CATEGORY

ENGAGEMENT

 

How does anyone even begin to ‘round-up’ the year we’ve all had? In our personal and professional lives, most of us have experienced such vast challenges and significant change that it is hard to believe it has been 12 months and not 24. Though we may be turning a new page as we move to the new year, it is not an entirely new story, and in 2021 many businesses will most likely continue to grapple with different ups-and-downs and the effects of 2020.

That said, we believe what also lies ahead is an opportunity to make a real difference by reassessing and improving approaches, focussing on the people at the heart of businesses, communities, organisations, and society, to achieve success in spite of uncertainty.

So instead of rounding up 2020 as if the story were over, we thought we’d look back on the themes and pieces that most appealed to people’s needs and interests over the year. Reflection and food for thought, as the collective journey towards new approaches, strategies and innovation continues into 2021 and beyond.

  1. Keeping Teams Connected & Empowered

This year teams had to act and adapt quickly to new circumstances, conflicting priorities, and different strategies. A need like never before to think creatively and innovatively in how challenges were met. With many moving to remote working or facing heightened demand, lots of us looked for ways to keep employees feeling productive, fulfilled, and motivated – through digital solutions.

In 2021, there will no doubt be a new round of challenges to face in supporting and sustaining an engaged, committed, and productive workforce in what will still be difficult business conditions. Here are our 3 most popular posts from this year looking at employee engagement, to help spark ideas for 2021:

  1. Customer Care, Concern and Connection

In a recent study, 70% of European based executives stated that the current coronavirus pandemic was accelerating the pace of their digital transformation. This year saw brands across all sectors make herculean efforts to try and stay connected to their customers, some even diversifying the services they offered in order to sustain the customer bond. Digital experiences inevitably became the only vehicle for staying in touch, and while technology is amazing because of its reach and flexibility, it is just a vehicle at the end of the day.
It is people who we want to connect to, build relationships with, and learn from their motivations, reactions, and needs. Human crises require human responses.

Is 2021 the year to flip our thinking on digital transformation and focus in on how it can deliver better connection, empathy, and engagement? Here are our 3 most popular posts from this year that looked at building better relationships and engagement with customers:

  1. Future Values

Over these past few months, we have all had time to think and reflect on the way we live our lives. Crises often have the effect of bringing our core values into focus, and by having a number of our old routines and habits taken away from us, we’ve maybe been reminded of what we think is important. Furthermore, more than ever before people are expecting the brands around them to stand for something. Businesses are now being pushed beyond their classic interests to become advocates for a better society.

Euromonitor’s 2020 Sustainability Survey found that COVID-19 has brought social purpose to the fore, with two thirds of surveyed companies defining sustainability as “supporting local communities”, a 15% increase compared to the previous year. Accenture reports 62% of customers want companies to take a stand on current and broadly relevant issues like sustainability, transparency or fair employment practices.

As we all reassess what practices and approaches we want to represent our values in 2021, here are our 3 most popular posts on the emerging power of values and ethics in society.

RAMP, Intrinsic vs Extrinsic Motivation, Gamification…
What are we talking about?

 

Our Gamification Guru, Andrzej Marczewski, breaks down some of the theories and concepts we often talk about and use in our Engagement Solutions.

Interested in how Gamification or Behavioural Science could help your organisation achieve objectives and boost engagement?  

 

3 responses for 3 common Employee Engagement challenges

A challenge we come across when designing our engagement solutions, is how often teams focussed on Employee Engagement, People, HR or Talent struggle to pinpoint the exact change they want to make. They’ve run the surveys, got the results, can see there’s room for improvement, but don’t know where or how to begin. This is understandable – the problem can feel intangible, especially as engagement survey responses are mostly fuelled by emotions. Improving the emotional wellbeing, connection, commitment, motivation, and ultimately performance across a business doesn’t happen overnight. You can, however, make meaningful, sustainable change that looks and feels innovative for everyone involved without diverging from company objectives, but that crucially addresses what your employees are telling you.

