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To change coronavirus behaviours, think like a marketer

A couple wear facemasks and glasses
Wearing masks in public is the new norm, however, there remains some significant resistance and rates of COVID-19 infection continue to rise rapidly across the United States, as well as among Canadians aged 20-29. (Unsplash / Nathan Dumlao)

COVID-19 has been a humbling experience. From a frayed pandemic early-warning system to a shortage of personal protective equipment for front-line workers, public health experts have been playing catch up.

But it has also been a teachable moment. We now know, for example, that the usual approaches to convince fellow citizens to prioritize societal well-being over personal desires are not working. Rates of COVID-19 infection continue to rise rapidly across the United States, but also among Canadians aged 20-29. Public health messaging is clearly not convincing this age cohort to change behaviours.

This is a call to action for social marketing to evolve and leverage powerful behavioural and technological tools that successfully engage hard-to-reach groups. There is compelling evidence from here in Canada that such an approach can work.

Social marketing applies commercial marketing technologies to motivate voluntary social behaviour. These techniques have been used to boost home-based recycling, safe sex, to encourage people to quit smoking and use seat belts, among many other behaviours.

Good social marketing is more important than ever, particularly during a pandemic. In general, however, public health officials have been slow to adopt approaches that have been used successfully in the for-profit world.

The four Ps

In marketing, the shorthand for selling a product or service is “the four Ps”: product, promotion, price and place. Social marketing takes the perspective that selling an idea can be approached in the same way. This includes aligning and customizing messages to specific audiences, rather than assuming everyone will respond the same way.

In the case of COVID-19, data suggest that people don’t share the same perceptions of risk, and this can be seen in their individual behaviour and resistance to public health messages. Similarly, there is a mismatch between the audience and medium. The current approach of relying on traditional news outlets and advertising, media releases and news conferences to communicate critical COVID-19 information is not proving effective at reaching younger adults.

Think of the difference among law, public health and marketing as sticks, promises and carrots. During COVID-19, there have been lots of sticks and promises (“stay home, stay safe”) and not much in the way of carrots. But carrots are needed.

Being confined to your home is a fundamentally unpalatable product for people for whom isolation is a significant psychological burden. Families with small children that are struggling with working, teaching and general caretaking and need specific guidance on how to meet child-care needs safely. Everyone needs access to outdoor space for transportation and recreation, regardless of preferred activity, especially when those correlate with income and race.

At the outset, little attention was paid to recognizing and addressing these barriers to compliance with the desired behaviour. Yet we have a Canadian example of how to take a complicated issue and break down barriers, in the context of physical activity.

Worldwide leader

ParticipAction has been a worldwide leader for decades in presenting a range of possible activities that people can do in small bursts throughout the day or week to meet recommended guidelines, all without having a gym membership or being part of organized sports.

By recognizing barriers that prevented people from being active, it opened up possibilities to Canadians who considered the product and place of physical activity unattractive.

The social marketing version of price has always been the most challenging of the four Ps to tackle. It is difficult for individuals to change a behaviour they enjoy or one that provides personal benefit, especially when such change may not benefit them directly.

But the behavioural economic concept of “nudging” that includes small financial incentives has proven to be financially more efficient than expensive advertising campaigns in convincing people to change behaviour.

Our research on a now-defunct made-in-Canada mobile app demonstrates the potential for using cutting-edge commercial marketing techniques and technologies to tackle the challenges of social marketing.

Carrot Rewards was a mobile app that gave users points from their loyalty program (such as Aeroplan, Scene and Petro Points) immediately after they completed a health intervention, such as completing an educational quiz, getting information about the flu shot or walking a certain distance or length of time. (Carrot Rewards folded in June 2019 but was purchased later that year by a technology firm with a plan to relaunch the wellness app.)

