One of the easiest and most direct channels for communicating the desired behavior is through a clear and concise awareness program. We can think of such programs as "education," in part because that is the main purpose, but in truth, this is our best shot at an advertising campaign.
Our customers have finite dollars to spend and we want at least a part of it, so we advertise, convince, and convey a very clear message - "spend your money here!" Our associates have finite resources of time and attention, so if we want them to "spend some of it here" then we also need to advertise, convince, and convey.
Unlike the single purpose of the ad campaign, our awareness message must also elicit the four "yes's" needed to get the associates to "buy." It should ask for help, communicate an expectation that they should help, explain the benefits of helping (or the costs of not helping) and most importantly, give them the tools to help.
The perfect awareness program meets three objectives; interesting, concise, and clear. Like a good ad campaign, we should have awareness information presented in a format that is appealing to our potential customer. An attractive presentation not only draws them in, but it demonstrates that the information is important enough to the organization to warrant its own place on the wall.
If we expect our associates to read a monthly newsletter, then it is also important that we keep the information concise. The average person can read 250 words per minute and has a comprehension rate of about 60%. Newsletters should convey our message in a "one minute" format by maintaining a word count of 200 to 300 words.
Since that one minute read will achieve an average of 60% comprehension, it is vital that we make the message as clear as possible. The rule of thumb is to keep it simple - Here is the issue, here is how you can recognize it, and here is how you can help.
Fancy Posters Are No Substitute for a Good Corrective Action
There is no doubt that punishment can be effective in correcting unwanted behavior. Receiving help, however, is about influencing a person to do what they otherwise could avoid. In every study related to influence, it is clear that coercion (the threat of punishment) is the least effective method because it requires constant surveillance. The associate may do what we want, but only as long as they are being watched. Coercion leads to "lip service" and secrecy, neither of which will assist us in our shortage reduction goals. A good awareness program explains the problem, asks for their help, explains the benefits, and shows them what to do. In doing so, the associate volunteers their efforts and are most likely to make their efforts known. This is the ideal situation that will continue, provided we reward their efforts through recognition—yes, the majority of associates do not want cash, they want a simple and sincere "thank you."