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The last few months have opened the public’s eyes to vulnerabilities in the care system more than ever before. Groups and communities have been isolated, while those trying to protect them have had increased pressure and responsibility, with little or no enhanced approaches to help. There is a real need to rebuild care and connection, utilising the tools and innovation we often apply to other sectors of society.

What should the next generation of care look like? Where could we go from here for cross-collaboration between communities and areas of expertise? Can similar approaches and an understanding of users be applied in a preventative way? And how can we innovatively introduce technology in everyday interactions to improve quality of life?

In our virtual lecture with Newcastle University Open Lab, the team walk through a solution focussed on streamlining and reimagining working processes with compassion. We examine the development journey, through the lens of a real care shift, as an example of how technology, UX design, and empathy can come together to create insightful tools that empower users and promote quality care.

The first step of many towards addressing the structural, resourcing, societal and emotive challenges at the heart of an aging population. 

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Approaches to learning and development (L&D) are constantly evolving in keeping with evolving tools and expectations. Although before the events of this year, educators and knowledge professionals arguably, at least felt more able to control, influence and grow with the changes. 94% of L&D professionals have recently reported they have had to change their L&D strategy in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and another 59% thought their organisation’s adoption of digital learning was immature given the developments. L&D have had some advantages in their court for a while; technological tools and platforms opened up doors for sharing information immediately and internationally, for creating more dynamic materials, and for creating different paths for learners to follow that suit their own personal approaches and needs.

But L&D spans a huge area and depending on your focus you’ll no doubt be facing a myriad of different yet equally complex challenges today. Perhaps the biggest shared one though, being how to engage your audience. An audience who you now predominantly have to access via a screen. The pressure is on to keep materials relevant and interesting yet easy to digest, that learners can take away with them and apply in their everyday lives once they shut their laptops.

For a while, people responsible for L&D have needed to get even more creative in how they reach their audiences, who are becoming even more overwhelmed, distracted, and unfulfilled in their relationship with learning. Gen Z smartphone users unlock their devices on average 79 times a day. Office workers are interrupted every 11 minutes. Only 26% of employees strongly agree they learn or do something interesting each day. But, actually, it would be wrong to regard these as hinderances to the learning process. Gen Z may be untethered and online, but they are also an incredibly passionate and aware generation. Office workers may be short on time, but bite sized learning is proven to lead to 20% better knowledge retention. The circumstances of the last few months, although initially a shock, could now be the call to action for schools, organisations, and companies to enhance their offering – whether for the remote student, remote employee or apprentice – in order to appeal to what the modern learner is looking to attain from the experience. We are all looking at opportunities to react in order to pull audiences back in, nurture commitment to courses, and improve learning transfer rates.

Join us over the next few weeks as we take a closer look at the current state of education, learning and development, understanding recent experiences and assessing new approaches across 3 distinct areas: classroom based learning, higher education, and workplace development.

 

 

The Future of Work has been a hot topic for a number of years. Emerging technologies, emerging generations of employees, changing values and routines have all influenced futurist’s predictions for how the world of work will look come 2025, 2030, or 2050. Then, the circumstances of the last few months have brought a whole new set of possibilities and implications. All sectors face challenges as they respond and recover from the consequences of COVID-19. The future, let alone the future of work or the workplace, is now perhaps feeling a little undefined. It is not the first time, however, that an unforeseen force has shifted the course of economic development. The very essence of looking to the future is that it will always feel somewhat unknown, unpredictable. A leap into new challenges, hurdles, and opportunities.

In some ways, Employee Engagement is an equally undefined topic for many. It means different things, to different people, but we define it as the resulting outcome from an emotional or psychological attachment between employees, their work and their organisation. Crucially to the definition, this relationship is genuinely reciprocal – employees commit and contribute, organisations support and enable their employees. There are various ideas that suggest how Employee Engagement will be nurtured in the future. Often, they focus on an organisation’s offering or benefits; flexible working policies, limitless holidays, personal coaching, wellness, the list could go on.
All are valid and worth consideration, but we would argue that Engagement of the future will need to be:

  • Technology Driven: technology today can provide limitless possibilities for reaching and engaging broad, varied audiences
  • Employee-centric: empowering employees to want to perform to the best of their abilities as it makes them feel good, and fuels business success
  • Meaningful: new software alone won’t cut it in an age of constant change, distraction, innovation and for a workforce with evolving needs and expectations. Real engagement comes from personalised, relevant and science-based approaches.