A woman shops while wearing a mask.
Social marketing applies commercial marketing technologies to motivate voluntary social behaviour. These techniques have been used to boost home-based recycling and encourage people to quit smoking. (Unsplash / Arturo Rey)

Canadians love their loyalty programs

Loyalty programs are tremendously popular in Canada. Some 90 per cent of Canadians are enrolled in at least one program. Studies show that, on average, there are four programs per person and 13 per household.

Carrot Rewards leveraged the desire for small financial incentives (in the form of reward points for movies, groceries and the like), and attracted an engaged and involved audience.

It employed a digital platform that allowed for customizable content and high message complexity. Using multiple choice “quizzes” of five to seven questions each, it both involved users through gamification as well as provided additional information on the topic in question.

The app was also able to target content to specific audiences based on demographic characteristics and answers to previous quizzes, as well as track physical movement and location via a smart watch or smartphone.

Engagement stayed high

With an existing base of 1.1 million users across Ontario, British Columbia and Newfoundland and Labrador — and 500,000 active monthly users — Carrot could have quickly expanded into other provinces as a key component of an integrated federal COVID-19 campaign for education, contact tracing and possibly even symptom tracking.

Our research has demonstrated that Carrot rapidly attracted and enrolled users, and maintained consistently high levels of user engagement over time, even as rewards diminished. That engagement remained high even at a modest average reward per user of 1.5 cents per day. The age and demographics of the users varied by loyalty program, and the app provided a relatively representative cross-section of Canadian society in terms of education, income and urban/rural/suburban locations.

All in all, Carrot showed impressive results.

Financial sustainability challenges aside, policy-makers and public health officials would be wise to consider maintaining this modern, data-driven approach to social marketing in their tool box. It would not only prove tremendously useful in the COVID-19 era, but it would place Canada at the forefront of innovation in social marketing around the world.The Conversation


Monica C. LaBarge, Assistant Professor, Marketing, Smith School of Business at Queen's University and Jacob Brower, Associate Professor and Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Marketing, Smith School of Business at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Congratulating new graduates

Over 5,500 diplomas are being mailed to new Queen’s graduates.

Photo of diploma and congratulatory letters
Diplomas are being mailed with congratulatory messages and alumni pins, among other items. (Supplied photo.)

Queen’s students work hard to earn their degrees, and their achievements are typically celebrated with pomp and circumstance at convocation. While COVID-19 delayed this spring’s in-person ceremonies, the university is sending 5,554 special diploma packages to new graduates by mail this month.

In-person convocation ceremonies will be scheduled for the Class of 2020 when larger gatherings are permitted.

“Graduating from Queen’s is a great accomplishment, and it is disappointing that we were not able to celebrate with our new graduates in person this year. When they receive their diplomas in the mail, I hope they will reflect on all their hard work and feel proud of what they’ve achieved,” says Stuart Pinchin, University Registrar (Interim).

To help mark the occasion, Queen’s is sending three congratulatory letters along with the diplomas. One comes from the dean of the student’s faculty or school; another is from Alumni Services; and the third comes from Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada.

The university will also be mailing the objects typically presented to students during convocation ceremonies or shortly before. Indigenous students will be receiving a Blackfoot Peoples Mountain Blanket, graduates of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science will be receiving iron rings, and all graduates will receive an alumni pin.

During the period convocation ceremonies would have occurred, Queen’s developed a website about degree conferral and graduation activities to help congratulate graduates. This website features video messages from the principal, the chancellor, and the rector, who typically all address graduates during convocation ceremonies. And it also features a recorded message from members of the Indigenous community at Queen’s.

To view these messages and to learn more about how each faculty and school recognized graduation this year, see the spring 2020-degree conferral and graduation activities website.

Smith launches Canada’s first Master of Financial Innovation and Technology

​New program addresses a gap in formal education in a quickly-evolving industry.

Master of Financial Innovation and Technology

Smith School of Business at Queen’s University has launched the Master of Financial Innovation and Technology program, the first program of its kind in Canada designed to address the significant gap in financial technology education.  