To help demystify these solutions and show that it can be easily achieved, we thought we’d break down 3 common Engagement Survey trends and their responses.

Social Management & Preventing Detachment

As we find ourselves working more from home, or on the move, it can be very difficult to feel “part” of something. Our sense of belonging and purpose can become diluted. Providing ways for employees to communicate and socialise with each other is essential, something we have spoken about a number of times.

What is the benefit in addressing this? The feeling of isolation that can often result from working remotely can be damaging not just for your sense of belonging within a team, but also for your mental health. From a business perspective, having people not in the same building or room can reduce the opportunities for fast interactions and iterations of ideas, serendipitous conversations in the kitchen and those water cooler moments. They may feel like minor aspects of business-as-usual, but all of these moments can often lead to creative sparks being ignited.

Employers who enforce a high level of social connection (with co-workers and the wider external community, perhaps through nudges etc) benefit from a 64% high engagement rate of employees.

Idea Management & Employee Voice

It is not uncommon for employees to feel voiceless, especially in large organisations, in the face of change, or when their roles focus on day to day operations rather than strategic objectives. This can be incredibly demotivating and if left unaddressed can drive a wedge between employee groups and the organisation. Employees who don’t believe their company will act on their feedback are 7x more likely to be disengaged than those who do. It gets even worse when employees are asked for their opinion, but nothing ever happens with the ideas they provide. Not only does this make them feel they can’t be heard, but that when they are – what they say has little to no value. Having the “What’s the point?” effect.

What is the benefit in addressing this? Companies often preach that their employees are their most important asset. Sometimes they don’t realise just how true this is. Employees are the face of a brand, they manage customer problems, and live and breathe the products or services all day every day. They are often in a good position to resolve common issues or ideate improvements. Encourage knowledge sharing, and inclusivity across ongoing projects. By supporting employees to be collaborators and facilitators, you may well find you’ve created teams of innovators.
Places where “employees have influence” get longer tenures out of their workers. After three years, there’s a 47% chance of an employee sticking with them. At companies seen as less empowering, employees only have a 35% chance of celebrating their three-year work anniversary.

Recognition Management & Boosting Commitment

Another big issue that employees often talk about is not feeling recognised for the contributions they make to the company and for each other. 82% of employees are happier when they’re recognised at work. Especially meaningful at times where people are maybe going above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a project done on time, or even just when you can see a colleague is having a full-on week. This does not just mean offering financial recognition, like a bonus or vouchers. Extrinsic rewards can sometimes have the opposite effect; your work on this project after hours is worth £25 to spend on Amazon. Doesn’t feel great does it?

What is the benefit in addressing this? Feeling recognised fosters a sense of community, that the people around you appreciate you for your skills, your aptitude, and all you do. Celebrating wins, boosting visibility of people’s contributions, providing spaces for people to share and receive praise can go a long way to improving community spirit and how fulfilled people feel in their role. Employees who are confident that their company recognises their individual contribution are more likely to keep contributing and going the extra mile.

When asked what would motivate them to remain with their current employer, respondents cited interesting work (74 percent) and recognition and rewards (69 percent) as the top factors.

Addressing the Problem

Having identified three core areas to work on (employee responses & needs) we can start to design the solutions to improve the employee experience, thus moving the dial on overall employee engagement. Myth buster time: these solutions don’t have to be complex, distracting platforms that sit apart from everyday work! We believe in simply enhancing common processes and approaches to deliver better results. So, let’s give it a go!