In the present, businesses are revaluating strategies, priorities and objectives in the face of an immediate uncertainty. One remedy to navigate these times and prepare for the future are solutions and approaches that encourage people to go the extra mile, achieve greater productivity, develops brand ambassadors, and deliver even better customer experiences. And that requires genuine, sustainable engagement to bring out the best in your people and business.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

Before COVID-19 there were concerns around the rise of automation, echoing every significant jump in technology’s capabilities since the Industrial Revolution. And we may arguably always have that love-hate relationship with technology. The same addiction to our mobile devices, is what has helped us stay in touch with our loved ones during lockdown. The flexibility and immediacy of our digital tools and software is what has meant collaboration and communication haven’t suffered too much while remote working was enforced. For many it hasn’t been that simple of course, but the point is that technology is an enabler, it helps empower our individual creativity, curiosity and contribution.

But it is just that – a vehicle, a channel, a platform, for us to work upon and improve. If we look back on the last 100 years, what we have learnt is that behind every new technology or engineering break through are the humans driving that change. We may have been ‘afraid’ of automation or AI (or maybe better said, the change they would bring to jobs and markets) and how they would come to replace people, but we must remember that these developments are for us to adopt and apply in a way that enhances the world around us. We will still need the innovators, the operators, the fixers and creatives to support, maintain, understand, and optimise whatever the latest trend is. Technology isn’t the sole solution nor is it the end of the journey. It is what we can utilise to address everyday problems – and to create solutions to human problems, you cannot remove the human element.

Understand People, Unleash Potential

Future of Work predictions often talk about how people will be doing their work (e.g. conference calls via VR headset) or where (from the beach), but we would argue that why they will work is equally important.

Gallup report (State of the Global Workforce, 2017)

According to the Gallup report (State of the Global Workforce, 2017), two thirds of the global workforces (67%) are not engaged at work, which means they are putting in time but little discretionary effort. Why does this matter? That lack of engagement (employee has turned up but is tuned out) results in a significant productivity gap that is estimated to be worth billions of pounds.

How often do organisations claim that their people are their biggest asset? Businesses must learn to understand, empathise and respond to employee needs and drives if they want to close that costly productivity gap. Companies with high empathy scores generate 50% more earnings, and over 70% of employees would consider leaving their current company if it displayed less empathy. Each generation that reaches the workforce (and simultaneously the marketplace as consumers) arrives with its own expectations and values, formed by its experiences and the experiences of the previous generation. New generations and needs do not translate as people wanting it all, and not wanting to work. When revaluating priorities, people are looking to organise their life in a way that enables them to work to their best abilities, enjoy time with their family and friends to the best of their abilities, stay healthy to the best of their abilities and so on. Organisations need to understand what employees need from work, identify and explain what they as a business need to achieve for success, and make the subsequent experiences manageable, efficient and memorable to encourage commitment, participation, productivity for more profitability. Here, businesses have a prime opportunity to provide solutions that enable the fulfilment of their people, and that tap into and support their needs and motivations, to unlock that engagement gap.

Empathise, Enable, Engage

So what does the road to the Future of Work, Future of Engagement actually look like? How do we get there? As we’ve discussed, it won’t necessarily lead to everyone working from home, or everyone’s job being replaced by AI, but technology can have a powerful role to play in providing a platform for change.

Engaging Experiences: A lot of the time organisations know they want to enhance Employee Engagement in their workplace, but don’t know how or where to begin. Often the bigger picture can be improved by identifying themes or smaller areas to impact through change. Tools that help break down tasks and reward for each goal achieved seem simple but actually go a long way towards building up self-esteem and highlighting the value of an employee’s role. Applications that identify daily goals, recognise achievements, energise participants throughout, can show how on an individual scale and as part of a team they contribute towards driving the organisation towards its goals.

For example, immersive, ongoing experiences that require teamwork or reinforce and embed corporate values can help bring intangible aspirations to life for all to relate to and work towards representing. Employees can learn to identify desired behaviours and identify how they can embody them in their daily tasks or interactions.

RAMP: Intrinsic motivation (a drive from within, rather than external rewards) is where genuine, sustainable engagement comes from. Businesses need to better understand what motivates their people, and respond accordingly, with processes and approaches that apply this insight. The RAMP model is based on Self Determination Theory, and is what we often follow to look at challenges through different lenses, and to empathise with different user groups. RAMP 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. Purpose can be described as the “reason” we do things. The changes and enhancements you make to processes, practices and culture, flow and contribute towards boosting employee motivation across these areas, as seen in the diagram above.

For example, consider the challenges around “returning to the office” post Covid-19. Ideation platforms can help employees voice solutions themselves and help them feel their concerns are considered. Onboarding systems with virtual tours of updated office or workspace that employees can interact with can begin re-introducing employees remotely, removing the element of “surprise” or confusion ahead of arriving, meaning people will feel equipped and ready for what they’ll be walking into. Both can be practices for the future, not just COVID-19.

