As we face new challenges in the workplace and the world in general, it seems that working from home and remote workforces will become an increasingly common practice. Employees and employers alike will be feeling the strain to balance priorities and maintain ‘business as usual’ structures. Communication tools and software are imperative for ensuring connectivity. If implemented alone, without strategy and an understanding of how your team engage in their work, they can feel like tools to monitor and observe employees.

Here we will look at how even just a basic understanding of motivation can help you to ensure your employees or your team, whatever their profile or drives, stay engaged and motivated whilst working from home – now and in the future.

The RAMP model is based on Self Determination Theory and stands for Relatedness, Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose. Relatedness taps into our innate desire to be connected to others, Autonomy, the need to have choice and freedom. Mastery is a need to improve, feel progress and achievement. Finally, Purpose can be described as the “reason” we do things.

All of these can hold the key to make working from home feel as productive or satisfying as working in an office.

Relatedness

This is one of the most important aspects that can be lost when working from home. In the office you always have people around to talk to, bounce ideas off and even just share a lunch break with. Working from home can be calming for some, isolating for others – and in times of uncertainty it is important to find ways to stay connected, not micromanaged.

  • Tools
    When working from home, it can be very isolating if no effort is made to engage with others. Most companies have tools that will enable this one way or another, Microsoft Teams, Skype, Slack and so on. Don’t bombard each other, but find reasons to send a positive message or email, and make sure there are meetings held on conference call, video call or even the good old-fashioned phone. Give your people a voice, literally!
  • Conversation & Collaboration
    When working from home for extended periods, make sure your employees are using those tools in a way similar to how they would talk to people in the office. Just because it is text based, doesn’t mean it can’t be just as valuable. If they are not using the tools, why not ask questions, send thoughts, share an anectdote. It is all part of keeping motivated and reminding you that there are others out there with you.

Autonomy

With remote work, it is important to accept that employees will naturally have more freedom and inevitably less structure than they may have in the office. If they are working from home to balance family life or health needs or extenuating circumstances with work commitments, flexibility is important. Flexibility doesn’t mean employees going MIA – which is a message for both employees and their managers. Don’t tie your employees to their desktops and phones out of fear. Connect with them and empower them to continue contributing and they will feel all the better (and perform more) for it.

  • Trust
    There may be a temptation to check in with employees more often than you might normally. This reduces their feeling of agency and autonomy. In turn, this makes them feel less trusted.
  • Accountability
    Whilst autonomy is great, employees need to be disciplined and take accountability for the work that has been set, or for finding work to be done.
  • Job Done vs Time Done
    Accept that employees will use their time working remotely differently to when they are in the office, breaking the concept of 9-5. Focus on rewarding and celebrating people getting work done, rather than whether they were online at 09:01. It can be hard, especially with current stresses, for people to be mentally present and motivated during strict time frames. Maintain ambitious project ideas, stick to deadlines, and celebrate when the job is done.

Mastery

This may be a little less obvious at first. If you are suddenly now part of a remote team, you might be feeling like your career progression has gone on hold, or maybe you’re struggling to keep up with your company’s e-learning system with other things on your mind. How can people develop their skills or experience when there is no one there to see them do it? Particularly if you’re from a more traditional working environment, working from home can end up feeling like you’re just sitting around. Mastery is about more than ticking boxes. Mastery is about achievement, and there are many ways for you to feel you are continuing to accomplish things professionally in a less conventional setting.

  • Goals
    Make sure that everyone has clear goals and that progress towards them can be tracked (for the employee’s benefit more than yours). It is essential that goals are achievable, and progress is recognised. If this is proving complicated in the beginning, break them down into smaller goals to build momentum.
  • Feedback
    Provide constructive feedback as regularly as makes sense for each employee. Whilst working remotely, it can be very hard to feel that you are succeeding or achieving anything, or to know what other people are doing around you.
  • Self-Guided Learning
    Help your team feel able to use their time to expand their skills with online and virtual learning/training courses. This will go towards them feeling trusted to manage their time, as well as providing some structure and even some inspiration for their day to day work.

Purpose

There are two versions of purpose that are important here. Firstly, finding some sort of value and meaning to the work you are doing – a reason why you are doing it. Organisations and employers play a huge role in this by helping to remind employees why the work they do is important, and emphasising that they are all part of a collective, collaborative group rather than remote satellites. The other aspect is philanthropic purpose, helping others. As mentioned before remote working, especially if somewhat involuntary, can be isolating for your team members. It is vital for team morale and motivation to keep up the human aspect of work rather than only pinging people for a favour or work related question.

