BFM2013_3_06_Perception and reality

Managing expectations to generate the intended behaviour requires understanding the relationship between messages and their perception.

The “human resource” concept is fine as a definitional element, provided that the assimilation of personnel to other assets is not stretched too far.

An example of a stretched analogy: if human resources are indeed assets or liabilities that can be managed like any other asset, then given a certain set of inputs, they always produces a defined set of outputs.

As discussed before, we have nowhere close to 100% control on either the environment or the value system of our “public”, and therefore a certain stimulus could result in unexpected feed-back.

In the past, this was limited to people-to-people circles, but since mid-2000s (i.e. after the original version of this material was published), online social networks brought to the fore a completely different social dynamics- something that, in complex, regimented, organized societies we had forgotten.

You can read some articles on political and social advocacy and marketing posted online, or you can simply head for the nearest bookshop and… pick up old, pre-Internet books studying cultural anthropology and behaviour in tribal societies.

Yes, all the technological development since mid-2000s made most of the commentators forget lessons that anthropologists kept repeating.

If you have some spare time, Stanford University released on YouTube a course on “Human Behavioural Biology” that is worth watching if you are working in HR or cultural and organizational change: a faster way to move onto the subject that dozens of books; see an alternative, book-based approach to the same concepts on LibraryThing.com .

A business example: the yearly salary increase and related emoluments will produce diminishing returns in motivation, as it will be taken for granted and become a “floor”.

Obviously, unless you can build an inflationary system where each year the increase is greater than the one delivered the previous year.

Varying stimuli, e.g. tailoring prize/reward to the specific performance issue, will produce a constant conscious re-assessment of the environment.

Management approaches focused on building the right mix of perception and reality have to be carefully monitored, to avoid excessive manipulative practices that could easily backfire, or over-investment, if compared with the specific needs of your organization (e.g. optimal level of turnover, if your industry has seasonal staffing levels).