Technology is transforming the financial sector on multiple fronts – including the management of vast amounts of data and customer intelligence, mobile as a dominant payment channel, the impact of non-traditional fintech providers, and block chain currency – at an explosive rate. According to the latest EY Global Fintech Adoption Index, consumer adoption of fintech services has increased by 64 per cent since 2017. Further, a PwC global fintech report found that 28 per cent of the banking and payments sector, and 22 per cent of the insurance, asset and wealth management sector were considered at disruptive risk due to technology. 

Designed for professionals already employed, the first Master of Financial Innovation and Technology (MFIT) program will begin in November (pending approval by the Ontario Universities Council on Quality Assurance) and will be delivered in evening and weekend sessions so students can earn a world-class degree without taking a break from their careers. Graduates will receive training in finance, data science and machine learning technologies that will equip them for success in the constantly evolving industry of finance. Applications are now being accepted. Learn more at smithqueens.com/mfit.

“Until now, employers hiring in the financial technology sector have had to choose between candidates who specialize in either finance or technology; it’s been a challenge to find talent with strengths in both who understand how one impacts the other, including the opportunities and risks,” says Ryan Riordan, Director of the New MFIT program, as well as Distinguished Professor of Finance and Director of Research at the Institute for Sustainable Finance. “With the launch of this new program, we’ve created a unique educational path that bridges both sectors and equips graduates to succeed in a quickly evolving marketplace.”

MFIT will expand Smith’s program offerings for students who focus on finance but also want a professional footing in the industry’s ongoing digital transformation, or for technology specialists who want to build their career in the finance sector. The new program will be supported by Smith School of Business faculty with active research agendas in financial innovation, analytics and financial technology.  

Before developing the MFIT program, Smith School of Business surveyed more than 2,500 alumni of its existing finance and analytics masters programs to better understand the demands of today’s job landscape. Eighty-five per cent identified a need for a program like the MFIT.  

“Smith has a strong history of recognizing the changing needs of business in Canada and around the world, and quickly developing programs to help fill the talent pipeline with qualified candidates,” says Brenda Brouwer, Dean of Smith School of Business. “The new MFIT program is the latest of our new programs that address the changes taking place in how business is done including the Master of Management in Artificial Intelligence in 2018 and the Global Master of Management in Analytics last year.”  

The new MFIT program will take 12 months to complete and will consist of 12 courses delivered through a mix of remote and in-person sessions. Courses will be offered one evening per week and on alternating weekends to allow for the demands of a fulltime career. Classes, collaboration and course work will be managed online through the Queen’s Learning Management System, Brightspace. 

Provost announces restart of search for next dean of Smith School of Business

Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Mark Green announced on Wednesday the resumption of the search process for the next Dean of the Smith School of Business

The provost will chair the Principal’s Advisory Committee to advise on Smith’s future direction, and on the selection of the next dean.

“Much has changed since the previous committee last met in October, and thus I have decided to form a new search committee,” Provost Green says. “I think the community needs the opportunity to reflect on the appropriate composition of the committee for current circumstances, which include an enhanced focus on equity, diversity, inclusion, and Indigeneity within Smith and across campus.”

Provost Green thanked those who participated in the previous committee for all their hard work and dedication and invited members of the community to suggest individuals who might serve on the new Principal’s Advisory Committee.

Committee member suggestions can be sent to provost@queensu.ca by Tuesday, Aug. 18.

“Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane and I would like to thank Interim Dean of the Smith School of Business Brenda Brouwer for her ongoing leadership as we continue the search for the next dean,” Provost Green adds.

Smith equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity task force holds first meeting

Queen’s business school commits to series of actions to tackle discrimination during inaugural meeting.

Smith School of Business
The task force is set to address issues such as racism, representation, and belonging at the business school.

With the Smith School of Business’ newly-formed Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) Task Force in place, members have begun the work to advance the business school’s efforts to address systemic barriers to inclusion, and further promote equity and diversity. The group met for its inaugural meeting on July 10, 2020.

