CATEGORY

ENGAGEMENT

 

In an increasingly digital world, the education sector is in a period of transformation driven by technology and new working models and methods. This digital strategy requires flexible education that encourages students and academic institutions to be active, innovative and entrepreneurial.

Electronic devices and the broader digital environment have become much more accessible to students. In terms of tools, technology has given rise to a wide range of platforms, equipment, systems, networks and applications that are already in use in many educational institutions and are expected to become even more common in the future. From the traditional textbook to a variety of digital materials, courses and support systems, content is expanding and diversifying.

As part of the Digital Education Action Plan (2021-2027) the European Commission conducted a public consultation at the end of 2020 to obtain the views and experiences of citizens, institutions and organisations on the impact of COVID-19 on education and training, the consequent evolution towards remote and online learning, and the future of digital education in Europe.

Respondents expressed that online learning resources and content should be more relevant, interactive and user-friendly, and not dependent on the financial resources of a city or local council. More than 60% felt that their digital skills had improved during the pandemic, and more than 50% confirmed that they wanted to improve them further.

The study conducted in the Action Plan helps to reiterate the current trend towards online and hybrid learning that has been accelerated by events in recent years. These changes have led to the discovery of new and innovative ways in which learners and educators organise their online learning and teaching activities, engaging in more personal and flexible interactions

Support and motivate students with digital technology

Digital motivation is about applying the capabilities offered by new technologies to increase students’ confidence. Thus, making them feel more comfortable in their educational environment and ultimately improving their performance. Active engagement, cooperation among students, quick feedback on work or assessments, and the ability to put what they learn into practice are some of the conditions for students to learn effectively using technology.  Students’ lack of motivation is not only a barrier to understanding topics, but also a challenge for teachers in their everyday work.

Academic institutions can support students on a personal level while providing a comprehensive and integrated understanding of university systems. Digital and interactive portals provide connections to all relevant systems, as well as ‘live sections’ that display grades, upcoming assignments, timetables and other information and encourage participation before, during and after different activities. Access to information and course materials anytime, anywhere.  A way of communicating with students and guiding them through their work giving them assistance, focus and reinforcement.

As shown in a study published by McGraw-Hill Education, students prefer digital learning to traditional learning. According to the study, 81% think digital learning technology is helping them improve their grades, and 71% say digital course materials have increased their engagement. The clear majority of students believe that digital learning technology has benefited their schoolwork by encouraging concept retention and improving grades, and that more than half (53%) of students feel much more motivated in classrooms that incorporate such tools.

Towards a new university student experience

Increasingly, students want higher education institutions to provide them with a personalised and individualised experience. They expect the same level of interaction and experience offered by consumer brands such as Amazon and Netflix. To respond to these needs, leaders at universities, business schools and other education institutions are beginning to see a connection between the student and the consumer, and how digital transformation is necessary to meet the demands and aspirations of today’s students.

Consequently, students no longer want to be treated uniformly and anonymously, but are looking for tailored notifications and suggestions, customized to their own interests, as well as a perfect experience. They want to be seen, heard and appreciated, as well as receive attention that is specific to them. According to the Connected Student Report, 90% of students want universities to interact with them as frequently as possible, using email, tailored communications and notifications, as well as other means. Around 40% say they would prefer more individualised communications, and 25% say they would like a more personalised university experience in general.

For a higher level of success, digital solutions must include procedures that encourage reciprocity and interaction, thereby increasing knowledge retention and avoiding monotony. It is essential to ensure that students apply what they have learned to solve problems, practice decision-making and skills development in a safe environment where their understanding can be tested.

At the same time, digital solutions can lead to improvements in educational institutions to operate more efficiently in capturing new students, in ensuring the performance of students along their journey and also in maintaining contact with alumni. In addition, they serve as a digital basis for 360-degree monitoring of the educational process. An integrated platform that allows students to customise their university experience from start to finish.

Some examples of the benefits are:

  • Collaboration and cooperation: experiences, work and projects can be shared, facilitating engagement and joint learning.
  • Autonomy and flexibility: there are a variety of methods through which information can be obtained, as well as sufficient freedom for their own organisation and planning. (Asynchronous education)
  • Interactivity and communication: Students can connect and talk to their peers, greatly enhancing their ability to communicate and learn. Even student-teacher conversation can take place outside the classroom.

 

 

Gamification in education

Gamification is one of the educational innovation techniques that has provoked most interest and success in recent years. It is a method that consists of introducing game aspects and dynamics into the teaching and learning process. Examples include ‘scoreboards’ that record students’ scores in various activities, ‘badges’ that are awarded to students when they reach certain learning milestones, and the use of applications that allow multiple-choice tests to be transformed into interactive competitions.

Let’s imagine an immersive narrative (initial motivation) in which we find ourselves on a deserted island and, in order to survive, we have to go through different levels, challenges and obstacles. There are many elements and strategies that we can incorporate into the island to encourage motivation, reinforcement, various stimuli and a greater sense of involvement. For example, through interesting and fun activities for students to work on concepts and exercise the basic skills that the subject is intended to promote. As you explore the island you earn small rewards that give access to badges and levels; all achievements will be added to a scoreboard (increased participation, continuous reinforcement and short-term motivation). In addition, a help or hints option can be included in which students can ask for assistance from both the teacher and other students (social immediacy). Within each challenge or activity there may be the possibility for students to choose different options or routes, i.e. depending on their choice, they may reach one outcome or another. For each completed task, quality and immediate feedback can be received in order to learn beyond mistakes. The experience can also encourage group work and systems of competition between teams (team-based learning).

This immersive experience can be part of any academic subject and for students of different ages, from different levels of school to university, postgraduate courses, etc. It all depends on the narrative, the approach, the design concept, the catalysts, etc. that are applied in each case. A way to exceed the mastery of the concepts of a subject and to discover and intensify fundamental values of personality and teamwork.

Therefore, we can conclude that the education sector has undergone a significant digital transformation, encouraging both students and academic institutions to become more engaged, creative, and entrepreneurial. Learners and educators have discovered new and imaginative methods to organize their educational activities as a result of recent changes and adjustments during the pandemic. There is now a much easier access to electronic tools, and technology has resulted in a variety of platforms, equipment, systems, networks, and applications. Digital transformation is necessary to meet the demands and aspirations of today’s students, who are increasingly seeking a personalized and individualized experience and concepts such as gamification can further improve student performance and motivation while also making a topic more enjoyable.

 

Although at first glance they may appear to be very different departments, the reality is that marketing and HR share many similarities. Broadly speaking, both seek to attract, retain and satisfy the needs of their ‘customers’, whether they are consumers or employees; both want to deliver rewarding experiences and expect a return on their relationship; both need to know their audiences and their expectations, fears or desires; and in both, communication, recognition, motivation and reward for loyalty are essential to retain them.

