At a thought provoking evening of discussion from WECC members Dr Sukumar Natarajan from Bath University provided stimulus by presenting the findings of their multi-disciplinary research regarding real time energy displays as enabling infrastructure to promote behaviour change. Preliminary results from the two six week trial experiments told the story that regardless of design installing tablets providing near instantaneous energy consumption data in the home or office can induce positive behaviour change.
The input from WECC members was paramount in exploring “the how” behind this finding. How can we use energy data to really engage your team? A lively discussion followed with the group coming up with ten top tips for sustained engagement:
1) Support your staff to come up with bespoke solutions that work for them rather than installing top down change. Ask your staff what forms of energy display would work for them. We’re a social species and spark off each other for inspiration and innovation so facilitate this space for your team.
2) Reward positive behaviour change. One idea suggested was having swipe cards for staff which build up points as more energy is saved as this may support more sustained behaviour change than one off rewards. Some members suggested that verbal or written recognition of positive behaviour change may be equally important as physical rewards.
3) Competition. Ego can play a big role in behaviour change. The element of competition was introduced in Sukumar’s trials by a system of ranking with prizes being awarded to the teams that consumed the least energy throughout the six week period. In your strategy whilst the role of competition may provide a useful tool it is also useful to consider it’s function in sustaining long term change. Once tablets were taken away and competition ceased there was evidence that positive behaviour change was not sustained.
4) Keep the message fresh and imaginative. Don’t “graph out” your staff. Smiley or sad faces on displays may be enough to communicate energy consumption patterns to your team. We hosted a great event on staff engagement last year with Futerra about how to truly inspire your team though utilising a much more creative strategy. In a world of many choices and little time you will need to be imaginative to catch and sustain people’s attention. Take a look at our recent blog post about five ideas we really like making energy data much more creative and tangible.
5) Don’t just discuss energy or carbon but wrap it up in a broader set of commitments and make it meaningful to the culture of your organisation. “Sustainability isn’t just for Christmas”. Rather than one off token actions sustainability needs to be embedded into the heart of your organisation. A successful strategy requires a simple and strong message that your organisation is committed to sustainability.
6) Benchmarking Energy Data provides you with the tool to benchmark your progress against other organisations and has great importance for your public profile.
7) Equip people with answers. “If I have a sad face on my energy display where’s the tool or knowledge to change this?” Energy displays are crucial but only part of the solution. Your staff need to be equipped with answers regarding how they can take action. An online platform can be really useful in facilitating this, providing practical tips for change and making the results of behaviour change more visible enabling staff to see how they’re making a difference. Carbon culture have some great examples this working as a successful strategy.
8) Quick feedback of data to your team is crucial so individuals can see how their actions are helping.
9) Know your audience. Effective communication of your data is all about knowing your audience. Would your target audience respond best to kwh/trees/£s?
10) Appreciate the limits of both energy data and competition as stand alone strategies. Changing behaviour is complex. Your message needs to be practical and personal to your team as intrinsic motivation is often much stronger than extrinsic motivation. “I cycle to work to work every day not because someone offers me a biscuit for reducing carbon…though maybe it’s so I can eat biscuits without feeling guilty!”.
Einstein once said “to raise new questions, new possibilities, to regard old problems from a new angle, requires creative imagination”. Real time energy displays are part of this creative imagination but standing alone they do not offer a panacea. Focus must be directed towards inspirational and innovative strategies regarding how to translate this data into a message which is meaningful to your team and delivers staff engagement beyond the real time.