“The EDII Task Force serves as a catalyst to drive substantive change; it is about action, not recommendations,” says Brenda Brouwer, Dean of the Smith School of Business and EDII Task Force co-chair. “We hold ourselves accountable for ensuring we foster a culture of inclusion, dignity, and respect.”

Task force members will form five working groups to further focus on target areas of need. The groups will focus on advancing EDII in physical and virtual spaces; teaching and learning; policy, process and practice reform and; advancement and alumni engagement. The fifth working group will focus on rebuilding trust through dialogue and education, including the development of guidelines and strategies for consultative and collaborative student, staff, faculty, and alumni engagement on EDII.

“Over the course of our first meeting, our task force has laid the foundation for the important work that lies ahead, and we are eager to address issues such as racism, representation, and belonging head on,” says Stephanie Simpson, Associate Vice-Principal (Human Rights, Equity, and Inclusivity). “The stories of discrimination and exclusion shared by our students this week on social media have highlighted the need for us to strengthen our resolve to make our campus safe and welcoming for all.”

Coming out of the meeting, the task force committed to re-affirm the observations and recommendations defined in the PICRDI report, and to strengthening the EDII-advancing measures already in place. 

Since 2017, Smith Business has worked to improve its hiring processes to be more inclusive. All hiring panel members receive mandatory staff hiring equity training, and an employment equity representative sits on each committee. EDII programs for students have been implemented, including the embedding of cultural intelligence training into first- and second- year business curriculums. The school created a dedicated function for Indigenous student recruitment and support in 2017, and a Diversity and Inclusivity Coordinator was created within the Commerce program in 2019.

The task force is meeting weekly. The working groups formed from the task force will work in parallel, implementing initiatives and involving a broader group of faculty, staff, students and alumni. Members will also consult with equity-seeking students and groups, and alumni to inform these steps.

Learn more about the EDII Task Force and associated efforts at the Smith School of Business.

Smith Business launches equity, diversity, inclusion, and indigeneity task force

The Smith School of Business at Queen’s University has established an Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Indigeneity (EDII) Task Force charged with advancing the school’s efforts to address systemic barriers to inclusion, and to continue fostering a culture of dignity and respect for all.

Its mandate is to develop a strategic plan that identifies meaningful actions that support an academic and work environment at Smith that is open, accessible, and inclusive with respect to many aspects of diversity, including ethnicity, gender, race, sexual orientation, ability and socioeconomic status. The Task Force will also definite specific objectives and measures for progress and make recommendations for cross-campus collaboration and policy modifications that will best serve EDII goals.

Learn more about the EDII Task Force, its mandate, membership, and how students and staff of Smith may contribute to this ongoing process on the Smith School of Business website.

Queen’s remembers Professor Emeritus Bruce Buchan

The Queen’s community is remembering Professor Emeritus Bruce Buchan, a committed teacher and mentor at Smith School of Business with a passion for business history and for Gaels football, who died on June 6. He was 87. 

Professor Emeritus Bruce BuchanDr. Buchan first arrived at Queen’s School of Business, as Smith was then known, in July 1969. An outgoing and friendly personality known for his winning smile, he quickly became a favourite with students. In 1988, he received the Commerce Society’s Teaching Excellence award. 

“Bruce Buchan’s courses appealed to a lot of business students,” recalls Professor Emeritus and former associate dean, Brent Gallupe. “He taught them that business is about more than just accounting and marketing — it’s about history and the lessons to be learned from it. The students who took his courses really enjoyed them.” 

Even after his retirement in 1996, Dr. Buchan returned to campus regularly to teach, always connecting with students and continuing to garner high teaching ratings into his late 70s. In 2009, he was honoured for 40 years of teaching. 

He was also a favourite amongst his colleagues. 

“I was blown away by how kind and supportive he was,” says Dr. Gallupe. He remembers Dr. Buchan providing excellent advice about how to better get students to engage with a research project.

“He said all the kind words that a senior professor encouraging research would say,” he recalls. “We established a good, long-term friend and colleague relationship.” 