Where do we go now?

Looking back again at the recent effects of COVID-19, the number one thing people have missed during different stages of isolation and lockdown is human interaction. This alone suggests we won’t be moving to a tech bubble. Remote employees have commented on how they’ve missed the spontaneous collaborative moments that come from being in the office, or the socialisation aspects that are hard to replicate purely on Zoom or Teams. Even though many have proven how remote working works, the workplace of the future will still include social and in person elements.

The one thing that will be consistent is that people will still be a major part of it, regardless of the economic landscape or advances in technology. The Future of Work may still be unwritten, but one certainty is that people will still be at the heart of it. People are not replaceable, and AI alone cannot power a business. The motivation, collaboration and creativity of people will. If people are organisations biggest asset, we need to ensure that they are made to feel like that if companies want to emerge from these uncertain times in a much stronger position.

Building Tools, Tasks, Teams and Trust

For many of us, recent events have challenged our concept of collaboration, connectivity and life in general. Remote teams have been forced to juggle integrating work and personal needs, while organisations have had to respond to a chain of complicated business conditions and challenges. The future seems to offer no clarity. A key question on the minds of employers now is how can they continue to keep a workforce engaged in times of such uncertainty. Any organisation’s greatest asset, engaged employees feel empowered and inspired to perform to the best of their abilities, deliver excellent customer experiences and achieve organisational goals.

At a time when many organisations are having to quickly re-evaluate strategies, resources and culture as well as develop new policies and approaches; there is an opportunity to creatively enable employee engagement.

Our latest webinar explores how we can build participation, motivation and commitment in a workforce with evolving perspectives, needs and values. The team look at how elements of game thinking and motivational theory can be used to maintain and increase engagement, and how this can then be embedded in HR best practices in order to make a real difference in the workplace when people may feel disconnected, disrupted, unfulfilled, and uncertain of the future.

 

A fresh chance to Go Green?

 

Over these past few months, we have all had time to think and reflect on the way we live our lives. Covid-19 has led to the realisation that globalisation has its consequences, and the way the pandemic has forced many of us to pause our routines has brought some issues into focus. “Essential” has a new meaning; be that an essential worker or an essential item. All those habits we thought were impossible to change or superficial needs we fulfilled all too easily have been adapted or completely turned on their heads. With all the extra time, people have taken up hobbies and crafts that enable sustainability or resourcefulness – DIY around the house, upcycling furniture or clothing, sewing masks, growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables. While we are ready to embrace a return to normality, whatever that may look like now, how much of what we have learned or adopted from the past few months will stay with us? Are we at a turning point for attitudes and values across society?

Throughout the different stages of the pandemic businesses across the world have also had to revaluate the way they operate, many requiring significant changes. Now that many of us are gradually returning to offices, organisations are having to redesign company policies, practises, and approaches. In some circumstances, entire offices themselves. If office life and employee well-being are undergoing review and evolving, it feels like an ideal opportunity to turn the page and maybe start afresh in other areas too.

We have seen social media relishing news of reduced emissions, the reappearance of wildlife in urban areas and showing off newfound resourceful hobbies, so could businesses now treat this as a much-needed nudge? The support is there for companies to take on the opportunity to integrate more sustainable practices into corporate culture and drive much needed collaboration, participation, and commitment towards a better environment, on an individual level and as a community.

Employers often implement staff wellbeing schemes, operational process improvements and other forms of workplace development to enhance health and safety. Why not also take an opportunity to review the environmental impact of their organisations and their sustainable footprint? Why not set yourself a corporate sustainability challenge? From small daily actions to broader company-wide schemes, we can all help to reduce the current environmental impact and work together for a greener and healthier future.

Getting started: Commitment, Motivation, and Productivity

One of the biggest psychological hurdles companies find themselves struggling to overcome is the concept that they are detached from environmental issues. Executive leadership teams often feel recycling efforts do not exactly concern them; it feels like a giant effort and they have little to gain especially when it is behind closed doors. Recycling or sustainable living is either a trendy statement to make, or something for after working hours. However, there are significant benefits to be found when committed to correctly – supporting and developing a better connection with local communities, motivating your employees towards a common cause and boosting morale, providing opportunities to reduce costs, and improving brand image and reputation.

Ideally, to move towards this ‘fresh start’ companies should move from good commitments to excellent, embedded behaviours as can be seen in the diagram below. We want to move away from environmental commitment being a chore to genuine, altered ECO behaviours. But how do we get from good to excellent? Commitment, motivation, productivity.