  • Connection: Platforms that mimic social networks can feel familiar and encourage more informal conversations. But presenting another channel for communicating isn’t always as helpful as it may initially seem. When you’re working on your own, away from the office, seeing you have 77 notifications across 8 different work-based applications can cause more chaos than connection as you stress over which conversation to answer first or what channel has genuine work-related information.
    Instead offer a solution that could mimic the workplace while running in the background; where you know which break out zone to head to when you’re in need of some friendly, non-work related chat, or alternatively pop into the ideation area when you’ve hit the wall and you want to bounce some ideas off people. A tutorial that could run for the first few weeks could also help guide people on how to get the most out of the new tool (and avoid awkward misuse or over-sharing moments), and even help identify and source internal champions to help engage and encourage others appropriately.
  • Voice: Speaking of ideas, an effective way to provide all employees with a voice is to implement digital ideation systems, a place where employees can submit ideas they feel will benefit the organisation. The system needs to be available to everyone so that they can submit an idea. Other employees would then be able to see these ideas, comment on them and vote on them. The voting is important to help surface the best ideas. Voting could be in rounds, with gated progress, so that ideas need to pass certain checkpoints to be seen by wider or more senior audiences. Ideas that are chosen to be developed can them be collaboratively worked on and developed further by teams within the system. A system like this can be open all year around for general ideas but could also be used to help solve specific problems set out by the company. This kind of crowd sourced solution development can be incredibly effective and make everyone feel they have a chance to be heard.
  • Recognition: And finally, providing a space within the solution to manage and showcase recognition would round off our three key issues. It would need to include more than top down recognition, although providing prompts like “Who’s really impressed you this week?” could help facilitate better relations between teams and managers. But it’s also about enabling peer to peer, informal, and cross departmental or regional recognition. Having this integrated alongside the social and ideation threads would only do more to bring communities together, knowing you can say ‘thank you’ or ‘great work’ from afar.
    Employees could recognise each other for jobs well done, pitching in when they didn’t need to, displaying company values, and each could be assigned individual gestures or commendations depending on the message being sent. Virtual applause for job well done that could be used more frequently, a high five for great teamwork, specific badges for excellent customer service or innovation, etc. These awards could be displayed on the individual’s profile, as references or reminders of their performance, and subtle encouragement to work towards attaining more. The profiles could even be used as a references within appraisals or internal reviews, adding more meaning to everyday work and wins.

Today’s consumer no longer wants to be guided by merely transactional impulses. They want to find more, they look for new or enhanced experiences, they want to feel unique. Subsequently, the retail sector cannot settle for an occasional customer – a ‘peruser’, a browser, a surfer. Brands are in a battle to become that “go-to name”, the first place you think of when you need or want something or the feeling takes you. Somewhere that welcomes you and facilitates your experience each time. How can a brand level up and achieve this coveted status?

In a simple purchase process, the customer perceives a need or interest, browses options, checks offers and makes a decision. The tendency is to settle on a desired product or service and then weigh up the price, or value for money. In this experience if attention to customer retention, engagement or loyalty is weak, should any one of the items in the equation fail you’ve lost a customer, their recommendation or influence, and any chance of a return visit.

Simple loyalty strategies work on the basis of generating a reason or incentive to return to the business, for dependable recurring profitability. Customers appreciate the benefits that the brand gives them for their support and this fosters a sort of reciprocal dependency. You like the brand and the brand likes you. But can we really call this relationship sustainable or even rewarding? How protected is it from alternatives or distractions?

What if we integrated a more focussed Customer Engagement strategy within the experience? Here, the brand introduces elements of intrinsic motivation for the customer: incentives and rewards that speak to the individual’s wants and needs, generating a deeper emotional connection between brand and consumer. At each touchpoint between customer and brand, the offerings are more in tune with the customer’s profile, meaning the purchasing or browsing experience is more satisfying, increasing the individual’s commitment to the process, purchase, and return. Your recommendation will be positive.

The objective is that neither the process nor the relationship end at the point of sale.  The brand can continue interfacing or interacting with customers in order to keep building their understanding of needs and tendencies, strengthening relationships with personalised communications and offers, collecting feedback and (importantly) acting upon it to demonstrate more meaningful value for customers than just the product or service offering. In turn, consumers feel recognised and become more involved in the brand beyond their initial browsing interest – advocating willingly for what the brand represents or means to them and seeking more positive experiences as the bond continues to grow over time. Customer retained and engaged. Relationship transformed.

