The recruitment process was bad.

Yet the functions within the organisation didn’t think Melanie’s fixes would be worth doing.

Here, red10 ‘s Hazel Howard encourages us to invest properly in, up front, what is often a missing ‘why’.

Excellent on the ‘What’ and not the ‘Why’?

How often do we ask someone – very clearly – to perform a task for us and they don’t do it as we wanted?

It may be the result we are disappointed with or the method they undertook.

Our natural reaction is to tell ourselves a story about the situation; normally ending with the conclusion that we ‘blame’ the other person.

We are excellent tellers of ‘what’ needs to be done. We may even (being extra helpful!) explain ‘how’ we want the task doing. How often to we explain ‘why’ we need it to be done?

This is often where confusion come into play…

Overhauling Recruitment

Melanie, an ambitious team leader, was delighted when she was earmarked to lead a high impact, highly visible project that would transcend across the whole business.

The project involved an overhaul of the recruitment process, impacting every function, ensuring consistency across the organisation.

With success almost guaranteeing a promotion, Melanie had a clear vision of what she wanted and quickly assembled key individuals from across the business to form a project team.

She wanted to make this the most successful implementation project ever. She outlined her plan and engaged with the team. She explained how they were to change recruitment, including educating individual functions through the business.

Team members were all assigned to go out and share with their functions how the new process would work and come back to her in a month with any queries or points of clarification.

Feeling pleased with herself she felt the expectations were clear and this would be a massive success. She suggested the team reconvene after 6 weeks to establish how things were going.

Melanie Was Horrified

When the team came back together Melanie was horrified by what she heard and saw. She was met with resistance by most areas, who were adamant they were not going to change.

Sure, the recruitment process was bad, but they were adamant that it wasn’t worth the time and effort to doing something new. They didn’t see the point.

Melanie sat down dejectedly with her coach and explained the failure the project had been.

They discussed how she had wanted it all to go and how she couldn’t understand why no-one else shared her vision.

The coach asked her if she had explained the reasons for the change in the process. No, she hadn’t. They explored the difference this would have made.

They discovered that the project would have been much more appealing if the functions had known that the new recruitment process would:

  • Save them time (it would be 15 days quicker overall)
  • Be less expensive – reducing fees and reliance on a wide range of agencies
  • Enhance the quality and calibre of applicants

Explain Why

Morgan Galbraith in her excellent HBR article “Don’t Just Tell Employees Organisational Changes Are Coming — Explain Why” shares research into a survey of more than half a million U.S. employees where almost one-third don’t understand why these changes are happening and create resistance.

How much time and effort could have been saved if this approach had been taken from the start?

A Totally Different Response

Melanie’s team went back to the functional heads with the rationale, and engagement actually became easy, with responses like:

  • “Oh – that’s why we are doing it!”
  • “Now it makes sense.” 
  • “Yes, let’s go for it.. when can we start?”

How much time and effort could have been saved if this approach had been taken from the start?

True in Day to Day Life, Too

It is not just in business we find that this is important.

For example, at the airport, standing in a long queue waiting to board a plane, a lady from the back of the queue quickly found herself at the front.

For each passenger in front of her waiting in the line, she explained she had to catch a flight in an hour (less time than the passengers in the queue) – and the passengers made way for her to move ahead more quickly.

She had made a request – but she had also given a reason; her Because.

By explaining the ‘why’ we may get a different result from the one we expect; you can be reassured it will often be a better!

Taking This Further

‘Because’ is one of eight persuasive arguments that human being’s are naturally hard-wired to be receptive to, according to the research of Professor Robert Cialdini.

In fact, the arguments that Melanie came up with used a combination of these 8 rules, which made her argument even more powerful.

Interestingly, Cialdini’s research discovered that the reason given doesn’t have to be particularly valid, so long as you actually give a reason, rather than it just being locked inside your head.

You can read red10 ‘s interpretation of the full set of Cialdini’s Universal Rules here, and learn more about the One-to-One Coaching and Skill Masterclasses that help equip leaders with these tools and techniques.