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Engaging in DE&I

Creating compelling comms for engagement in DE&I surveys


Scottish Power asked Cowry Consulting to design the most compelling message for employees by drawing on Behavioural Science to increase engagement in diversity and inclusion surveys.


Behavioural Challenge



Uncover subconscious insights

The Future of DEI (diversity, equity, inclusion) 2022 whitepaper reports that only 22% of organisations have reached expert or advanced DEIB status (‘b’, belonging). This statistic sets the scene for what seems to be this inherent need for businesses to gather more insights from employees to inform inclusive policies and operations.

Many companies use an annual employee survey to gather insights on how they can better serve the needs of their multicultural workforce. However, less engagement with the survey can hinder the ability to harness the power of diversity and inclusion in decision-making.

Scottish Power set Cowry the challenge to test out which subject lines and content of an email encouraged their employees to open and engage with the DEIB survey. They were also keen to see if any observed change was linked with particular job types or demographics.


The Research

Cowry conducted an implicit response test (IRT) to draw out peoples’ System 1, automatic responses to the different messages as well as an explicit survey. An IRT is a psychometric technique, developed by Harvard University, which aims to uncover unconscious instinctive reactions without the intrusion of more explicit judgements. In this test, we showed 400 participants either the current email (control) or six behaviourally optimised versions of the subject lines and messages.

There were two groups of participants pre-set by Scottish Power, a general sample with high engagers and a group of potential low engagers. The general sample was collected as office-based employees who were accustomed to the diverse, dynamic environment. Whereas, the low-engagers consisted of remote off-site workers who rarely went to the office and had face-to-face interactions with colleagues.

We controlled for external demographic variables and whether respondents had taken a D&I survey at work before.

The Text Messages

The six crafted versions of the survey invitation channelled some key psychological principles. For example, one version relied on social norms, playing on peoples’ tendency to jump on the bandwagon of others’ choices. Another emphasised on the business benefits of completing the survey. A selfish frame email stressed on employees being able to have a say in what the future of their company looks like.

Our hypothesis was that people who were more engaged with the company culture would have a higher sense of belonging, which motivates a collectivist, prosocial mindset as compared to less engaged individuals. Individuals who were less engaged would lean towards messages that appealed to their own benefits.

The Results

As predicted, we found that different versions of the messages encouraged opens from low engaging employees and high engagers.

Subject lines centred around social good, celebrating colleagues and diversity by answering questionnaires, worked for employees who showed consistent high levels of engagement with the survey. On the other hand, low engagers preferred the selfish framed email where they perceived the chance to contribute their say to the company’s future.

Our insights enabled the creation of a clear communication strategy to increase employee’s motivation to engage with DEI initiatives.

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