If we analyse the changes experienced in society in recent years, the power is no longer with organisations but with the individual. The traditional approach of imposing and controlling is giving way to greater collaboration and consensus. Recommendations have become the norm when it comes to influencing purchasing, and technology has turned around the way we relate to our environment, where immediacy is a requirement, and we need to have access to information at the click of a button.

Faced with this qualitative leap in social behaviour, companies have been adapting and implementing strategies that provide the greatest satisfaction to their customers following a new approach. The key now is to design unique experiences that generate engagement beyond what is offered by the usual loyalty programmes. This means appealing to emotions, personalising each activity, entertaining, surprising and managing a stable, lasting and deep relationship. Can the same recipe be applied to those ‘customers’ of HR – the employees? And can the technology used by marketing be a good solution to solve the important challenges in HR?

Adapting to changes in concept

Customer acquisition and retention often receive a significant share of the marketing budget. They are in many ways similar to recruitment, selection, onboarding and career development, but different in terms of the budget allocated for these purposes. But who chooses who nowadays? Does the organisation select the candidate or does the candidate select the company they wish to work for? HR managers know that if they want to attract the best talent, they have to “sell” the company and the vacant position well and convince them that they are the best choice. Just as a marketing expert who wants to compete and grow in the market would do with their products.

However, both consumers and employees now have a different set of values, and want to live unique experiences, to feel listened to and understood, to be the protagonists and receive personalised treatment. They want to be able to interact with brands or companies that reflect their ethical or sustainable values. They want to be informed and be involved in events and exchange ideas. They are competitive yet want to share. These are all aspects that enhance their sense of belonging. Each of these factors are becoming more important to customers, but how do you order all these concepts to be able to manage new engagement strategies?

Innovation to improve performance and stimulate participation

Technology is a catalyst for development, as it provides a space to bring together all the needs, problems, corresponding solutions and a way to build an ideal environment to achieve objectives. By following the employee journey from start to finish, we can detect where our potential gaps are and how to turn these into successful outcomes. When dealing with the recruitment and selection phase, technology can help us learn about and qualify key elements of applicant profiles, while at the same time providing them with information about the company’s values, ethos and philosophy to check the alignment between the two. It helps us to be more effective and convey an enviable brand image. As the journey continues, it is time to impress our applicants, to create an unforgettable impression that will make them lifelong ambassadors for the company. It is time to create an onboarding experience in which we can make such a necessary and essential process cost-effective, entertaining and efficient, to unclutter those countless procedures, policies and other documents that everyone needs to be familiar with, or to make job-specific training entertaining and motivating.

 

Professional development, training plans and job recognition complete the employee’s journey, which technology organises and promotes through gamified engagement solutions. Users greatly appreciate these tools because they allow them to achieve goals in a fun way, interact with other colleagues, progress, compete, learn faster, embed certain behaviours and, above all, motivate and generate a bond with the company that is difficult to break. At the current time, HR is expected to register the highest growth rate in the gamification market, with a 27.8% increase according to data provided by Prescient & Strategic Intelligence. In addition, 72% of employees say that gamification inspires them to work harder. Additionally, according to Talent LMS, 89% of employees think they would be more productive if work was more gamelike and 88% of the survey respondents affirmed that gamification makes them happier in their company. For 78% of respondents, organisations would be more desirable if their recruitment process was gamified and gamification elements at work make 87% of employees feel more socially connected.

Investing in employees to win customer’s hearts and minds

Human Resources must therefore innovate and implement actions that boost interest and motivation in order to nurture a sense of commitment in employees. We must not forget that investing in HR is investing in our customers and their satisfaction. Engaged employees transmit confidence and enthusiasm, they work harder for the benefit of the company and generate customer loyalty.

For marketers and HR professionals alike, one of their main purposes are to activate the mechanisms necessary to create engagement. The Employee and Performance Gallup 2020 report states that companies with high levels of engagement have up to 81% lower absenteeism, 18% higher productivity and 23% higher profitability. However, only 15% of people felt actively engaged in their work. Disengaged employees are more likely to waste time and be absent more and therefore be less productive and contribute to a worse environment. It is worth noting the conclusion of the study ‘The Top 5 Traits of a Successful Work Culture’. Employee engagement in the connected workplace’, prepared by IDC and Crayon which confirms that employee engagement has become a fundamental factor in the recovery and resilience of organisations and a clear indicator of their health. In this sense, it affirms that 70% of companies that invest in engagement and have highly engaged employees will recover pre-COVID-19 growth levels by the end of 2022, further reinforcing the notion that investing in employee engagement means an investment in the company’s future.

Additionally, Gallup also reports that customers who are fully engaged with a brand account for 23% of profitability, revenue and loyalty, compared to the average customer. ThinkJar states that 86% of consumers would pay more for a better user experience. In this regard, a study by the CMO Council and RedPoint reveals that personalised, omni-channel interaction with customers offers companies an average customer retention rate of 89%, which drops to 33% for companies that do not have this option. In addition, 40% of consumers recognise that they buy more from brands that provide a more personal customer experience and interaction and what is more, the duration of their engagement with these brands is 30% longer. Finally, 79% do not consider buying from companies that do not actively demonstrate that they understand and care for their customers.

This data clearly demonstrates a trend that is similar in both HR and marketing department, two areas of an organisation in which marketing activity is fundamental in the face of changes in society and people’s behaviour. Both areas are destined to understand each other through better engagement.

“Individuality” [noun] – the qualities that make a person or thing different from others

It can be tempting to want to replicate a successful alumni engagement programme from a competing university – you know the ones, the award-winning, sector-shaking ideas you wish you had thought of first. And although it’s common-sense to recognise what works for one university may not work for another (in most cases, it won’t), the deep-rooted need to stay relevant, competitive, and to stand out in a saturated landscape, doesn’t stop you as a team wanting to reproduce ideas or variations of ideas in the hope they’ll also work in your environment.

There’s nothing wrong with adapting ideas that work. It happens everywhere and there is good reason to utilise effective, creative strategies that have made an impact in your sector. If it aint broke, don’t fix it. However, there is an argument to say it is through this default reaction to simply copy or clone, that we end up with ‘cookie-cutter’ initiatives that make their way across the university landscape, slowly becoming the ‘norm’ of alumni engagement. Behind each new university signing up is an Advancement Team looking to make a difference, hoping to achieve the level of success as the original institution. Instead, in more cases than not, there is a lack of engagement from graduates and students, leading to Advancement Teams scratching their heads as to why the programme hasn’t worked.

There are many factors at play as to why the ‘cookie-cutter’ or ‘off-the-shelf’ engagement initiatives may not be successful, including the differences at the institutions themselves. From iconic buildings and venues, to student cultures, to the cities and towns themselves that shape the universities themselves, each institution inevitably offers unique but shared experiences for their alumni that stay with each generation. What makes your university distinctive may be the reason why your one-size-fits-all programme may be failing you and that’s OK, because it is exactly what makes your alumni community special, and is ultimately your secret weapon to delivering a killer engagement programme.

