparisons were made against other parental convenience factors and there was no change in behavior.
- Financial targets affect behaviours and it is essential that they do what you want them to do (whether they are there to influence employee’s creativity, speed to do a job, hours worked or to increase skills and development).
- It is also important to note that “Experiences” and “Belonging” are more important than the blunt instrument of any financial incentive.
- Money can influence trust, relationships and major decisions and so must be used with care and consideration. Money is indeed at the crossroads between economics and psychology.
Eric Singler, (Managing Director at BVA Nudge Unit) talked about Behavioural Science for successful change amongst customers, employees and organisations.
BVA Nudge Unit is a specialist global consultancy based in London, specialising in driving successful behavioural change in organisations. He gave some interesting and entertaining examples of how he had successfully initiated behavioural change. Starting with a tough assignment in 2013, he recounted how he had managed to convince the French Government of the beneficial effects of the use of Behavioural Economics when they successfully moved inland revenue forms from paper to e-forms. In the first year alone, having anticipated a migration of 500,000 users they achieved 1.1 million. This was achieved by a two stage “Nudge” process, starting with a notice before intervention, followed by a process email, social media and rewards and other micro-incentives.
The Nudge Unit was established on the back of this success in 2014 and became widely adopted in 2018. Once operational, new opportunities appeared: whilst it was known that there was increasing interest in behavioural science, its practical application on the back of new communications channels knew no bounds. Work flowed firstly from the Macron Presidential campaign, followed by marketing campaigns for well known brands. The principle of ‘Nudge’ enables the use of particular moments to not only monitor progress, but to create an overall evaluation, something much appreciated by clients. It removes what Kahnemann describes as “overconfidence” and addresses the need for micro steps and the removal of micro barriers.
Having proved itself in marketing and communications, BVA Nudge Unit is now addressing the challenge of the 87% of employees nationally who are not engaged at work, the challenge of improving decision making, and the 70% of business leaders who fail in change management and the inability of people at all levels to engage in multi-tasking: in other words, the general productivity malaise. What works is initially to nudge people towards creating the mindspace to consider these issues and then later address their behaviour elements, crucially at “the point of action”. The Entrepreneurs d’Assurances have identified 15 behaviours which can be addressed.
BVA Nudge Unit’s activity has proved that poor decision making can easily be reversed by a different mindset.
They have seen real change through the introduction of mindspace, the removal of micro barriers and influencing behaviour change (and these methods can be applied to the physical environment, changing customer service, behaviours and dealing with money issues).
In short, Eric’s message was dream big, apply behavioural science from an early stage and use the methods of nudging to develop and modify activity. They are relevant in every sector.
Pearson TalentLens, (an assessment talent business) presented a session reviewing the research about intergenerational differences between Generation X (i.e. individuals born between 1963 and 1979) and Generation Y (i.e. individuals born between 1980 and 1994). The session reviewed the similarities and differences between these groups, the meaning of the results (in terms of what the implications are for stability or changes in personality) and it explored the best way to approach intergenerational interaction in the workplace to minimise intergenerational tension.
“Pearson Talentlens were delighted to participate in this year’s conference, with our workshop on Personality and Values. Presenting the results of a study looking into intergenerational differences in the value and personality traits measured by SOSIE, generated some really useful discussions around the changing world of work. We’ve had many inspiring conversations during this engaging event and thank you ABP for another engaging conference”. Matt Stevens, Head of TalentLens UK.”
Mosaic Consulting provides professional Organisational Development support to their clients, through talent strategy, leadership development, change initiatives and leadership assessments. At the conference they presented a workshop that looked at the language used around talent management, with the suggestion that the use of certain language could be harmful to the organisation and individuals involved in a talent management process. They suggested that by using different metaphors such as Talent Liberation this could encourage people to look at things with fresh eyes and this could open-up new possibilities. Their message was clear. Language has an impact and it’s important to reflect on the hidden implications and consequences of the language we use.
“We loved being part of the 2019 ABP conference. It was a fabulous opportunity to share our thinking on Talent Liberation and to launch our Talent Compass tool – a practical talent strategy tool based on Talent Liberation. We were delighted with the response!
We met some great people, engaged in some stimulating conversations and we’ve come away inspired. It really was a wonderful event – well done to all who organised it!” Maggi Evans, Director and Lead Consultant, Mosaic Consulting.
PSI provide Assessment and Talent Management Solutions to the public and private sector. PSI has a division that focuses on Emotional Intelligence and it was that strand that formed the focus on their workshop presentation.
The workshop opened with the premise that, since its popularisation 25 years ago Emotional intelligence (EI) has followed the typical ‘forming, storming and norming’ stages of any new concept i.e. it has been evangelised by writers in the 90’s, condemned by critics in the 00’s, reaching a more balanced and evidence-based position in the last decade. Rather than being a short-lived fad, EI has stood the test of time and emerged as an important presence in today’s workplace. Current research suggests that EI has shown to be a small but significant incremental predictor of job performance, job satisfaction as well as having an affect on well-being and enhanced self-development.