Moving the dial on behaviour change

Getting People Behind the Movement 

Becoming a proactive eco-friendly company will benefit overall business productivity by improving employee morale, satisfaction, and comfort, as well as their capacity to process knowledge and information. Research reveals that businesses can benefit from a 50% reduction in employee turnover when employees are engaged in corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. The Deloitte Millennial Survey from 2019 shows how it can also aid attracting and recruiting talent from emerging generations, who “show deeper loyalty to employers who boldly tackle the issues that resonate with them the most, such as protecting the environment,” alongside their number one concern being climate change and protecting the environment. Additionally, sustainable practices have been shown to create a positive impact on the actual working environment itself. Biophilic design is a great example of this. Improved natural lighting, use of natural materials, acoustic comfort and optimisation of spaces with a human focus are amongst different elements of this. These types of adjustments have been shown to result in productivity increases of 8%, 13% increase in levels of wellbeing, heightened creativity, and reduced absenteeism.

Educating staff on the ‘whys’ and ‘how’s’ of being sustainable and the importance of protecting the environment should be a fun and engaging activity and become a core value of a business. Ultimately, it is individual employee actions that will add up to change. Employees are often named “a business’ greatest asset”; in any scenario where employees are depended on to deliver and embody behaviours, whether delivering excellent customer service or driving a business towards its objectives, it is vital they are engaged and committed to what they are doing. It is important to move away from the idea of it being an extra task for them to fulfil as well as their actual role. To genuinely engage the individuals and teams within the organisation, it is important to remember that not one size fits all. Different people are motivated by different things, and this needs to be considered when thinking about how you can improve behaviours in your workplace.

However you personalise it, an eco-friendly focussed solution could take into account your employees’ motivations and profiles, would work towards getting everyone on board, supporting your company’s commitment to going green, and can improve organisational results and progress towards making an impact.

Firstly, environmental awareness and activism are arguably no longer a ‘fringe’ issue. Companies should strive to do better and go beyond the age-old office posters reminding employees to put empty cans in the recycling bin. But how?

  1. Create a sense of belonging: The sense of belonging and being connected to other people is very underrated. When you feel that you are part of something and create relationships, that is much stronger than any extrinsic reward, like a badge or a free coffee for every pro-eco action executed. Encourage employees to work together towards goals as it will help people feel less ‘on the spot’ to begin with, and it will also go towards reinforcing a sense of collaborating as a community for a better shared environment. Begin with an open ideation phase, in a space where everyone feels invited, involved and comfortable discussing opinions and targets. Utilise communication tools to share round updates on team progress or newsletters that provide insight on office efficiency as well as advice and nudges.
  2. Recognise the individual: Team spirit is hugely positive for driving participation and results, but individuals also need to feel in control of their own behaviours and goals. Getting everyone involved means taking different needs into account, in order to create solutions and objectives everyone will want to adopt. Some people might prefer to be told more information about recycling, others may prefer utilising office QR codes that they can scan with their smartphones on their own accord to receive more information about recycling and the company’s different initiatives, ask questions in an interactive FAQ, or vote for office based sustainable initiatives such as what causes should they support or what the weekly sustainable focus should be. Allow space for people to contribute in a way they feel able to. For example, you cannot expect everyone to stop coming to work by car, as it simply will not be feasible for everyone. Instead look at allowing for individual success within any strategy as well. Give alternatives and options for people to work towards, such as recycling, bringing in their own mugs and reusable water bottles. If empowered, people will see it less as a burden or chore and more a conscious decision they are able and willing to take responsibility for. Being able to take direct action that will result in real change plays a major part in helping people feel self-determined.
  3. Create a sense of purpose: The advantage of integrating eco-friendly objectives into the workplace is that they already have a strong sense of purpose behind them. There is a global awareness, a breadth of materials and education available, plenty of activism to draw inspiration from and reinforce the sense of purpose – improving the environment for all our collective and individual benefit. We have already mentioned how sustainability is often split into two groups – those who are already fully committed and driven towards change, and those who know they could do more but maybe feel it is out of their reach. Sustainability has the benefit of a prominent, powerful, all-encompassing objective behind it – create a better world for us all and future generations. Don’t focus on solutions that just draw attention to the issue, focus on drawing attention and correlation to people’s simple contributions. For example, this week in the office we correctly recycled 1kg of plastic bottles and cups which are a major contributor to litter in local ponds and rivers. Last year 100 ducklings got stuck inside plastic bottles – thanks to your work recycling, this number will be less this year!
  4. Recognise progress: When employees get a glimpse of what eco-friendly actions can achieve, on a personal and collective level, this motivates them to develop more ideas and shift attitudes. Over time this will result in successful social and environmental benefits, together with economic returns for the company if their sustainable strategy becomes an effective reality. Quite simply, people feel good when other people see and acknowledge their hard work. Promoting innovative initiatives that have come from employees is a great step towards improving how you recognise positive behaviours and measure the journey you’ve taken so far towards a positive future. To encourage these behaviours to continue in the long term, progress should be recognised and, in some cases, rewarded. This does not necessarily mean a pay rise for the person who recycles the most plastic in the office. It could be a workplace incentivisation scheme where employees receive points redeemable for votes towards charitable causes, following the example of supermarket token schemes. . Or it could be a technology-based solution that recognises individual contributions towards a more sustainable workplace, tracks individual and team actions and progress, collects ideas and suggestions on future improvements, and integrates game design to drive more collective involvement and engagement.