UK University information statistics

Keeping the spark alive

A recent Living Liberty study revealed that only 36% of UK graduates remain in the city in which they studied, with Glasgow, Edinburgh or London based universities being the main exceptions as they tend to retain over half of their graduates on average. Furthermore, in 2018, CASE shared their latest findings on the HE landscape in their ‘Engaging for Excellence‘ Alumni Relations report, one significant figure was the total number of alumni across Europe and Asia-Pacific now stands at over 14 million (14,371,711), a figure that continues to grow each year.

The combination of these statistics alone presents an immediate consideration for any alumni strategy of programme. Time, distance and absence do not always make the heart grow fonder, and with more universities developing foreign campuses or providing courses through partner universities, there is a strong need for universities to find ways to stay connected – or even forge connections – despite the distance.

The simple fact of where your university is located can have a significant impact on how connected your alumni feel; Shift Learning’s 2020 Exploring UK Alumni Engagement Report found that there was no significant difference between types of UK universities and how engaged their alumni felt (ie Russell Group or Post-1992), however they did find a significant difference in the distance between the alumni and their institution; 22% of alumni sampled who lived 10-20 miles away felt strongly connected (scores of 9+/10), while only 8% of those who lived more than 100 miles away felt strongly connected (and 67% providing a connection score of 4 or less!).

CASE also revealed that the mean number of full-time staff stands at 1.2 per 10,000 alumni, so it is understandable why institutions take the mass approach when it comes to their engagement programmes, there are simply too many alumni to engage with on an individual level. It becomes impossible for alumni staff to have a personal relationship with every member of their alumni base, especially when engagement targets are often driven by ‘the bigger the number, the better’ quantifiable results.

Technology of course can help bridge both the gap in distance as well as the gap in alumni resources. Digital engagement platforms help provide a centralised point of contact or information for alumni to log on to. But in a world of endless distractions, saturated inboxes, constant notifications, people are increasingly exhausted and switched off by the frequent lack of consideration or personalisation for the individual at the receiving end of every news item, ping or mass email campaign.

Faced with increasingly disparate, diverse, distracted and demanding target audience, how can you make your alumni feel valued on a personal level and not just another number counting towards an end-of-year target when you are not able to actually give them that level of attention?

Recognising Individuality

As of 2019, there were a total of 164 university and higher education institutions in the United Kingdom (Statista). The UK Higher Education landscape is one of the most richly diverse in the world, with focus on nurturing independent study, debate, critical thinking, and more real-world application of teaching compared to other nations. 29 UK universities are in the global top 500, 18 in the top 100.

Motivait alumni individuality personalised experience

When marketing to potential students, universities undeniably lean into their differentiated offering. “Come study among our gorgeous buildings; investigate in the world’s best laboratory; benefit from our high graduate employability rates”. Attraction and recruitment to the university is firmly founded in what makes that specific university experience different, dynamic, and distinctive compared to any other. It only makes sense for alumni engagement to continue this approach beyond graduation through unique, differentiated experiences that attract, nurture and retain those potential supporter, volunteer and donor populations.

With the right technological capabilities, engagement initiatives can be almost automatically scaled up and made more accessible and inclusive, while simultaneously providing personalised experiences. Taking a page from Customer Engagement and Experience practices, the programmes that generate most participation and interaction for brands are those that deliver personalised, seamless, meaningful experiences that allow individuals to engage where, when and how they want. A customer centric approach revolves around utilising data and information provided to enhance every interaction throughout their journey or exploration of your platform– engaging, synchronised, attractive environments, and high performing customer-focused operations that, ultimately, make the individual feel as if everything has been made with them and their interests in mind.

By focussing on the end users that you’re looking to engage and forge meaningful relationships with, in this case alumni populations, you begin creating experiences/initiatives from a place of empathy – understanding their interests, their needs, how they will interact with the technology or expect it to respond.

Motivait alumni individuality

In an era where most of the population is aware of the data exchange for services, so much more can still be done to nurture trust and demonstrate the valuable application of consumer data. The argument being, if you’re going to request or collect data, at least use it to improve and personalise the experience by showing you understand individual preferences rather than blasting people with emails or notifications that are only in your interest.

Through technology, engagement initiatives can be almost automatically scaled up and made more accessible and inclusive. As we see consumers becoming more considerate of their personal circumstances and needs, there is a great opportunity to develop mindful experiences for them as well. Emails that are reactive but not invasive. Suggestions and recommendations that feel handpicked and perceptive, rather than random or machine generated.

Making it a reality

Universities are complex and there are many factors you could consider to determine how to deliver your alumni programme. Advancement Teams can benefit from analysing the distinctiveness of your institution and using this powerful information to design and implement effective engagement programmes for your alumni community.

Rather than looking at a programme that is successful at a neighbouring institution and using this as a basis for your next big engagement idea, first reflect on what makes your institution different and what this means for your graduates; what do they want and need from their alma mater? You need to take the time to really understand your institution and graduates.

Whatever the programme is, if you put your alumni at the heart of it, it will be more successful. University’s will never be able to truly engage with each graduate, but there are ways in which you can make them feel special enough to engage. Collecting rich data that will give you and the alumni real value, and figure out how to utilise this information to it’s fullest to design killer engagement programmes for your graduates.

In summary, know your institution, know your alumni and use this to your advantage. Utilise technology to engage alumni from afar and create ways in which your graduates can select their interest points.

 

 

 

*https://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/latest/insights-and-analysis/higher-education-numbers

**https://www.statista.com/statistics/1084737/eu-28-adults-with-tertiary-education-attainment

^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_universities_in_the_United_Kingdom_by_enrolment

In 2020, we said that we believed 2021 would be a year for reassessing and improving approaches. The very human challenges and experiences of 2020, we felt, would inevitably cause businesses and organisations to empathetically reconsider and refocus on the people at the heart of their operations. Looking back on the last 12 months there have certainly been significant changes – many of them focused on improving connection and proximity between people, their brands, their communities, and their needs.  

Employee Engagement has seen more debate and discussion than ever before (9-5, WFH, The Great Resignation), driven by necessity, by competition, and by a real shift in the previously established status-quo. Technologies that seemed inaccessible or expensive became common practice, with QR codes and apps becoming part of day-to-day life from ordering from a menu to storing medical information. 2021 provoked developments which at their core worked to enable, encourage, and connect people. 

As we say goodbye to 2021 and hello to 2022, we round up the themes and pieces that most appealed to you this year.  

Empowering the People  

2021 saw people revaluating what they wanted their life to look like and how their work fitted into the picture. After proving working from home was more than just a possibility, businesses have wrestled with how to offer flexibility to employees revaluating what they want their working life to look like, without compromising on other aspects of company culture. Companies who have embraced more flexibility for workers have then in turn been faced with challenges around sustaining a sense of belonging, a sense of community, as well as a sense of enthusiasm across remote teams whose only interface with their colleagues and the company is their laptop screen.  