Dr. Buchan earned his PhD from the University of Michigan and his B.A.Sc. at the University of Toronto. As part of his work in business policy, he developed an interest in the history of management, as well as in topics like strategy at the East India Company and at General Motors.    

In 1999, he and Merv Daub (now professor emeritus at Smith), who had by then already collaborated on a number of papers, published Getting Down to Business, an in-depth history of Queen’s School of Business. 

“It was a good co-writing exercise,” recalls Professor Daub. “He would fact check and make corrections, and would fill in the gaps after I did the rough writing.”

Dr. Buchan, who was known for his lunch-hour runs, also served as executive assistant to Ron Watts, the 15th principal of Queen’s, for seven years. He later played an instrumental role in organizing luncheons for retirees, enabling retired business faculty and their spouses to maintain their relationships to the school and one another. 

An extended version of this article was first published on the Smith School of Business website.

Supporting Rapid Response research

The Vice-Principal (Research) announces the second round of internal funding for projects supporting medical and social coronavirus-related solutions.

A second round of funding for COVID-19-related research has been allocated as part of the Rapid Response competition, announced by the Vice-Principal (Research) in late-March. Thirteen projects that contribute to the development, testing, and implementation of medical or social countermeasures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 have already been funded through the program. Now, seven more applicants have received funding in a second round of the competition.

The diverse projects cross several fields and disciplines. They range from learning how Indigenous peoples living with chronic health issues are impacted by COVID-19 to studying the psychosocial implications of the pandemic among cancer survivors.  

The successful projects are:

  • Chantelle Capicciotti (Chemistry) – Developing sweet prophylactics: targeting glycans to prevent COVID-19 spread
  • Amrita Roy (Family Medicine) – Indigenous peoples living with chronic health issues during the COVID-19 era – examining experiences in Katarokwi (Kingston, Ontario area)
  • Jacqueline Galica (Nursing) – The psychosocial implications of COVID-19: How are cancer survivors coping?
  • Kristy Timmons (Education) – Using social and behavioural science to help teachers and principals mitigate the negative impacts of COVID-19 in K-12 contexts
  • Elaine Power (Kinesiology & Health Studies) – Leave no one behind: Income security for the 21st century
  • Elijah Bisung (Kinesiology & Health Studies) – Mobilizing local stakeholders to address COVID-19 misinformation and mistrust in Ghana
  • Stephen Vanner (Medicine) – COVID-19 testing of health professional students: Informing testing and public policy for universities and society

For more information on the Rapid Response competition, visit the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research)  website.  

Showcasing the Art of Research – photo essay

The Queen’s Art of Research photo contest celebrates its fifth year, with the selection of ten winning images.

It was another record-breaking year for the Art of Research photo contest, with more than 100 faculty, staff, students, and alumni submitting engaging and thought-provoking research images. The 2020 competition is the largest in the contest’s five-year history, with images winning 10 category and special prizes.

The Art of Research image take us behind-the-scenes of the everyday research experience. From images capturing remote fieldwork to invisible particles under the microscope, the Art of Research seeks to spark curiosity and visualize the ground-breaking research happening at Queen’s. The contest strives to represent the diversity and creativity of Queen’s research, with winners representing multiple disciplines and submissions highlighting research happening at all career stages. This year’s winners will be featured in a digital photo gallery showcasing the contest’s winners and top submissions from the past five years on the Research@Queen’s website.

Category: Invisible Discoveries

[Photograph is of a water-swollen hydrogel particle]

Porous Plastic Particle

Submitted by: Ross Jansen-van Vuuren, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Chemistry

Location of Photo: Bruce Hall, SEM Lab, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: The photograph is of a water-swollen hydrogel particle created in our chemistry laboratory, taken with an instrument called a Scanning Electron Microscope, which allows us to zone in and see important details on the surface of the hydrogel. A hydrogel is essentially a plastic material that is able to absorb very large volumes of water (up to 800 times its weight!) – much like a baby diaper, swelling as it does so. From the image, the surface of the hydrogel is seen to possess large, distinctive pores, which help us understand how and why hydrogels absorb so much liquid.

