Michal Plevka works as a behavioral consultant at MINDWORX. He and his colleagues are the first team in Slovakia to apply knowledge from psychology and behavioral economics in the fields of marketing, sales, and making communication campaigns more effective. MINDWORX has a variety of clients, such as Orange, Dôvera, and Slovenské Elektrárne. Don’t miss Michal’s workshop at the CSR Summit, where he will show you how to motivate employees to become more engaged.
What place does behavioral economics have in business?
In my opinion, the biggest benefit of behavioral economics is the fact that it brings scientific knowledge to decisions that are often merely intuitive – whether it’s deciding what project the company should start, what words we should choose for a commercial, or how we can motivate employees to become more productive. Psychologists and behavioral economists have been studying human behavior and decisions for decades. Our task is to make sure that their findings aren’t ignored, but actually used in business.
So I think that behavioral economics is most useful when working with Marketing, Communications, or HR departments. Combining their experience with the innovative approach of behavioral economics allows us to achieve truly amazing results.
Influencing people and changing their behavior to make it more aligned with our goals… Doesn’t that sound a bit like manipulation?
I think the majority of psychologists will agree that manipulation means changing people’s behavior under pressure, leaving little room for their free will. This is not something behavioral economists do. Among other things, our role in projects is to use existing communication (which already focuses on changing behavior – whether it’s getting customers to buy your products or motivating employees to come to work on time) and make it more effective. It’s important to realize that neutral communication is impossible. Merely by offering you my product or service, I’m already influencing your decision. What’s left then is deciding whether you will rely on your intuition and creativity, or if you will try to base your communication on scientific findings.
What problems can you help companies address?
In recent years, we have mostly been working on projects aimed at improving the efficiency of sales, recruiting, and onboarding. But, essentially, we can help clients in any context where we have a precise definition of the behavior that should be changed. For instance, tasks like “help us improve our employer branding” or “we want to improve our company culture” would not be suitable for us because they lack a clear definition of behaviors. If there is a specific behavior (website conversion, replies to an ad, sales of a specific product), we analyze the existing communication, whether it’s online or offline, and we find a way to make it more effective.
What is the most difficult task you have managed to solve so far?
The biggest challenges are tasks where clients expect a radical increase in conversions. Perhaps it’s due to the dramatic increases in conversions we managed to achieve in previous projects, but when a client expects us to secure a five-fold increase, we need to take a while to ask ourselves whether that’s even possible.
Are there any “golden rules” derived from behavioral sciences that we should keep in mind when dealing with employees?
I would say there are several. Without going into too much detail, I have to mention money. Employers often feel that increases in remuneration automatically lead to increased motivation. But that’s a big mistake. People’s behavior is definitely not as rational as classical economics would have you think. Our motivation is influenced by a large number of subconscious factors that are often difficult to identify even for ourselves. Quite surprisingly, in certain contexts, praise from superiors proved to be more effective than financial rewards. So, one of my recommendations would definitely be to praise your employees. It might sound intuitive and obvious, but you would be surprised how often superiors forget to do it.