While working from home may not be going anywhere soon, looking to the immediate future there will be a very real need to implement the infrastructure and solutions to support a seamless working experience across all circumstances.  

Customer Centric  

Looking specifically at Customer Engagement, the last 18 months have probably seen more need for change, reinvention, and agile responses than in the last 10 years. Supply chain shortages, haulage delays, new legislation on importing and deporting – it’s been a tough year to meet ever increasing demand and high customer expectations. It would be wrong to write off today’s consumers as easily influenced or swayed, when the reality is that most are actually looking to be impressed by services, values and experiences that stand out from the crowd. In their research into customer journeys, PwC found that people will pay up to 16% more for a great customer experience (CX), while Gartner found that 64% of customers value CX over price.  

The growing market evidence suggests that instead of being impatient for deliveries, consumers may actually be frustrated with poor communication and service; instead of fickle they may in fact be more conscious of where they’re spending than ever before. If 2021 was the year for trying to keep up with an ever-changing landscape, will 2022 be the year to utilise learnings to actually stop, listen and understand the customer?  

Sustainable Change for the Greater Good 

Since early 2020, we have all had time to think and reflect on the way we live our lives. People have taken up habits and hobbies with more interest in sustainability, nature and resourcefulness – DIY around the house, upcycling furniture or clothing, sewing masks, growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Outside of the home, local communities and governments have become more aware of the conscious efforts required to reengage, reassure and encourage participation in order to sustain local businesses and commerce. On a global scale, the recent COP26 conventions acted as a reminder for many that collective action is desperately needed to address the very present challenges for society – to turn the tides or slow down the devastating effects of climate change, and to support communities rebuild or reinforce their right to belong and thrive.       

Have the unignorable events of 2020 and 2021 provoked new practices that we will take with us into 2022? Could we be at a turning point for attitudes and values across society? 

The onboarding of new employees continues to be a topical and important subject for organisations, particularly in the current job market where the number of vacancies far outweighs the number of available candidates and where remote working is becoming more common practice. Hiring is a timely and expensive activity. So it is paramount not to throw away all that time, effort and cost with an onboarding experience that leaves the person uninspired and possibly even regretting the decision to join in the first place. Creating that sense of belonging and connection with colleagues is much harder to achieve when there is much less, or no, in person interaction. Getting people to bring their best selves to work in a state of mind that unleashes their self-expression and enthusiasm for further exploration and learning is the desired outcome of an effective onboarding programme.   

When to start 

Through the attraction and recruitment phase of the employee journey, expectations are being set and clarified and the potential employee is starting to build a picture of the organisation’s culture and values and what it might be like to work there. They are continually questioning and assessing whether it will be a good fit for them and whether it is somewhere they believe they will be able to prosper, develop their skills and career whilst making a valued contribution to the development of the business. The momentum that is being built through these stages must continue up until the moment they join and during those vital early stages after. They need to start their new role with the confidence that they have made the correct decision, ready to embrace the new challenge, fit in with their colleagues and contribute from as early as possible. They are also often, simply asking themselves: “will I be happy there?”   

There is a debate as to when onboarding should commence, ranging from the moment a candidate accepts the job offer, through to the day the person starts. Many organisations believe the optimum time to start is the latter, but more are realising the benefits of starting the onboarding experience much earlier; from the moment the candidate signs the offer of employment and returns the contract. One of the arguments for starting the formal onboarding at the time of signing the contract for instance is that this is the moment that garners the most enthusiasm and excitement from the employee, and we should not forget the importance of emotion in decision making. Particularly, when there is the opportunity to respond to, reinforce and encourage those emotions: “Yes, I will be happy here. Yes, I made the right choice” 

The importance of getting onboarding right  

Research by Glassdoor has shown that great employee onboarding can increase retention by as much as 82% and productivity by over 70%. Yet, a Gallup survey found that only 12% of employees strongly agreed that their organisation did a great job with onboarding. These figures alone show that there is scope for organisations to do better. It is important for companies to critically assess their onboarding, check their processes and regularly ask for feedback from new starters. Evaluating what works and what doesn’t is key to success, and the results may surprise you. 

Graphic showcasing: 58% of organisations focus their onboarding on a process and paperwork. 33% said their onboarding was informal, inconsistent or reactive rather than being structured and strategic.

Historically, onboarding has been focused on the process and not the human and emotional connection. Employees expect IT equipment and email access to be ready for when they arrive, they expect a pile of forms to fill in and get back to HR, they expect overview PowerPoints and maybe the odd corporate video. Employees who can easily understand, absorb and connect with essential company information in those first few days are obviously more likely to become productive faster, meaning they’ll feel better about their own position and knowledge in their new role.  However, even if the content of your onboarding is the best, if it is executed poorly or leaves the employee feeling overwhelmed or overloaded with information, then they’re not likely to be inspired and could be disengaged from the get-go. 

Onboarding needs to be so much more than just a process. What we need to be creating is an emotional experience for the person – one that helps them really connect with the organisation, excites them, makes them proud to be part of it, feel valued and energised to bring out the best of their qualities, sets them up for the road ahead, and encourages them to want to tell others how great it is. In other words, it is all about invigorating them. It is this emotional connection that will stimulate their motivation, commitment, and participation, driving their future engagement and performance.  

The balance of effective Onboarding  

Baek and Bramwell of Cornell University conducted research into how you measure the effectiveness of Onboarding (Onboarding Effectiveness). They concluded that one of the best measures of an effective onboarding experience was ‘Time to Proficiency’. They defined this as the time it took a new hire to reach full productivity within the context of their role. For this to happen, a new employee needs to have a structured onboarding experience, with specifically defined outcomes, and an experience that is engaging to them. At the end of their onboarding, employees need to have achieved four clear objectives for the best chance of ongoing success (Baur); Role Clarity; Self-efficacySocial integration; Knowledge of organisational culture 

Motiviat | getting emotional over onboarding information on time to proficiency

A fundamental part of ‘Time to Proficiency’ is the context of your job (understanding company culture, your customers, products and services and colleague relationships). These set the tone for the content of your job (meaningful work, task suited to skills, teamwork, communications) which are the cognitive experiences that will shape your beliefs, perceptions and attitudes. If the reality of these experiences on content does not live up to the expectation set around the context you start to get cognitive dissonance which hinders building that vital emotional and human connection.  

A vital sense of belonging  

Creating an effective onboarding experience that has real impact, is consistent, valuable and enjoyable may seem like an impossible feat, especially with the added complication of needing to deliver it in a way that is accessible for a range of working practices, functions, or settings.  

We have all witnessed how technology has helped people during the pandemic, as workers were asked to work from home, technology enabled teams to stay connected. Without tools like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, working effectively would have been incredibly difficult, if not impossible. Technology can also certainly be used to play a significant part in onboarding to drive that quality of experience that is so important regardless of where employees are based. In a world where personalisation and differentiation are not only sought after but now expected by individuals, there is the opportunity to create something as a true reflection of your culture and values, making an impact on new employees or candidates and leaving them feeling they really made the right decision compared to your competition. 

