Guest Post by Christopher R. LaPata, MCR, Prosci CCP, Client Leader, BHDP Architecture, and Dustin A. Jackson, Ph.D., Associate Director of Transformation Advisory, Cognizant


The Role of Change Management

Change management also has a role to play in this process. By focusing on adoption, acceptance, and understanding of the space, they can communicate that these eight primal needs are being addressed. This in turn will send neurons firing back through the subconscious part of the brain that everything is ok. One of the common tools is a short (three to four question) pulse survey. This can provide some explicit employee attitudes, though managers will need to elevate their Emotional Quotient (EQ) in relating to their employees.

That said, other ways transcend the impact of a survey or corporate email. Gamification is one approach, where managers engage workers on a more pleasurable level. One study, conducted by Dr. Dustin Jackson for a government agency, found that only 13 percent of their employees read internal communications from upper management. Notably, this 13 percent also serves the function of the rumor mill within the company, which is desirable if the message is positive.

Another method for facilitating change management is by creating pilot programs, where selected employees can influence decisions made about returning to the workspace. These pilots can provide invaluable metrics for how effective any change can be to the work environment. The people chosen are an important component for success. Often employees who react negatively to change can be sources of the most useful actionable criticism, which helps improve the company’s initiatives. It is also important to be honest about the results. Management can find solace in the Pratfall Effect, the principle that even mistakes can, in fact, endear them to their employees. When management is confident enough to show some vulnerability, employees are known to respond better and more favorably.

The Role of UX and WX in Addressing Primal Needs

Microsoft Corporation’s recently released Work-Trend Index study of global workers revealed that of the 30,000 polled, 41 percent were considering leaving their jobs. To create a successful workplace experience, a renewed focus must be placed on whether it is 1) viable, 2) feasible, and 3) desirable. No matter what kind of changes organizations make to their physical space; ultimately, if employees can experience a feeling of delight or pleasant surprise upon returning to the workspace, it will have a more profound impact on employee engagement. Employees coming back will want to know what has changed. They will want to see the organization being authentic and working hard to drive their culture. The culture of the organization lives in its space. Those organizations who can get this right will drive innovation and create more revenue and shareholder value.

Empathetic designers will recognize, incorporate, and address the eight primal needs in their designs. Knowing how colors, shapes, and branding impact these needs can help impart a certain level of flexibility and control to the employee. Options should be provided for an increased sense of safety or to include workspace opportunities that would promote connectedness, acceptance, or prestige.

Practical Tips

At the neurological level, people are tribal-based creatures of habit. Even if teams are remote, it is important to make them feel part of the tribe. Think about how a marketer might build tribal identity. They would use mascots, taglines, slogans, logos, and merchandise. These items help make workers feel close as a team, and that tribal kinship is what will help smooth the transition back into the workplace.

When thinking about day-to-day in-office experiences, one company mandated managers to keep meetings under 50 minutes, since studies have shown this is about the length most humans can endure before they require a break in attention span. It is also important to go beyond group Zoom meetings and reach out to employees individually and find out whether their primal needs are being met. In addition, it is important for management to strive to be creative with how they engage with clients or employees. Walking meetings have been in vogue for decades, and there are other ways to promote well-being while increasing the blood flow required for heightened brain activity.

These eight primal, subconscious needs—acceptance, connectedness, contentment, freedom, gratification, guardianship, prestige, and survival—can serve as a springboard when considering workplace design challenges and solutions. Organizations that take the time to learn how the eight primal needs affect the way employees feel about their work and their workplace are in a better position to sculpt an ideal workplace environment and corporate culture. When they learn how to address these innately human demands and transform them into actionable items, they can reduce discomfort and even breathe excitement and wonder into the workspace. By looking at workplace design changes through the lens of these eight primal needs, organizations can use these neurological responses to supercharge their workforce and maintain their competitive advantage.

Editor’s Note: Part 1 of this article was published on The Pulse on July 30 and is available here.

Christopher R. LaPata, MCR, Prosci CCP, is Client Leader at BHDP Architecture

Dustin A. Jackson, Ph.D., is Associate Director of Transformation Advisory at Cognizant