 

Eco-Marketing

Sustainable and meaningful marketing is extremely important for a business as part of their objective to deliver the overarching message to consumers and clients, reinforcing their commitment with actions and words. As things currently stand, many sustainable marketing schemes involve substantial financial investment, however in the long-term companies can see a greater return on said investment, saving on costs as well as improving office efficiency overall.  For instance, installing solar panels in your office can significantly reduce your taxes by more than 30% of the installation cost and would cut your energy bills in half. However, the key advantage to eco-marketing is the impact on brand image, and the connection you make with people by directly addressing what they tend to seek nowadays: environmental and ethical solutions.  Ikea is often a great example in this space, by innovating the products they provide while also matching with public gesture, such as their anti-plastic initiative where they launched two large boats into the River Thames to clean up and remove any plastic waste. The plastic collected was then used to build a sculpture later displayed at their Greenwich sustainable store.

“The recent UN Climate Action Summit and simultaneous Global Climate Strikes, found that the importance and perception of sustainability among consumers is increasing. The research confirmed 37% of consumers are seeking out and willing to pay up to 5% more for environmentally friendly products and are actively changing their shopping behaviour to do so” – Environment and Energy Leader, 2019

When finding your feet in eco-marketing, all it takes is to just start by stepping back from tried and tested traditional methods and asking the question ‘is this sustainable’? If for instance, we use the example of a conference or fair, many businesses will use this opportunity to give out free products to visitors as part of engaging in the social-networking experience and selling the company’s vision. However, as generational values and priorities evolve and individuals become even more aware of the current ‘sustainability challenge’, it is important to ensure that the products being offered are in line with eco-friendliness. Shifting from promoting a branded plastic bottle to an aluminium bottle would be a great simple change and make an impressive contribution towards reducing waste and unsustainable products. For example, the cosmetics company “Lush use small black plastic pots as packaging which, once used, can be returned to the shop as part of their in-house closed loop recycling scheme. In exchange they give clients a free mask for every empty pot they return. This initiative creates a direct contact between the customers and the businesses’ environmental values, plus both parties are contributing to reduce plastic landfill waste.

A key element in enhancing the sustainability of a company’s marketing is through experiences rather than an item. Instead of producing informational leaflets and forms a good alternative would be to set up scannable QR codes that could invite people to a portal where they can interact with your company. Or an app where you can collect points based on eco-friendly shopping habits and receive information about sustainability and recycling – a great valuable and memorable experience that will more likely engage customers and make them brand ambassadors.

 A third of consumers (33%) are now choosing to buy from brands they believe are doing social or environmental good. – ​Unilever International Study 2016.

It is becoming easier and actually more imperative for companies to use sustainability as a way of engaging with their customers. By working with dynamic marketing skills, you can attract the large numbers of people already invested in making a change, increase awareness within your existing customer base, leading to a completely fresh way to interact and communicate across your outreach schemes. Let your customers and clients know what you are doing, through social media and newsletters and they will come to see your communications as helpful and valuable, rather than exhausting or pestering. Concepts such as eco-friendly product giveaways, waste pick-up collection weekends or online sustainability courses could really make a difference. Make the most of modern technology and also be open to customer input on what they believe is important or their main interests. This could be done on social platforms by including a survey – an interactive, engaging, and relevant way of getting a customer’s attention and commitment.

Acknowledging sustainable behaviours and becoming an eco-friendly business will bring rewards and results. Engaging with sustainable marketing and customer experience will be the ripple effect to boosting a company’s morale, productivity, efficiency and overall client and employee satisfaction. Furthermore, introducing new sustainable measures in the workplace could be the catalyst that helps encourage actions to go beyond the office and into everyone’s homes and social circles, expanding “green” mindsets and creating positive, sustainable habits.  We often talk about wanting to be the change in the world, but there is no reason we should feel the pressure of doing it alone. By designing exciting solutions that will support companies or communities in getting started, once hearts and minds are won over, the rest will then quickly follow and crucially, be maintained. It all comes down to improving understanding to break down the myth that it will be more complicated than current approaches, and developing easy, achievable habits with alternative initiatives and behaviours. As we all look to making new starts and return to normality, we should bring with us and grasp onto opportunities to collaboratively work towards a better, greener future, as individuals, as communities, and as organisations.