Combining accessibility and ease of use, and really understanding the user’s motivations needs and expectations, creates an experience that is built to evoke a memorable and valuable emotion in the individual. It can help start to build those essential personal relationships and connections with colleagues regardless of where they are based through encouraging teamwork, collaboration and sharing experiences thus creating a greater sense of belonging. So, by stimulating their emotions during the onboarding process you reduce the risk of them quitting early or not even starting at all, getting them to be productive and contribute more quickly, helping them to settle in and feel as an integral part of the organisation, becoming your best ambassador.  

Do you want to find out how to deliver an effective onboarding experience? Find out how our solutions can help you here. Take a look at an Onboarding Solution in action with Zebra Technologies: MOTIVAIT | Partnership in Action – Zebra Technologies 

Accelerating positive change through collaboration

During the month of November, the United Nations Climate Change Conference (UNCCC), also referred to as COP26, took place in Glasgow. Delegations from around the world were brought together to accelerate action towards the goals on Climate Change. With the option to watch the live events online, many citizens took the opportunity to find out more about the current challenges, imminent deadlines and what we should be aiming for in the upcoming years. The events were filled with moments of reflection, frustration and at the same time hope and optimism for a future of change, collaboration, equality, and climate justice.

The prioritised challenges at stake were: mitigation, adaptation, finance, and collaboration. However, across the different talks, sessions and panels, there was a recurring theme that struck a chord: ‘public engagement’. While raising awareness of how each individual can contribute to better and more sustainable practices, a vital catalyst of change is what we advocate collaboratively as citizens.

 

What is public engagement?

Various interpretations exist across different sectors, but ultimately it refers to how the public can become more involved in, and able to influence public decisions, policy, and action. In an age of information saturation, where citizens have endless sources of news and misinformation at their fingertips, impactful public engagement and raising awareness requires a more creative thought process. Communicating information needs an omnichannel strategy behind it, and even then, the messaging needs to cut through a lot of noise to connect with audiences. The average person now has more distractions than before, more commitments and less time to take a more complex approach in their day to day lives. Trying to increase action or participation towards more climate positive behaviours will take a lot of effort from each person and require more than just information and education. Over time, there will be a need for continuous interventions.

A good example of forward facing, people focussed public engagement is the Small Grants Programme (SGP). The initiative supports projects that preserve and restore the environment, through financial and technical aid, with an emphasis on improving well-being and livelihoods, through the ethos of ‘Think Global, Act Local’. The objective behind the programme was to create a platform where civil society and local communities could interact and share their ideas and approaches to tackle global environmental issues utilising local practices. With this concept in mind, civic engagement can have a positive impact on the interrelationship between human needs and essential environmental demands.

‘Think Global, Act Local’ focuses on tailoring products and solutions to meet customer demand. Here is where public engagement comes in. To understand what people need we must take and interpret local feedback and exchange insights concerning current issues and tendencies. Human insight is vital. It is local people that know the ins and outs of where they live and who will want their voices heard when it comes to changes and improvements. Willing positive engagement needs time, work, and trust, and public engagement is a two-way street.

The decline of citizen participation

Studies from the United Nations Population Fund show that over half of the world’s population currently lives in cities and this proportion will rise further, to over 5 billion by 2030. With cities growing larger and larger each day, local governments will quickly have to adapt to evolving needs and expectations, as well as managing higher demand on resources and services. Public and civic engagement is a key factor for growth and evolution. According to research from the Young Federation:

‘Governments and councils enjoying higher levels of citizen participation generally had stronger communities, more empowered citizens, better services for residents and were better equipped to tackle deprived and disadvantaged neighbourhoods.’

However, most research indicate that citizen participation levels are in decline. Finding opportunities to engage with your local community can be hard. Citizens do not feel as engaged with their governments for several reasons, including lack of information, incentives, time and confidence. When it comes to sustainability, the challenges often involve lack of environmental awareness, commitment and disillusionment with being able to impact or change systems. However, there are a few aspects that can improve this relationship and rapid growth adaptation to enhance civic engagement. As mentioned before, there must be time, work, and trust but it would also be beneficial to have a clear design and carefully thought-out strategy with citizens at the heart of it, accompanied by digital and technological processes.

 

Using technology to engage

Digital solutions facilitate effective and transparent communication with citizens. Using the right tools and technology can help meet objectives and establish more convenient and interactive platforms for citizens.

The public participation spectrum serves as a reference when it comes to visualizing an engagement platform. The five phases show a step-by-step process of how to improve communication with citizens and share ideas and suggestions:

  1. Inform. This is an essential factor to promote participation from beginning to end since it provides the public with greater trust and balance regarding the existing information and the possible alternatives and opportunities.
  2. Consult. It allows us to obtain feedback from different analyses and solutions.
  3. Involve. Direct collaboration with the public throughout the process. This makes it possible to assess and ensure that the different opinions are heard and considered.
  4. Collaborate. Work as a team in every aspect of decision-making, from the development of alternatives to deciding on the most popular solution among citizens.
  5. Empower. Place the final decision in the hands of the public.

 

Informed objectives, strong guidance and enabling citizens to provide opinions and feedback can prove to be a powerful solution to transform communities into sustainable and smart cities. Technological approaches can provide cities and companies with a way to greatly increase the ease and speed of creating, sharing and connecting sustainability plans. Whether it is fighting for climate change, improving healthcare, promoting public transport schemes, or even supporting a local shop there is a need for real and permanent behavioural changes, which is why community and public engagement is so crucial. By introducing digital innovations, from citizen engagement platforms to social media and QR codes, we can provide a safe and cooperative place for citizens to voice their opinion, interact, participate, and implement changes that truly benefit everyone involved.

 

Digital solutions in action

Digital solutions can make a crucial contribution to positive change by providing stakeholders with relevant and useful information. What does digital public engagement look like in action?

A clear example of this can be seen in #InOurNature: Zero Carbon Manchester, an online community engagement platform that helps residents take action on climate change. They have created a space where citizens can discover new, creative solutions to make Manchester a more sustainable and connected city. The site, delivered by various parties including Manchester Council and Manchester Climate Change Agency, provides citizens with various resources, tips, and projects, which allows citizens contribute to their sustainability agenda. Surveys are also used to gather valuable feedback on the project, alongside inspiring stories. This combination empowers and encourages citizens to make immediate changes, seeing the impact they can have and positively contributing to their final cause.

Another example can be found in Gijon, one of the most populated cities on the northern coast of Spain, where platforms of participation have been developed. Three specific portals have been created to encourage effective application of technology in the city to promote opportunities for economic development, sustainable innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as improve the quality of life, welfare and public services.