  • Purpose and Value
    The more disconnected you are from an organisation, the easier it is to forget the importance of what you’re doing. It is essential that you keep up communications with your team so that you all don’t lose sight of your common goals and purpose. Also companies should be encouraged to continue sharing communications and updates to remove the sense of people working for or towards something invisible.
  • Helping Others
    The other type of purpose, that of helping others. Just because you can’t do a coffee round as you would in the office, doesn’t mean you can’t still help others in some way remotely. Make yourself available and remember that everyone is in the same boat!

The Retail Apocalypse refers to a stream of brick-and-mortar retail store closures originally across North America. According to Coresight Research, US retailers reported over 9,000 store closures in 2019, which in comparison to the 4,500 opening in the same period, felt like a startling figure. PWC then reported a similar situation in the UK, with 2,868 store closures in the first half of 2019 alone, marking to many the beginning of the end of the once essential high street.

In the UK there has always been historical affection for “high street brands”, so the growing closures are understandably provoking much debate around what is causing the Retail Apocalypse and to what extent it will continue into the new decade. Can traditional stores be saved, and what hope is there for brands who once heavily relied on loyal instore footfall? Again, it is something highlighted by PWC’s report, where they identify the potential that exists for retailers to restructure and account for the demands and expectations of modern customers. Some retailers are already making this leap, trying to engage consumers with more personalised, multi-channel customer experiences. With these offerings, they are edging towards the dynamics behind Retail 4.0.

So what does Retail 4.0 look like? 

It can be described as the provision of an integrated omnichannel experience. But it can entail much more.

It involves retailers moving to a truly integrated IT ecosystem that provides a continuous view of not only inventory, but each consumer and their behaviour across channels too. With mobile phone dependency soaring, it’s important to ensure ease of use and consistency between online and offline experiences. It means more innovation than simply providing a mobile app – Retail 4.0 strategy empowers the consumer.

Does your brand ensure a seamless way of placing orders online, via app or webpage, with in-store pick up? Does your brand make it easy to accurately check stock on the app for a particular location, and use that location to find your way to the store and buy the desired items? Retail 4.0 gives customers no reason to be turned off by the journey from browsing to basket to purchase. It should look like differentiated, meaningful experiences across all channels that sustain the consumer’s own personal preferences when shopping.

Stand out from the crowd

Afterall, the modern consumer is used to (and arguably tired of) brands vying for attention. We all remember the avalanche of emails from brands during the GDPR rush, many of them leaving us questioning when we last got value back from our relationship with any brand. Or even just a positive customer experience.

For today’s connected world it is imperative consumers hand over their personal data for one reason or another. So, it becomes more important than ever to demonstrate the value and personalisation they’d receive in exchange via your brand. If customers provide their information and you can see their habits, make sure you prove that you see them as an individual – beyond just targeting. Personalise communication with them, respond to their behaviours and history, highlight offers more likely to interest them, or partner with organisations that speak to their and your core values. The Retail Apocalypse has arguably stemmed from physical stores not being able to respond well enough to growing consumer needs, and brands not being able to keep up with innovative, engaging experiences at every touchpoint. These next steps towards recovery are vital for reviving consumer interest.

Recapturing attention and affection

Retail 4.0 is ultimately about placing the consumer at the centre of business operations so brands can respond accordingly to real-time trends and demands, resulting in exceptional and engaging experiences when executed correctly. Consider IKEA where through augmented reality (AR), app users can see what a life size item would look like in their home. It’s a great example of how retailers can harness the power of emerging technologies to create relevant, meaningful experiences for their customers – rather than implementing a gimmick for the sake of it. Apple stores are launching displays that invite shoppers to learn more about iPhones by scanning the devices with their own phone. They can then see the advantages or functionality of the different hardware or software – so you can personally interact as a consumer and find something that suits you. It speaks to the inquisitive side of consumers and works towards winning round hearts and minds.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to watch these trends develop. How will retailers leverage different in-store experiences as part of a multi-channel strategy? What advancements in the use of emerging technologies will we see, particularly as they become more easily attainable? It begs the question; will the traditional high street revive and make it to Retail 5.0?