VIEWS: How to Get People to Change (for the Greener): Part 5

Dispatch from SSC President Jennifer Woofter

In the February edition of Inc, authors Chip Heath and Dan Heath (of Made to Stick fame) discuss their new book on change management in an article How to Get People to Change.  It’s a fascinating look at what it takes people to shift their thinking and their actions, and I wanted to look at some of their thoughts in a “green angle”.  What follows are excerpts from the article, with my reflections as a sustainability consultant.

Social influence is strong. If a third of your employees aren't filling out their expense reports on time, what they may not know is that two-thirds of your employees are. Sometimes just understanding that a crowd of people is moving in a direction makes people uncomfortable enough to change. One of my favorite studies in the book is about a group of researchers who went into hotels that have those "Please reuse your towels" signs. They changed one of the signs to say, "Most people in this hotel reuse their towels at least once during their stay." Immediately, towel reuse rates went up 25 percent, and laundry bills went down.

This is not just about letting people in your organization know about the “green things” that their colleagues are doing, but also about setting expectations.  And to do this effectively, you need to have some simple metrics.  Do you know how many of your employees recycle?  How many of them telecommute at least once a month?  Take advantage of public transit commuter benefits?  Before you can use social influence in the workplace, you need to have credible data backing you up.