‘What’s In It For Me’ (WIIFMe) seems to have originated in marketing and has been adopted in change management (Prosci 2006) as a mantra for selling change.
But does answering the WIIFMe really get people’s support for change? There is lots of high-quality evidence to suggest that for people to adopt proactive change-orientated behaviours they need supportive work environments. Also, an OCM outcome can seem unjust (mass layoffs), but if the process is perceived to be fair, people are more likely to feel positive about the organisation. WIIFMe is highly subjective & we may create expectations that change can meet everyone’s needs. Group performance is negatively affected by goals that maximise individual performance while group-centric goals show positive effects. So, if we want people to be supportive & fair during change, is answering the WIIFMe the best approach? Personality traits that drive proactive behaviours are openness and agreeableness. If words make worlds then WIIFMe language may prime people for selfish, unjust behaviours.
So rather than trying to satisfy WIIFMe maybe we should consider understanding the WIIFUs. This can be used to create a collective mental model of the change and leave individuals to figure out their own WIIFMe.
Since writing this post I have found more evidence that WIIFMe is not something people are strongly motivated by in OCM. In their change readiness model Armenakis et al included personal valence – the perceived personal benefit of the change i.e. WIIFMe. In action research among 18 senior executives they find little support for the WIIFMe (http://www.sbuweb.tcu.edu/mcole/docs/Armenakis%20et%20al.%202007.%20Diagnostic%20Beneifts%20of%205%20Change%20Sentiments.%20JCM..pdf) and in quantitative analysis Holt & Armenakis (2007) find that valence is not a significant factor in determining change readiness. https://www.nccmt.ca/registry/resource/pdf/226.pdf . As Weiner et al 2008 point out there is an issue of using expected outcomes as a measure of change readiness (e.g. ADKAR includes WIIFMe in the Awareness stage) because organisations do not necessarily know what the outcomes are and research suggests people are more interested in the process (procedural justice) rather than the outcomes (distributed justice) at the beginning of a change programme. So focus on the ‘are we capable of change’ rather than the probability of meeting certain outcomes.