The first one is called ‘Observa Gijon’ (Watch Gijon). An ‘urban observatory’ that provides access to data related to the city’s economic administration, local government activity and health statistics. The second portal, ‘Cuida Gijón’ (Care for Gijon), is a platform where citizens can help preserve and maintain the city’s streets and amenities, encouraging personal sustainable actions and responsibility and saving the government money. In the third portal, ‘Participa Gijón’ (Participate in Gijon), citizens can learn about council initiatives, put forward their own, comment on different topics and proposals and take part in collaborative decision making.

Understanding the drives, motivations and needs of different users and user groups, and putting this at the centre of the design increases appeal to the public.

The way forward

Digital technologies can empower individuals to simply and immediately respond to issues and to the needs of others, as well as accelerate positive change through collaboration. Using innovative technological platforms establishes a greater potential for collaboration and action, by making the exchange of information easier and more effective, strengthening citizen voice and facilitating social cohesion and participation with features to enhance enjoyment and involvement (e.g. challenges, gamification and surveys).

It is becoming more imperative for governments and organizations to use sustainability as a way of engaging with communities. Governments, councils and public engagement leaders should employ forward-looking solutions, making the most of what modern approaches and technology can offer for effective public engagement, and be open to ultimately what is their customer input on what they believe is important. Promoting and establishing sustainable behaviours and becoming more proactive and community focussed can only bring rewards and results.

We often talk about wanting to be the change in the world, but there is no reason to feel the pressure of doing it alone. By designing effective 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 do our bit in improving our ways of living, to avoid increasing even more the effects of climate change, we should bring with us and grasp onto opportunities to collaboratively work towards a better, greener future, as individuals, communities, and organisations.

As organisations across the world adjust and transform to keep up with an evolving economic and social landscape, there is much talk about the many challenges that are having to be confronted, particularly in the workplace. From managing the increased desire of employees to work remotely and flexibly, to addressing the talent shortages that exist across a number sectors – the teams responsible for managing and sustaining employee engagement are being impacted from different directions.  

How can we better attract and keep the talent we need when there are many other companies out there fishing in the same pool trying to entice the best people with propositions and perks that may turn their heads? How can we help people feel like they belong, when there may not be an office to belong to anymore?     

A recent survey by McKinsey certainly highlighted the challenge in retaining employees. The survey found that 40% of participants said they are at least somewhat likely to quit in the next three to six months. 18% of respondents said their intentions range from likely to almost certain. These findings held across all five countries surveyed (Australia, Canada, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and were broadly consistent across industries. Businesses in the leisure and hospitality industry are the most at risk for losing employees, but many healthcare and white-collar workers say they also plan to quit. Even among educators—the employees least likely to say they may quit—almost one-third reported that they are at least somewhat likely to do so. 

Digital illustration showing an employees at work with a graphic above stating 40% of the workforce are somewhat likely to leave their job in the next six months

In my experience in HR and the recruitment sector, there is not one simple solution to this. There are a range of factors that can influence an individual’s decision to either join, stay or go, and if they decide to go, what are the considerations that are going to convince them which option is right for them. One size doesn’t fit all and the decision is ultimately a personal one. It might be the remuneration, the location, culture, belief in the vision, leadership and managerial capability, colleagues, market position, ability to develop and progress, interesting and relevant work or a complex mixture of all the above.  

That same McKinsey report highlighted that:

“employees crave investment in the human aspects of work. They want a renewed and revised sense of purpose in their work. They want social and interpersonal connections with their colleagues and managers. They want to feel a sense of shared identity. Yes, they want pay, benefits, and perks, but more than that they want to feel valued by their organizations and managers. They want meaningful—though not necessarily in-person—interactions, not just transactions!” 

Fundamentally, personal decisions are founded on how you make people feel. In other words, building an emotional attachment and engaging with them. Do they believe and are they convinced that they want to go on the journey with you? Do they understand your values? Can they see how they can fit in and perform? Did you make them feel valued and important?  Did you listen and understand their needs, wants and motivations? 

Let’s never forget that it’s a two-way experience and it’s about give and get, which is not a new concept but in the current climate, the power has shifted from the organisation to the individual. As a consequence; mindsets, attitudes and employee experiences need to be reviewed and tailored in order to differentiate organisations.  

According to Qualtrics, 55% of workers surveyed agreed that recognition for good work drives employee engagement, while employees studied tended to be at least 17% more engaged if they felt able to participate in feedback schemes. These types of investigations support the idea that engagement can be driven by reciprocity, and that if businesses make a genuine investment in their people, employees generally do tend to feel more valued and acknowledged, and in turn more motivated to commit and perform.   

When looking to provide consistent, sustainable and valued experiences for employees, consider how technology can be used to enhance existing approaches. When operating in a virtual environment, technology effectively enables scalability and accessibility; lifting or translating experiences to a digital environment with rich opportunity for additional features and interventions to boost interaction and engagement. Particularly for supporting the virtual connectedness of colleagues, or to hire on a large scale without leaning on internal resourcing, the right solutions can really make a positive impact and notable difference.  

In a world with almost endless options and solutions, there is no excuse to simply pile on tools and software that ends up overcomplicating the average day in the life of employees – especially considering budget restrictions and already saturated systems. Instead, digital solutions deployed should work to prioritise and embed the following into employee’s experiences:  

  • amplifying employee voice and feedback
  • encouraging multilevel recognition and communication 
  • embodying and reinforcing company culture and values 
  • improving the overall experience and “moments that matter” in the employee’s journey with you 
  • creating a sense of belonging 
  • seamless integration with existing tools.  

If ultimately, how the employee feels about work and the workplace will be a significant deciding factor as to whether they apply, join, and stay, then companies ought to start looking into how they deliver experiences in a way that leaves people excited or switched on. Much like how brands seek to nurture loyal, returning customers through innovative, impactful CX (customer experience), there is plenty of opportunity to apply the same dedication and care across the Employee Journey in order to nurture committed, engaged individuals eager to stay and grow.  

 

 

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If you have managed to escape any form of “Get Back” message in recent months, you should perhaps consider yourself one of the fortunate few. As a follow-on “the new normal” catchphrase, for many the “Get Back” messaging hints at a world hoping to reassure, encourage, and incentivise: Get back to the office, get back to the high street, get back into shops, get back to restaurants, get back to going on holiday, get back to the cinema – you get the idea.

For a lot of people, the idea of a return to their pre-covid routines, habits and lifestyles is incredibly welcome. For others, going back still feels daunting or maybe even unnecessary. Most seem to be approaching things with a mixture of caution and relish, apprehension and relief. However, if ongoing debate and research tell us anything, it’s that, more than ever before, each decision we make is primarily based on personal preferences and needs. This newfound focus, requires a shift in thinking about how brands, organisations and communities engage with their audiences, working towards achieving more tailored and personalised responses.