The presentation evaluated EI ‘past present and future’ and discussed the key future directions for EI in terms of theory, research and practice.
Lumina Learning is a global provider of innovative personalised selection and development solutions for individuals, teams and organisations. This session allowed the delegates to gain first-hand knowledge of a ‘Lumina Spark experience’, allowing the delegates a taste of how they could practically apply the Lumina Principles of Co-creating Results, Building Rapport, Valuing Diversity and Self-Knowledge to the organisations in which they work or for their own personal development.
“It’s always a pleasure to attend the ABP annual conference and this year it was fantastic for us to deliver an industry challenging talk and Lumina Spark workshop to such a diverse range of brilliant minds. We thoroughly enjoyed presenting our talk discussing if using personality ‘types’ are still fit for purpose in today’s world. The ABP is an essential organisation for understanding, collaborating and contributing to our relevant industries. A big thanks to all involved, the buzz of the ABP community is electrifying every year!” Dan Desson, Marketing Executive, Lumina Learning.
This workshop gave the delegates an opportunity to hear about a new measure from Hogrefe that identifies traits of the Dark Triad of Personality (narcissism, machiavellianism, and subclinical psychopathy). The measure, called the Dark Triad of Personality at Work (TOP) has been adapted specifically for the workplace, by looking at self-centred work approach behaviours, enforcement-focused work attitudes and uncommitted-impulsive work styles to match on to the Dark Triad of Personality traits. The session provided a lively debate examining the theory and practical application of measuring these traits and how they can be useful in selection and development in real-world cases.
“Hogrefe was thrilled to launch its new Dark Triad of Personality at Work measure to such a keen audience at the ABP annual conference – the lively discussion over the course of our workshop and the whole of the conference was a great jumping-off point for this exciting new measure highlighting the dark side of leadership. The buzz was palpable and we can’t wait to keep the discussion going!” Nicola Brazil, Publishing Manager, Hogrefe Ltd.
10x Psychology provides modern assessment tools, predictive analytics and innovative solutions, spanning the entire employee lifecycle from hiring and leadership to employee wellbeing. This interactive workshop session looked at personality assessments for selection decisions and it considered the value of adding on motivation and wellbeing measurements and using big data techniques to provide a fuller (and more tailored) solution for development and support.
The ABP workforce experience presentations (for the awards) ran during mid-afternoon the first day of the conference. Each finalist was given the opportunity to present their project during round table sessions where delegates visited 2 tables of their choice to hear the presentations.
The winners were announced at the dinner (on Thursday night). The 2019 category winners were:
* Excellence in using psychology for Social Impact: Emma Morley, Work Psychology Group
Helping Doctors make informed career decisions based on their personal preferences: the design and validation of specialty-choice assessment
* Excellence in assessment; Kate Bradley & Dean Kempton, TMP Worldwide (a PeopleScout Company)
The Impact of Video Interviews on Candidate Experience of a Graduate Recruitment Process
* Excellence in Change Management: Dr. Antonio Zarola, Zeal Solutions Ltd.
Health, Wellbeing and Culture Assessment and Change: How Zeal Solutions improved working lives in the NHS
* Excellence in Learning and Development: Rachael Lewis, Envision
Using Experiential Learning and a Strengths Based Approach to create Hospice Leaders for the Future
* Excellence in Engagement and Employee Experience: Sarah Clarke, the Occupational Mind Group
Cultural Shift: a proven employee-led Initiative to deliver Measurable Benefits and Company Turnaround
* Excellence in Diversity and Inclusions:Alexia Delfino, LSE and Political Science
Social Identity and Selection in frontline jobs: two recruitment field experiment
* Excellence in Health and Wellbeing: James Pollard, Nudge Global
Nudging Employees to better Financial Futures
* Excellence in using Innovative Technology: Sarah Azimzadeh, Amberjack
Student Recruitment Reimagined – PwC supported by Amberjack
and the Chair’s choice for Excellence in Business Psychology
* Excellence in Engagement and Employee Experience: Sarah Clarke, the Occupational Mind Group
Cultural Shift: a proven employee-led Initiative to deliver Measurable Benefits and Company Turnaround
Other ABP awards were made to
- Helen Judson, on her moving on pastures new, for her enormous contribution to the transformative development of ABP.
- Nicky Thompson, for her contribution as Board Member, especially in the development of the Corporate Sponsorship Package.
- Volunteer of the year, Gonzalo Lopez, for his efforts in coordinating an outstanding conference.
- Lucy Standing, whose energy and commitment to all ABP activities know no bounds.
Congratulations to all of the winners.