Using the anchoring concept in communication for Rewards and HR


  • Are you using principles of behavioural science when designing your Total Rewards programmes ? In this episode, learn how “anchoring” in communication can help you drive better employee performance !
  • Gamification in Recognition schemes gives rewards to employees on a regular basis, for example when they receive badges. This application of behavioural science makes people feel good and helps to drive the “right” behaviours in the organisation
  • Watch the video to get the full training, or read the transcript below.



Behavioural science has a lot of impact on C&B, including on how we communicate about Total Rewards
In Performance Mgt, set behavioural expectations by describing best-in-class practices to anchor the definition of success in employees' minds


This episode is an extract from a Story Talkies interview entitled “The Art of Framing Successful Internal Communications by Sandrine Bardot” which I recently did with my friends at We-Storytellers.

Here we go !

Swati Swam, Organisation Communication Lead, We-Storytellers :

Welcome to Story Talkies by We-Storytellers. Story Talkies is conversations that matter. Today, we bring to you Sandrine Bardot, who is an accomplished Total Rewards consultant with a Middle East flair. Sandrine brings with her a rich experience in the field of performance, rewards, compensation, and all HR associated fields. Her motto is learn, help, share and smile.

Sandrine Bardot :

I’m very happy to be there and to bring some different aspects as we rarely talk about Comp & Ben and communication together. So, this is a great opportunity today.

Role of neuroscience in Total Rewards communication

Swati :

I came to learn that you talk about neuroscience and communication and compensation. I think you put it as heuristics. Can you explain that a little more and how it affects our thinking?

Sandrine :

Yes. Basically I came across this concept of neuroscience a few years ago, at the time that Richard Thaler received the Nobel prize of economics for his work on behavioral science, which is the intersection of neuroscience and the way that we think from a physiological point of view and psychology.

There are two ways that the brain is working during most of the day. The first one is “fast thinking”, which is all those things that we don’t really think about, which are done in a subconscious manner. And thank God they are, because if we needed to think all the time, “Oh, I need to breathe and I need to put my glasses up. And how do I brush my teeth?” and so on, it would take too much cognitive load on our brain.

So we have lots of things that are becoming subconscious and kind of triggered by habit, while “slow thinking” is where we use more of the proper thought process to make decisions and so on.

Our brain reacts to everything that is perceives as a threat by focusing on it completely and treat it as quickly as possible to the exclusion of all other neurological processes. And so, whenever we perceive that there is a threat, we focus on that.

Regarding rewards, whenever we are happy about something, or we feel that something is a reward, our brain starts to produce some hormones, which are slightly addictive. So, we try to renew and repeat those rewards as much as we can.

And that’s also something which we can use in terms of Compensation and Benefits obviously, because we can design incentives, we can design programs and systems which are going to help people and make them feel good. For example, if you think of Reward and Recognition systems, you would have a gamification aspect, which gives rewards on a regular basis to people when they receive a badge and all this kind of stuff.

So, behavioural science is not a topic that many people cover, but it has a lot of impact in terms of Comp & Ben, including in how we communicate about Compensation and Benefits.

Anchoring – an example


So, can you share an example that impacts communication when it comes to Compensation and the effects of neuroscience on Compensation?

Sandrine :

There is an example which is called anchoring. And anchoring is one of those heuristics, which are these subconscious shortcuts that we have. Anchoring is what happens when people will use any information as a reference for when they have to evaluate new information which is presented to them.

For instance, somebody is making what seems to be more money for a similar job in another company, then the employee will become convinced that they are underpaid, even if they don’t know if that other employee or other person has more experience, more performance, or if the job is really the same or not. But because they have had that info, their whole focus turns on that.

Another example would be if you have a big expectation of let’s say salary increase, or a bonus payment, and those expectations are not fulfilled. Because the organization has communicated in some way, formally or informally about some form of amount, it has anchored the expectation for the employees, and it can create a huge motivational damage if these expectations are not met.

On the positive side, when we (HR/C&B) want to take control of the communication, what we can do is anchor, for example, the behaviors that we desire to see by giving examples in the descriptions of the competencies or the behavioral skills inside the performance management system. That element of communication will show to employees what we expect of them. It’s a passive tool, but it is going to put the expectation at the level that we want.

We can also use communication to form normative statements. So we describe what should be, or we highlight best in class performance, for instance in newsletters or videos that we’re doing on the best employees and so on. And that will also, in that communication, anchor for people that this is where we should be in terms of behavior, in terms of performance and so on for the organization.”

Watch the rest of the interview and learn about the framing concept in communication, as well as knowledge transfer and the role of functional expertise and communication for career success in Total Rewards HERE ! (starts at 6’43 for seamless continuation with this extract).

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