No matter what the job is most workers and employees will need to go through training, learning and development in some form at some point. It will vary drastically between sectors amongst other factors but generally it can be split into three distinct categories: mandatory (for example, health and safety or IT security), career related (project management), and personal development (communication and presentation skills). In the corporate world learning has received more pronounced attention (and subsequently investment in many cases) from executive and people teams in recent years, especially as demand for learning opportunities builds with each new generation entering the workforce, and with more readily available opportunities to demonstrate upskilling across your career. Scan the careers section on LinkedIn and you will spot ‘learning’ playing an integral role in many organisations EVP, or just being an essential compliance piece for effective employees.

However along with demand, expectations are also growing. Organisations are eager to stay relevant and keep their employee experience offering innovative, but so often people keep circling back to LMS platforms with no personalisation or personality. You can only reinvent the same content or processes so many times, and L&D professionals today find themselves in a battle for people’s attention in a world that has had to move so many events and strategies entirely online. Equipped with all the benefits of technology, but perhaps still facing a delay until we can have face-to-face sessions again, how can we reinvigorate and enable L&D to ensure participation, commitment, and engagement?

Video is King?

Video has long been the first step for online learning settings, and it is particularly useful when virtually replicating what otherwise would be happening in a classroom based or face to face environment. Quick videos suit the attention span of today’s learner, and conferencing helps encourage connecting and collaborating across locations. There are plenty of advantages that video content can bring to the professional world. It has the potential to be delivered at any time often on any device, it can be made bite sized, it can be made collaborative, autonomous, virtual, the possibilities only grow with technological advancements. But in the same breath, so does video exhaustion. Zoom has seen a growth from 10 million meeting participants per day to over 300 million per day since the start of January 2020. It has been used for everything from virtual coffee mornings to delivering webinars. Whilst the online move was vital for the events space and has shown great lengths of creativity behind L&D, even by the second month of lockdown many were feeling saturated, facing webinar overload, and most concerningly worrying about the potential impact on career progression and stagnation over time.

Video undoubtedly does enable more dynamic content production, but it doesn’t always allow for inter-personal or spontaneous moments that develop naturally in person and this has been noticed profoundly since lockdown. Conferencing and video both have a tendency to fall flat when it comes to personal and professional development. Individuals are lacking the communication and collaboration required to thrive, develop, and pick up those soft skills from being immersed in a physical environment with others. It can feel hard for people to feel like they’re progressing, learning, or on track with their development when it’s just them and their screen all day every day, they’re having to prove their skills and aptitude purely online. This is where a balance between technology and human interaction becomes important. There are plenty of digital solutions to connect A to B or carry messaging. To support people’s innate drive for relatedness, autonomy, mastery and purpose any implemented technology needs to facilitate experiences that address and interpret the core needs of the people involved.

People need more of a hook with compelling content in order to build engagement and commitment to the learning path.

Not Just Playing Games

A 2019 survey found that 83% of the respondents receiving gamified training felt motivated, versus only 28% for those undertaking non-gamified training. When gamified elements were added to training, boredom dropped to 10%. And although integrating gamification into training or L&D isn’t new: right now, there is a great opportunity to delve further into its possibilities.