 


This post was researched and prepared by Patricia Wiggett Canalda, University of Manchester, during her work experience with Motivait 

 

Events of late created a “forced trial” of remote working for many companies, shifting the way we all think about collaboration and teamwork. In this webinar we look at how motivational theory can be used to maintain and increase engagement across businesses during such unprecedented times, where people feel disconnected, disrupted, unfulfilled, and uncertain of the future.

Tech solutions are not enough, especially in isolation. They need to have people’s needs at their core. In the session below we explored how understanding this can improve communication, productivity and overall engagement across teams and businesses.

For more background reading on the subject, check out our post on remote work and RAMP

 

 

The demand for remote working keeps growing, with technology enabling employees to balance personal life with their commitment to work. How can companies be preparing to meet expectations and adapt to a more remote workforce?
Check out the stats below or download your own copy of the infographic.

Developing an online professional development plan can enable employees of all profiles and situations. And the key to successful and sustained growth lies in Behavioural Science. 

 

The traditional workplace has changed dramatically in the last decade, and seems to be on a path towards even more change. Flexible hours have replaced 9 to 5. Virtual learning is overtaking the two-day training course. Remote teams are on the rise. There is evidence everywhere of businesses investing to keep up with the expectations of the modern employee – greener, brighter, stimulating office spaces or vast e-learning platforms being two common examples. But what about updating internal processes to match with the new practices? Consider remote workers and their professional development. For many years, companies have established professional development plans for employees, but these approaches are almost never tailored to the needs of remote employees. Too often people fall into the trap of ‘out of sight, out of mind’, or they focus efforts entirely on ensuring productivity rather than considering the growth of individuals.

If one were to update the design of these programmes, with remote workers or freelancers or any of the emerging employee profiles in mind, it becomes highly valuable to incorporate approaches founded in Behavioural Sciences to better understand the person at the centre of the plan.

Behavioural Science is the empirical study of human behaviour. It emphasises how people are different and hence need to be understood differently, how context matters, and guides us towards adopting new positive behaviours. It can tell us what works and what doesn’t and can help us design solutions that generate a desired change.

Behavioural Science has also experienced radical transformation in recent years in its application and delivery. Through technology, we can now obtain a lot more information and understanding about individual characteristics, habits, motivations, drives (or behavioural phenotype) and subsequently optimise interventions. Behavioural design then translates the findings of the behavioural studies into effective products and services.

So, how to apply this theory to the scenario of online professional development plans, designed with remote workers in mind? Let’s take a look.

  1. Personalised Planning

Any broad or widely applicable plan has to offer options and choice to employees. Options allow individual employees to feel a sense of ownership or personalisation with their experience.  Furthermore, allowing free choice when goal setting will increase their drive and intrinsic motivation towards the end objective.

The theory indicates that goals should be accomplished through various actions, rather than only applying one rigid path to achieve a positive result. To begin with, it can be as simple as setting a goal like “improving skills related to my role” for an online professional development plan.

The idea is to not define achievement purely through office-based actions, instead to allow more self-determination and for employees to prove their progress in ways within their control. This way, they will feel like goals are within their reach.

Simultaneously, some parameters need to be set for the employee’s benefit as well. The plan should be clear and supported by sufficient detail so that the employee quickly understands how to perform the necessary actions or behaviours in order to achieve the objective they’ve set. Behavioural Science theory explains that specifying the frequency, duration, intensity and context of an action makes it easier to achieve or replicate. For example, for the goal “improving skills related to my role,” an associated behaviour would be to take a 40-hour expert course. This behaviour in turn can be divided into smaller actions to make it easier to complete. So you can take what seems like a vague objective of proving you have improved your skillset, and break it down into tangible, provable actions like each working day between 3pm and 5pm for 4 weeks accessing your online development plan and completing different modules of your chosen expert course.

Within the plan, one can even apply gamified elements to reinforce commitment – such as including a button or box that will give employees a sense of accomplishment when they finally press or tick it. It sounds simple but can be highly effective. Research states that an explicit commitment (I want to tick off things on my list) increases the likelihood that users will complete their goal.

Behavioural Science, because of the name, can sound daunting when all you feel you need is a quick fix or an easy win

  1. Clear instructions & Multiple resources at your fingertips

As already mentioned, clear instructions or ticking boxes help to keep people on track. Especially when working remotely, as it enables employees to work through tasks and actions autonomously, knowing what they need to be getting on with.