Category: Out in the Field

[Aerial view algal blooms in South Frontenac County]

Nature's van Gogh

Submitted by: Hayden Wainwright, Student (MSc), Biology

Location of Photo: South Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada

Description of Photo: Algal blooms appear as smears of green slime from the ground, but are beautiful pieces of abstract art from an aerial view, painted by wind and sunlight. My research takes me to lakes on the Canadian Shield affected by blooms, where I photograph them with a drone while assistants help me collect water samples. By uncovering when, where, and why they appear, we hope to restore some of Canada’s most beautiful lakes to their pristine states.

Category: Best Description

[Aerial photograph of the Adelabu Market in Ibadan, Nigeria]

Under the Umbrella

Submitted by: Grace Adeniyi-Ogunyankin, Faculty, Gender Studies; Geography and Planning

Location of Photo: Ibadan, Nigeria

Description of Photo: On a very hot day, I went to the Adelabu Market in Ibadan, Nigeria, to meet Sarah. Several phone calls later, we found each other. She brought me inside a nearly abandoned plaza. “Less noisy,” she said. We climbed up to the highest floor. During the interview, she told me her livelihood as a market woman funded her children’s education. Rain or shine, she is at the market every day, under her umbrella. When we finished the interview, I looked down. What a view! As I snapped a photo, I wondered: “What are the stories of the other people under the umbrellas?”

Category: Art in Action

[Diffusion Spectrum Imaging (DSI) depicting diffusion of water throughout the brain]

The Wiring of the Brain

Submitted by: Donald Brien, Staff, Centre for Neuroscience Studies

Location of Photo: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, MRI Facility, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: An example of Diffusion Spectrum Imaging (DSI) from Queen’s new Prisma Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Some of the most beautiful images generated by MRI are created by imaging the diffusion (movement) of water throughout the brain. From this diffusion, we can generate maps of the neuron connections that are responsible for carrying messages from one area of the brain to another. Seen here, they are coded by direction, such that blue tracts move from foot to head, red tracts move from left to right in the head, and green tracts move from the front to the back of the head.  There are 30,000 tracts displayed in this image. By adulthood, the average person has ~160,000 km total length of these tracts.

Category: Community Collaborations

[A group of researchers collaborating in a space with mobile robots]

Researchers at Offroad Robotics

Submitted by: Heshan Fernando, Student (PhD), Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Location of Photo: Jackson Hall, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: A group of multidisciplinary engineering researchers with expertise in mining and construction applications, mechanical and mechatronics systems, as well as electrical and computer engineering collaborate to develop the next generation of field and mobile robots.

Category: People's Choice

[Researchers and community members travelling on snowmobiles]

Learning from the Land

Submitted by: Sarah Flisikowski, Student (MES), School of Environmental Studies

Location of Photo: Ulukhaktok, Northwest Territories, Canada

Description of Photo: The transmission and documentation of traditional knowledge and skills is of great importance to Inuit, especially considering the continuing social, environmental, and economic changes in the Arctic. I am examining how Inuit traditional knowledge is generated and shared through a case study of an existing project in Ulukhaktok called Nunamin Illihakvia, which means "learning from the land" in Inuinnaqtun. Participants from other Inuvialuit communities were invited to travel to Ulukhaktok in February 2020 to participate in cultural activities that promoted discussion on what a cultural learning program should include. This photo shows our first trip out on Queen's Bay together.


Sponsored by Kingston General Health Research Institute

[Patient care simulation depicting one researcher and one patient]

This is EPIC: Simulation Education with Patient Actors to Improve Care

Submitted by: Monakshi Sawhney, Faculty, School of Nursing

Location of Photo: Education and Research Centre, North York General Hospital, Toronto, Ontario

Description of Photo: Simulation education, using standardized patient actors, is a unique way to provide education in health care settings to practicing clinicians. It is an opportunity to practice assessment skills and critical thinking in a safe environment that mimics the patient care setting. Our team implemented this concept at a hospital in Toronto, with a focus on researching the outcomes of a simulation intervention for nurses who care for patients receiving epidural analgesia for pain management after surgery. This photograph depicts the real-to-life patient care environment that was created for this study.

