How to increase adherence to procedures in the public service

27 August 2020

Categorybehavioural insights

Tagsbehaviour change, behavioural insights unit, evaluation, online behaviour

Now, more than ever, it’s important that public servants follow procedures which mitigate risk and help organisations run smoothly; whether it involves hygiene in a hospital, cyber security in an office, or social distancing in a Service Centre.

How to increase adherence to procedures in the public service

BIU’s new guide provides strategies to design procedures in line with the realities of human behaviour and to bring public servants’ conduct in line with procedures.

Have you ever accidentally left your computer unlocked when you leave your desk for a few minutes?

Ever been tempted to stay in the office and keep working on an important task during a fire drill?

For the most part we do our best to comply with procedures at work, but the reality is that adherence can be harder than we think. Research from management, healthcare and aviation shows that workers prioritise tasks based on length, urgency, importance and reward.  

This is where behavioural insights can help. BIU has a new guide on using behavioural insights to increase adherence to procedures in the public service. It provides strategies to design procedures in line with the realities of human behaviour and to bring the behaviour of public servants in line with procedures.

The guide covers three key strategies to help increase adherence:  

  • Explain why procedures are necessary and legitimate: We’re less likely to follow procedures if we don’t understand their purpose, even when we’re paid to do so. Ask employees to contribute to the development of compliance strategies. 
  • Design procedures to reduce the chance of mistakes: Errors can’t be avoided so instead design procedures around them. Checklists, planning for what could go wrong, and timely feedback can help to reduce the negative consequences of mistakes.

Adherence to procedures in the public service can drive better customer outcomes and ensure the smooth running of organisations, especially during times of crisis. As with all behaviour change interventions, it’s important to test them with your target audience to find out what works best for your context. BIU’s testing guide can help you to do this.

See all of BIU’s DIY guides here.