Across professional development plans, previous studies have identified how employees frequently prefer to receive practical support from the company. This is when the company provides them with the resources and content required to carry out the actions necessary to achieve the objective they’ve chosen.

However, it’s important that companies strike the balance between providing information and resources, without oversaturating employees. Users of vast online courses often remark that they don’t know where to begin when there is so much information available to them. Rather than huge amounts of information, it’s more valuable to provide clear pathways employees can follow, especially for those sat in front of their desktops remotely.

  1. Social support

As well as having materials at their fingertips, being able to count on mentors or online advisors also makes it easier for employees to effectively and efficiently achieve their goal. Knowing they have a designated ‘someone’ they can turn to with questions regarding their progression helps employees feel comfortable within their plan. This is particularly useful for remote workers who are not able to simply turn around and ask a question to a colleague.

Employees also value the support of their teammates and co-workers during their development. Research supports the inclusion of virtual social areas for remote employees and their effectiveness for reinforcing recognition and feedback. With a timeline or wall element, similar to those on social media platforms, employees can post their achievements and colleagues can applaud their progress and celebrate those achievements. Rereading the wall’s history can help to raise self-esteem and increase the self-efficacy of remote working employees particularly when feeling overwhelmed or emotionally disconnected.

These online environments allow relationships between remote employees to be established and strengthened each day, reinforcing and creating a group identity. These contexts also facilitate the transmission of informal knowledge. Studies show that innovation and commitment flourish when employees have the ability to participate freely in “interest groups” or similar working teams.

Creating safe spaces to grow and fail is hugely important in any company – setting them online helps users feel removed from reality, and more likely to try and try again 

  1. Reinforcements and Self-Evaluation

Any professional development plan should include the employee receiving positive feedback from managers, because it avoids the employee feeling too scrutinised or controlled. Feedback should be balanced, and the purpose should be to reinforce the employee’s progress. If an employee is based from home or is remote to the team, feedback can sometimes be the main occasion the employee has contact with their manager or team, making the context of feedback even more valuable. Ensure feedback is given frequently, and in a range of contexts for remote employees in any development plan.

As part of those different opportunities for feedback, self-evaluation can also be included as encouragement that the employee records and monitors their own behaviours and progress.

It should be noted that multiple studies show how people react differently to self-monitoring. Some employees will stop participating because their motivation decreases when they perceive their results as negative. This can be avoided by ‘reframing.’ A behavioural technique that involves the correct interpretation and action the employee can take, alongside the negative result in the same message.

For example, “You got 5/10 and so you haven’t passed this module. It’s a shame, but this is definitely one of the more complicated modules in your development path, so maybe check out some of the reading links and come back soon and try again! We know you can do it!” This type of messaging prevents employees from associating their results with feelings of intense failure and demotivation. Creating a safe space to grow and fail is hugely important in any company, and it can be easily provided through the medium of digital solutions as they make the user feel somewhat removed from ‘reality’.

  1. Signs of action and habit formation

Whenever a person is asked to carry out behaviours or take action, we must recognise each of the steps they take towards achieving their goal. Behavioural Science emphasises the importance of reinforcing both the steps taken towards the milestone and the time when the user completes the objective. With the help of technology, this reinforcement can reach remote working employees in real time.

Behavioural Change research often advises the introduction of prompts and stimuli that encourage action. For example, automatic prompts or notifications can be effective because they remind us to perform the behaviour at the right time and the reasoning behind it. Similarly, by performing the behaviour repeatedly, it ends up creating a habit. However, Behavioural Science illustrates that habit brings habituation, which can cause the employee to become bored and abandon the experience. Maintaining long-term engagement and commitment requires the online professional development plan to include gradual tasks and changing or growing challenges. It’s very important to start with tasks that are easy to perform, making them increasingly difficult, yet achievable, until the result is ultimately reached.

 

With all these behavioural strategies and techniques, we can design a professional development plan (suitable to the needs of remote working employees or similar profiles) without it needing to be labour intensive or adapted several times across the company. Scientifically informed, it can offer multiple growth opportunities to those employees which will therefore result in enhanced company productivity. Behavioural Science, because of the name, can sound daunting when all you feel you need is a quick fix or an easy win. But really, it comes down to understanding the audience, the people you’re trying to connect to or gain something from. We’ve come a long way from expecting employees to carry out actions or behaviours “because I said so”. Consider the power behind “because I want to”. So, if offices are changing, if what we consider an employee is changing, along with schedules, routines, a day’s work – maybe we need to update how we support and structure all of that as well.