Graduate Studies Prize

Sponsored by the School of Graduate Studies

[Fish eye lens photograph of Dog Lake]

Shattered Planet

Submitted by: Allen Tian, Student (MSc), Biology

Location of Photo: Milburn Bay, Dog Lake, South Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada

Description of Photo: The impact of human activity on our planet is often difficult to see in the moment, and requires a long-term, overlooking, view. This photo is a drone panorama of my field site on the Rideau Canal System, where I investigate the impact of human activity on aquatic ecosystems, particularly the development of toxic algal blooms. Activities such as fishing, property development and farming have fragmented and altered this ecosystem, and we need a holistic, broader view to piece together how we can protect our delicate, beautiful, world.

Innovation, Knowledge Mobilization, and Entrepreneurship Prize

Sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation

[Photograph of a leg being prepared for dynamic X-ray video]

Propelling Research

Submitted by: Lauren Welte, Student (PhD), Mechanical and Materials Engineering

Location of Photo: Skeletal Observation Laboratory, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: Our feet make contact with the ground millions of times within our lifetime, yet we still do not completely understand how they function. Using dynamic X-ray video, we image foot bones in ways we could only previously imagine.  Recent work has questioned several popular theories about soft tissue function in the arch. Ongoing research aims to understand healthy foot function, to better inform treatments for foot pain. This research has the capacity to propel our understanding of foot function forward.

Health Sciences Prize

Sponsored by the Faculty of Health Sciences

[Microscopic photo of cells within a brain region]

A Glance in the Brain

Submitted by: Natalia de Menezes Lyra e Silva, Post-Doctoral Fellow, Centre for Neuroscience Studies

Location of Photo: Centre for Neuroscience Studies, Queen’s University

Description of Photo: The primate brain is highly specialized, allowing us an incredible range of experiences. This microscopic photo captures cells within a brain region, the hippocampus, involved with learning and memory. Every lived experience that we are able to remember has boosted the formation of new connections in our brains. These connections are affected in diseases that impair memory, such as Alzheimer's disease (AD). Here, we can observe cells involved with the brain inflammatory response. These cells are upregulated in the brains of AD patients. This technique allows us to better understand how our brains work and how they are altered by diseases.


To learn more about this year’s winners and explore past winners and top submissions, visit The Art of Research Photo Gallery on the Research@Queen’s website.

Small businesses must focus on easing employee, customer fears

Small businesses will need to engage the hearts and minds of employees and customers by recognizing that they feel emotions differently than they did before COVID-19.

A Post-It note on glass door announces a business is closed due to COVID-19.
Businesses across Canada are preparing to reopen following lengthy closures due to COVID-19. (Unsplash / Anastasiia Chepinska)

A small business has been given the green light to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What does it need to consider for employees and customers?

The Conversation CanadaSmall business owners are reorganizing physical space to account for continued distancing requirements and rethinking supply chains to deliver products and services in new ways to meet changing demand patterns.

But they must not forget the hearts and minds of employees and customers.

That doesn’t mean replacing a focus on the bottom line, but it helps address the need for a new set of expectations and ways of communicating in terms of product or service offerings, delivery methods and real-time feedback.

Based on our expertise in organizational behaviour and past research we’ve conducted, we provide a set of recommendations to help small businesses thrive in our new COVID-19 economy by looking after the hearts and minds of the people most important to businesses — employees and customers.

Fear, anxiety

One of the biggest outcomes of living amid the COVID pandemic is the fear, anger, sadness and vulnerability many people are feeling. Even very loyal customers may have suddenly short fuses when a favourite product or service is delayed.