Looking specifically at Customer Engagement, the last 18 months have probably seen more need for change, reinvention, and agile responses than in the last 10 years. The volatile political and economic landscapes are often having sudden and dramatic effects on prices across sectors, most notably within retail, and many brands are yet again having to rethink how they offer value to their customers, and how to entice and encourage higher levels of activity at a time when slashing prices is not financially viable, nor is expecting cautious customers to spend like they would in more stable circumstances. It is therefore critical to review Customer Engagement strategies and truly consider what the audience’s needs and behaviours are.

Speaking the Customer’s Language

Judging by recent research into attitudes and sentiments, consumers certainly appear to be open to new offerings and experiences. While their priorities and preferences may have changed, what hasn’t waned is the positive effect of customer centric experiences.

Whether tailoring offers, promotions and communications, or improving accessibility and innovation in how people are able to reach your brand and services, the impact on the end customer is undeniably powerful. For example, in their research into customer journeys, PwC found that people will pay up to 16% more for a great customer experience (CX), while Gartner found that 64% of customers value CX over price.

If people are still uncertain or ambiguous in their habits, and if we’re likely to continue to see differing approaches to getting back to shopping in physical stores (which had arguably already been in decline even before Covid) then we need to consider how to motivate the customer. It would be like providing and engaging customer experience from wherever people want to access the brand from, and treat them as individuals with particular needs and preferences.

Retaining Meaningful Connections

More targeted, personalised approaches don’t have to entirely overtake all strategies, but they should be a crucial part of attracting, retaining and nurturing loyal customers. After time spent in lockdowns, only interacting with the outside world through our devices, we are all collectively more eager to be seen and recognised as individuals, rather than just another number or data point on a brand’s radar.

According to Engage Hub, 80% of customers are more likely to purchase from a company that offers personalised experiences. Personalisation means more than just capturing the customer’s name and age. A customer centric approach revolves around utilising data and information provided to enhance every interaction throughout the customer journey – engaging, synchronised, attractive environments, and high performing customer-focused operations that facilitate a closeness to the brand, ultimately, making the customer feel as if the brand, services, or products as a whole are made for them.

 

What should be part of a personalised experience for the customer?

  • Omnichannel: Improving omnichannel offering that goes beyond having a presence on multiple channels, make it seamless for customers to hop between their devices and interact with your brand, whether they’re dealing with customer care, picking up an order, or saving items for later
  • Communications: Tailoring communications (emails, push notifications) to suit previous shopping behaviour and preferences
  • Trust: Enabling customers to be in control of their own data preferences: providing clear, intuitive portals for managing consent and communication
  • Relevance: Personalised offers and promotions – discounts on birthdays are a solid starting point, but promotions that are relevant to their usual spending habits rather than just inviting them to a blanket sale is even better.
  • Exclusivity: Everyone wants to feel special, especially when handing over visibility to personal or sensitive data. Their loyalty will be eroded if they feel they’re not treated differently from someone who just submits an email address and gets the same 10% off. Provide tiers, but also recognise different levels of participation to nurture and sustain meaningful connections with customers of all types.

Digital Empowerment

BCG claims growth rates increase by 6% to 10% in companies that master personalisation, not to mention the beneficial ripple effect across marketing efficiency, boosted digital sales, and stronger relationships developed with customers. The key to being able to execute personalised strategies is of course having the right technological capabilities in place. To reach end users is one hurdle, but you also need digital solutions that can facilitate, anticipate, and support closer interactions across all touchpoints between consumer and brand, providing a holistic vision of customer and behaviour.

Through technology, engagement initiatives can be almost automatically scaled up and made more accessible and inclusive. There is, however, still a need to tailor and craft experiences so that they offer users the best of both the digital and physical worlds. As we see consumers becoming more considerate of their personal circumstances and needs, there is a great opportunity to develop mindful experiences for them as well. Emails that are reactive but not invasive. Suggestions and recommendations that feel handpicked and perceptive, rather than random or machine generated. So, while digital engagement may be underpinned by technology, it does not need to veer away from the human touch, as mastering personalisation of course ultimately comes down to keeping things exactly that – personal.

 

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There is no doubt that the last 18 months brought the subject of health and well-being into sharp focus. Many of us had to learn how to stay active within the four walls of home, devoting significant willpower, determination, and energy into ensuring that the sudden lack of activity and routine didn’t come at the expense of our health.

It is of course true that most of us know that we need to eat well and exercise regularly to stay healthy. Nevertheless, it is also the case that a lot of us find it hard to do either in a sustained manner. Rationally, we may know these things are important for our own personal interest, but something often seems to get in the way. Academics, behavioural experts, and health professionals have known for many years that mere awareness of a health issue or risk is not always enough to motivate people to change deeply entrenched habits or to develop new ones.

Developing and sustaining motivation for lifestyle change is critical in managing chronic conditions such as cancer, diabetes or heart and pulmonary disease. But the same is equally true across many other aspects of healthcare as well as any number of personal health and fitness related goals, be it remembering to take medication at particular times, kicking bad habits, the journey from couch to 5k, or any number of well-intentioned New Year’s Resolutions.

Health motivation has many of the same influences as other aspects of motivation but with, perhaps, some specific additions to the mix. Alongside the obvious environmental, physical, and psychological variables and the experiences that can shape our perceptions, there is an equation of perceived susceptibility, perceived severity, perceived benefits, and perceived barriers that can combine to determine individual attitudes and actions. Even with a positive attitude, action can often still require a cue, stimulus, or nudge. We all need encouragement to put us, and keep us, on the right path and that is where the use of digital innovation can go a long way to building our engagement.

More than ‘just a game’

Gamification, Serious Games and Game Design have all been growing in use over the last 10 years in a wide range of non-entertainment contexts, from finances to learning to play the piano and everything in between. There are several reasons for this, a key one being how well these approaches can engage and focus users. It is this capacity for engagement, encouragement and commitment that can make Game Design and Gamification significantly impactful within Health and Wellbeing.

 


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Recent years have seen an increased application of game thinking across health, fitness, and wellbeing through the explosion of fitness apps and a better understanding of motivation and behavioural psychology. The growing use of Gamification to support the management of chronic illness, rehabilitation, health, and wellbeing is already proving to have fascinating and significant benefits. Serious contexts with serious connotations and consequences, but with an opportunity to inject well designed user focussed strategies that can support people on their journey to changing their behaviours for the better and towards improved health.

A System for Support

An important initial step in managing a long-term condition, such as diabetes or a heart condition, is helping with their overall understanding and awareness. Depending on diagnosis, traditionally a GP or doctor will talk through symptoms to monitor or watch out for supported with leaflets, websites and an initial schedule of check-ups and tests. In cases where the individual may have access to specialists and dedicated practitioners, their progress and the management of their condition may have more support to hand – perhaps with these specialists available for frequent check-ups and monitoring, personalised health plans, etc. Sadly, the growing prevalence of these conditions across a health service that is already economically challenged, makes this support increasingly difficult to provide.

