Influencers from Around the World – You’re the Manager – What Would You Do?

Hoh Kim has been contributing to Influence PEOPLE for more than two years. One of only two Cialdini Method Certified Trainers (CMCT) in Asia, Hoh also has a masters in PR/intercultural communication from Marquette University. His website is The Lab h and he also writes a blog called Cool Communications. You can make contact with Hoh on LinkedInFacebook and Twitter

Brian, CMCT 
Helping You Learn to Hear “Yes”.

the Manager – What Would You Do?

Imagine you are the HR manager of a pharmaceutical company. Last week, your company held a two-day off-site workshop, inviting all 221 employees. You had several busy months leading up to the workshop due to being charged with organizing the event; i.e., selecting the venue, accommodations and food, inviting guest speakers and setting the agenda. Now, it’s over and the HR director, your boss, asked you to email a survey to the employees asking for their feedback. This is important because the survey results will be considered for your upcoming performance review. Your boss said something very important, “As this is internal survey, the response rate should be over 60%. With your encouragement, people will respond.”
So you developed a survey with a dozen questions and sent it Tuesday to all 221 employees. The deadline to wrap up the results is next Tuesday at 10 a.m. Friday morning you checked the online survey system to find out how many employees responded. On the first day, Tuesday morning, as soon as the survey was sent 25 employees responded. Not a bad start. By Tuesday afternoon an additional 14 employees responded.
Wednesday morning only five employees responded and from Wednesday through Friday morning, no one else responded! Only 20% have responded and you have to have an additional 40% to meet your boss’s expectation. You have many things to handle and you know you can have only one follow up email to encourage more participation. How could you write the email?
I have observed similar cases at companies and schools where
employee participation is encouraged via email and then followed up the same way. It is easy to find people who sent emails that read like this, “Last week I emailed employees asking you to participate in a survey and only 20% responded. Would you participate so that we can improve our workshop next year?”
What would Dr. Cialdini do in this case? One of the principles of influence at work is social proof (a.k.a. consensus); people follow the majority. But, Dr. Cialdini warns to be careful with negative social proof. Normally, it’s better not to use social proof in negative situations. Think about it for a moment. People follow the majority and your complaint stating “only 20% have responded” lets people who didn’t respond to the survey know that they are in the majority, not the minority. Employees will not be persuaded to respond when most other coworkers are not responding.
So what should you do? Pick some positive responses – fast, concrete, and constructive ones – and use them in your follow-up email. To test this I did a small experiment a few years back when I facilitated in a customized Principles of Persuasion workshop for a small group of top performing employees in a Korean company. Before the workshop I sent an email survey to learn their interests and concerns about the workshop. As soon as the survey was sent, 23% of the participants responded. Not bad. On the second day there was no response. Third day? None. On the fourth day I realized I had to do something so I wrote another email. The new email said, “As soon as the survey went out, there were people who responded to the survey by providing a very detailed and constructive feedback. I appreciate that. If you have not had a chance to participate yet, please do so by clicking on the link. It is a very short survey!” Of course, I didn’t say, “only 23% responded…” What happened? For the next two days, the response rate tripled, going from 23% to 69%. Not bad at all!

So what’s the point? When using social proof to persuade be careful how you use it because you might unknowingly hurt yourself when you think you’re doing the right thing.

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