Both old and new customers may feel hesitant to enter shops or restaurants, unsure of how to engage with employees safely and afraid of unknowingly getting infected or infecting others.

Employees, although likely relieved to be able to earn a pay cheque, may have similar fears, and wonder how to control potentially unsafe situations or customers who aren’t adhering to social distancing protocols.

Overall, engaging the hearts and mind of both employees and customers means recognizing that they’re probably feeling emotions differently than they were before COVID-19. In particular, they may experience more ambivalence — a mix of emotions that can feel uncomfortable or even alien — as they grapple with discovering, experimenting and understanding what a “new normal” means.

Research shows this kind of emotional complexity can lead to a host of outcomes, including vacillation, disengagement and even paralysis — at least partly explaining why employees and customers may seem like deer in headlights during the first days of a business reopening.

Yet our previous research shows that ambivalence can actually be helpful, increasing people’s problem-solving abilities by opening their thinking to alternative perspectives.

People line up with shopping carts at a grocery store.
People line up with shopping carts at a grocery store. (Unsplash / Adrien Delforge)

Redirecting emotions

That means rather than avoiding ambivalence because it feels uncomfortable, small businesses must help their employees redirect these feelings into brainstorming creative solutions for engaging customers, updating websites and soliciting and incorporating customer feedback.

Doing so will have the added benefit of helping employees and customers feel more in control over the situation — a basic human need that has been drastically reduced during the pandemic.

Coupled with emotional complexity is the loss of beloved everyday rituals, from shaking hands to being able to stand close to help a customer decide on a haircut, new clothes or specific menu items.

As businesses reopen, addressing this loss of tradition and predictability in employees’ and customers’ minds will be crucial.

Our research on the role of rituals in institutional maintenance shows that common rituals bind people together, anchoring our sense of identity and structuring our lives in comfortable and predictable ways.

In short, rituals create the sense of normalcy that is now lost.

But to form new rituals and traditions, businesses must first re-establish trust. When trust is fragile and old rituals must be abandoned to make way for new practices, business leaders need to consider multiple approaches in how to work and interact with employees and customers.

Start a dialogue

The first approach is to engage in dialogue.

Reopening costs do not solely pertain to sanitizing workplaces and providing personal protection equipment, but also to the amount of time it takes to discuss and address concerns.

Important questions to employees and customers include:

  • What are your concerns about being here? What can we do to make things safer?

  • What do I need to know about you that could help me work with and serve you better?

Companies should use this feedback to create new rituals and workplace norms together with employees and customers.

Customization, in fact, will be increasingly important as both employees and customers have unique needs and circumstances.

According to local small business owner Lisa Arbo of Salon 296 in Kingston, Ont.: “A large part of success going forward will be about being sensitive to everyone’s reality.” This type of empathetic co-creation is likely to reduce uncertainty and give everyone a healthier sense of emotional and physical comfort and control.

A woman with a facemask, and riding a bike, looks out over a bridge.
Managing perceptions will be an important step for small business owners as they restart operations. (Unsplash / Thomas De Luz)

Manage perceptions

The second approach is to manage perceptions. Small business owners are the custodians of the trusted relationships between their companies, employees and customers.

Even as business owners adapt to this new, emotionally complex and less predictable world, their employees and customers are looking for them to communicate clearly, succinctly and often about what is both possible and not possible, and what the new expectations are at all levels of the social contract. That includes everything from physical distancing rules to standards for customer satisfaction.

By recognizing and finding ways to incorporate employees’ and customers’ emotional complexity and sense of loss for beloved traditions, small businesses can actually make this challenging time an unexpected opportunity to thrive.

Uncertainty, change and customization are key elements of the new business reality and embracing them, while difficult, will yield success. Businesses that excel will be the ones that effectively learn to engage the hearts and minds of their employees and customers.

_______________________________________________________________________The Conversation

M. Tina Dacin, Stephen J.R. Smith Chaired Professor of Strategy & Organizational Behavior, Queen's University, and Laura Rees, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Queen's University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


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