Despite the best endeavours of healthcare professionals, diagnosis of a chronic illness can still be a lonely, confusing, or frightening period for many. Faced with such, it is all too easy to resort to the internet to identify and interpret symptoms or browse forums to find what has worked for other people. This can, of course, become even more confusing and frightening since the available information may not feel relevant or be appropriate for each situation.

Given the importance of scalability and availability, this is where appropriate and well-designed technology solutions can help to complement the support system provided by medical professionals facing a level of increasing demand that they cannot possibly satisfy in the long term. Whilst some people have claimed that the pace of digital innovation that has taken place in the last ten months is equivalent to that of the previous ten years, this does not perhaps fairly reflect some of the innovation that has been quietly taking place across the health sector and is starting to deliver significant benefits.

Health and Gamification in Practice

A good example of gamification being successfully integrated into a healthcare solution can be seen with PainSquad: a smartphone based electronic pain management tool which helps 8 to 18-year old cancer patients track pain levels and complete daily reports. It turns an emotionally complex task into an engaging experience, as users climb the ranks and earn rewards by habitually using a crime-fighting style application. The result? 90%+ initial completion rates for the pain journals, a percentage noted to be unheard of in paediatric medicine, highlighting the empowering and constructive impact that a gamified experience can have.

Another example of using gamification can be seen with Mango Health. Their smartphone application is designed to allow users to set up their daily medication schedule and then provides them with appropriate prompts to take the medication. If the user takes their medication at the right time, they earn points that can be converted into gift cards or even charitable donations.  On top of this, the mobile app also provides educational materials about the user’s medication, including drug interactions and potential side effects.

Occasionally there is a concern raised regarding the opportunity to address health matters with digital solutions, based on an assumption that it involves expensive and frequently inaccessible technologies. Or that they end up reducing the important subject and science at their core. However there are plenty of examples where technology has helped make a significant and positive impact on health and well being, and plenty of examples demonstrating how technology actually improves scalability and accessibility of much needed support. For instance, the role of virtual reality video games in promoting active movement, improving balance, and increasing energy expenditure in children with cerebral palsy. These examples have used a Nintendo Wii or Microsoft Kinect as a low cost, accessible way to offer self-motivated physical therapy through a video game. Studies showed that patients who participated in virtual reality gaming therapy increased the intensity, frequency, and duration of therapy movements, leading to enhanced motor performance.

Whilst the use of gamification in healthcare has been around for a while, it is still developing and continues to represent a significant opportunity for future research and impact.  As an example that demonstrates how fast this is expanding and how seriously it is being applied right now, the FDA in America recently made a landmark decision to officially validate the use of a video game as a prescribed treatment for children with ADHD after 7 years of clinical trials.

Rehabilitation and Recovery

Another stimulating opportunity area for the application of game thinking in healthcare lies in rehabilitation and recovery from acute conditions such as strokes or spinal injury. Here, there are good examples where “real” games can play as important a role in a patient’s recovery as specifically made serious games. To help recovery, the engaging and fun nature of the game is of critical importance. Video games require focused and repetitive movements, which is often exactly what is needed for this kind of rehabilitation. Because the game is fun and provides the patient a distraction whilst they play, it is potentially able to offer a degree of sustainability that traditional rehabilitation may not always be able to easily provide.

For example, games such as Battlefield have been used to help stroke patients by using special controllers that use the feet rather than hands to move. This has been shown to help to recover lost function, by encouraging repetitive movements and stimulation. Research has also shown that more active games, such as Wii Fit Sports, where controllers are motion activated, can improve upper body muscle activation in quadriplegics and tetraplegics.

In contrast to the reuse of standard games with modified controllers or gameplay tweaks, there are also games that are created specifically for rehabilitation. One such game, designed by a research team at Newcastle University, was successfully used to evaluate the effectiveness of small changes to therapeutic regimes, by asking the patient to play a simple video game that measured their physical responses to onscreen movement.

One of the key reasons we are all drawn to games in their different forms is precisely because of their ability to immerse us in a different world, or a different story, with different rules to the one we live in normally. The notion of being able to open new worlds for people to explore, when they may be feeling trapped or struggling in whatever way, is incredibly exciting and is matched with the positive results and outcomes achieved in patients taking on these new forms of therapy. In the same way that we are seeing more and more innovative story telling in the traditional world of games, perhaps we can look forward to even more inspirational blends of imagination, creativity and science to deliver real change and impact in rehabilitation and recovery?

Wellbeing

Wellbeing is often used to cover a vast array of topics, from mental wellness to weight management to fitness. Whether it is the use of Wii Bowling to help keep the eldering active, corporate fitness schemes that make use of wearable technologies to create internal competitions and challenges or more bespoke solutions that help monitor mental health and depression such as SuperBetter, game thinking and gamification are increasingly being applied to enable effective solutions.

Within the workplace, gamified solutions have already proven the value and positive impact they can offer in terms of the employee experience and in achieving organisational objectives. Whether it is in terms of consistent and effective onboarding, uniting remote teams, engaging individuals in learning and development, or standardising processes and approaches, gamified tools and experiences have been shown to be readily adopted and to deliver tangible results.  However, there is space for this value and user centric approach to be directed towards corporate wellness schemes in order to produce meaningful solutions, beyond counting how many daily steps you achieve as a team. There is no doubt that the world of work already has and will continue to undergo significant change. There is already acute focus on employee wellbeing and organisations across all sectors are faced with the need to increase participation, commitment and overall engagement amongst their employees whilst also finding the balance between empathy and effectiveness. During the pandemic, the necessary distancing, shielding, and lockdown requirements meant that loneliness impacted on health and wellbeing with 24% of adults feeling significantly isolated. The use of technology to replace face to face social interactions undoubtedly helped some individuals maintain contact and activities through these abnormal times. There has never been a more important time for organisations to apply innovation to these areas with digital solutions to support health and well-being as an intrinsic part of their employee experience.

Change for the Future

There is enough pressure in today’s society to fit one fitness standard or another, and the reality is everyone is fighting their own personal challenge regarding their health and wellbeing and where they would like it to be. Whatever the solution, it cannot lose sight of the end needs and requirements of the user it should be helping and supporting. Solutions do not need to be overly complex to be effective. When considering behaviour change, we are often focused on making small changes to help new behaviours stick. Constant availability, reliability and security are also important characteristics of these solutions whilst it is important to keep in mind that there is no “one size fits all” approach so personalisation and user-focussed design will determine adoption and ultimately sustained behaviour outcomes. It is time to take careful steps towards future designs that leverage the exciting possibilities and mechanics, founded on the exciting scientific research, in order to deliver exciting and encouraging results for the individuals at the heart.

Helping You Innovate and Engage

In a world full of distractions, options, influences and competition, how can you make your offering stand out to customers? How can you earn their trust? How can you make a positive impact on their journey from browsing to purchase and beyond?

We can help innovate and enhance how people experience your brand to build sustainable, meaningful connections. Learn more about our Customer Engagement & Loyalty solutions that work to hook individuals, increasing participation and performance.