You’ve no doubt already seen a plethora of blogs out there about the most effective ways to successfully work from home. Good lighting. Clear workspace. Stretch out every so often. But even once we set up our respective workstations, make to-do lists, and take frequent breaks throughout the day – there may still be elements missing when remote.
Just because working from home isn’t a new concept, it doesn’t mean it won’t be new to a lot of people. Whether they’re new to the working world or their previous jobs never required or allowed it, we reached out to six people in various roles and occupations who are new to working from home. Despite everyone’s circumstances being unique, they shared some common challenges that may speak to you as well.

Human Connection, Communication & Collaboration

We have hundreds of digital communication tools at our fingertips to keep everyone connected. Facebook, Teams, Zoom, Skype, Google Meet – the list is endless. Some companies even have several implemented for employees. So why are communication and collaboration persistently top issues for remote workers? It’s because of how we use them. This was something reflected in our interviews as five out of the six respondents stated that despite still feeling somewhat connected to their teams, it was hard to sustain throughout the day. It was specifically noted that it becomes much harder to gauge someone’s mood or tone, which impacted how the individuals felt able to contact their colleagues.

“I feel less connected to my team because of the lack of human interaction”

The issue of improving ease of communication and collaboration can be addressed by companies establishing best practices with their communication tools of choice. Where should employees chit chat? Where can they feel comfortable sharing a meme, a video or a funny anecdote? What is the best medium for feedback or high-level discussions? Very few tools can do it all unless they are specifically designed with remote teams or asynchronous communication in mind.

Regardless of age, when you first start a job, interaction can really influence how happy and settled you feel. Traditionally offices organise new joiner drinks, Friday breakfasts or similar opportunities for team bonding. This is the first thing lost when working from home. All of our respondents mentioned that they missed some social aspect since moving to remote working, be it being able to talk through an issue or question or even just missing the jokes. If you’re starting in a remote job it can be hard to find ways to bond or understand the team you need to collaborate and connect with. Perhaps more relevant to what people are facing in today’s world, how can you prevent team connections and bonds falling apart once everyone’s had to move to remote working? Especially at a time when businesses need their people to be pushing on more so than ever.

“I’m missing the jokes and the random spurs of out loud thoughts that lead to spouts of creativity in a collaborative environment”

We all need a nudge. When building our solutions, we firstly work to understand the user profiles who will be adopting the solution and then establish what nudges or prompts they might need to get the necessary work done, boosting motivation and productivity. It is here we use game design to implement the most effective mechanics to create these nudges. Activity loops which provide a prompt or call to action followed by some form of feedback are a simple way to keep people engaged. For example, the call to action could be a reminder to call someone that they have not spoken to in a while. The feedback would come in the form of the conversation that is then had. Or, the call to action could be a new goal set in a task that they must complete. In this instance, feedback could come in the form of progress markers or recognition within the team.

Staying on Track

Most businesses are well equipped with the previously mentioned communication tools for meetings, catch ups and follow ups, but what about project management tools? People new to working from home can quickly feel detached from the usual buzz of the office or feel that their day has been unproductive even when filled with calls. Helping people feel like they’re achieving something is vital for sustaining motivation and consequently, productivity. While many of us see flexibility as the main benefit of remote working, the flip side is if everyone is being flexible how do you ensure everyone’s flexible schedules and needs overlap? Feeling like you’re all on the same page can be hard when you lose sight of what everyone is doing. Something a few of our respondents picked up on was the lack of project management and collaborative working tools to ease the situation and improve motivation and the drive for teamwork.

Thinking outside the box and utilising tools that encourage feedback, recognition and help track progress can help ease the difficulties that exist around collaborative projects. This can look like collaborative to-do lists, virtual timelines, progress bars or notification prompts to managers. Platforms and solutions can be designed to help everyone to stay in the loop with each other and on track with what needs to be done, as well as supporting the social need for interaction. When combined with a more conscious effort to update each other, even with non-work specific things, has positive effects as it will help to immerse the natural flow of activity that occurs in the office, into the online environment.

“Isolation is an issue because the office acts as a social space so being remoted from this has consequences”

We have the benefit of technology to help us tackle these challenges, but it’s vital to remember the humans at the heart of it. Users who will feel lonely even with 101 digital tools available to them, users who will feel untethered from their usual productivity and routine. Work communication needs to be functional to sustain overall productivity and performance, but communication is more than just ‘pinging’ each other work updates. We can all get better at making an effort to be there for each other. More meaningful and productive communication, finding more areas for collaboration, aiding in employee development and motivation. However, there is also an argument that companies could be investing in the structures and digital tools that will empower and enable their employees to be their best selves – wherever they’re logging in from. Current circumstances aside, if remote working is here to stay, practices and approaches need to be put into place to help employees work remotely, not alone.

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!