Think about traditionally content heavy training: we have all been faced with reading through pages upon pages of health and safety, corporate rules and regulation training that is often difficult to absorb. Translating this content into a virtual gamified experience has been show to be a particularly effective approach for helping to deliver consistent experiences in a way that employees can ‘digest’ easily, interpret

That said, hesitations around gamifying experiences is understandable, particularly when trying to deliver essential or meaningful training, such as how to improve communication or diversity awareness. But gamification doesn’t always just make something fun. It can be a stimulating element for ensuring learning transfer, through more meaningful recognition techniques, visualising progress, or simply by integrating levels or tutorials to help people find their feet on a new course. In the absence of face to face training, simulation and scenario-based training can be a great substitute, especially with the advent of more affordable technologies such as Virtual Reality. Applicable for more practical roles when you’re not yet able to put skills to the test in reality, like practising beauty treatments or developing trade related skills safely. This kind of immersive approach can be used for this by putting people in realistic, but safe situations – just like you would in a role play in face to face training, but without the nervous laughs and self-consciousness. When considering VR, research shows that the added movement associated with being able to move your head and even arms can increase a participant’s feeling of empathy during the experience, which can make a huge difference for people in customer facing positions. Or as part of recreating or simulating everyday experiences within a virtual environment, participants can create avatars to explore content, courses and locations, in a much more direct way.

Once you lift the experience from the classroom, the opportunities and approaches are endless. So whether it’s recreating a training event on a group video call, developing and providing a gamified experience or a virtual world: the common denominator in what will make each approach successful is the focus on making it an engaging experience, made accessible to potentially all employees irrespective of location. It might not be a full replacement for everyone being in a room together, but it’s certainly one step closer, and a way that training, L&D can be provided more naturally. Still providing something insightful, engaging and valuable yet is capable of evolving with changing circumstances and requirements. And not forgetting, providing an element of fun along the way!

The university experience hangs in the balance with students paying more than ever before to continue their higher education, during a time where they may not even be able to move to the city where their university is based. What effect does it have on the university-student relationship to have such formative years move entirely online? For starters, the pressure is on for educators to provide value and sustain student interest and engagement levels, and to tackle somewhat unexpected challenges.  

Sarah, a lecturer from Newcastle University, says: “the key thing we noticed when we switched to online teaching at the start of lockdown was the lack of engagement online with students, this was surprising considering how they’re typically so comfortable online and on their phones.” She and her colleagues found students reluctant to partake in dialogue and discussions, with few willing to even use instant messaging or chat functions, even more hesitant to turn on their cameras in seminars and tutorials. Overall, during lockdown, they discovered the students were generally uncomfortable fully engaging in sessions. While she originally figured she would be battling IT issues and stuck on imaginative content creation, Sarah has found herself spending more time thinking of how to simply inspire debate and conversation while addressing these new needs, behaviours and confidence levels.  

It strikes a noticeable and perhaps surprising difference between the webinar-mania from the professional world over the last year, compared to the awkwardness of students using the same platforms for learning when technology is arguably their strength.  

In her online classes at the end of the 2019/20 academic year, Sarah tested and found success in readjusting the session format into panel discussions where students could listen in and observe academics and specialists break down and analyse key topics. It’s helped take the pressure off students and prioritised absorbing and understanding the course, over the focus on whether someone has turned their camera on or not. Nevertheless, it still leaves the teams facilitating learning and nurturing students concerned about how to ensure engagement with online content for this coming academic year. Universities have a vital role in fostering curiosity, innovation, and creativity. If students are switching off, we need to understand why. Here is where matching the flexibility and accessibility of technology with a deeper understanding of audiences and their motivations can really help boost the connection in learning.  

Gen Z audiences, for example, are known to expect instant communication and feedback. From friends and parents but also educators too. Is current heightened connectivity also providing increased feedback and understanding of their performance and progress? When Stanford University ran an informal survey on how students felt sharing video during lectures, two-thirds of respondents reported they have been in a situation where they felt uncomfortable having their camera on in class. When asked why, respondents said they were self-conscious about being seen in class, weren’t in private spaces and/or didn’t want to show their current living situations. Lockdown arguably blurred lines between professional, school, and home life for everyone, and we mustn’t forget that university students living situations are often going to reflect where they are emotionally, financially, and personally. So how can we balance professors needing to know their students are ‘present’ and students needing to feel comfortable or like their space hasn’t been invaded?  

Maybe the answers lie in reinventing the environment instead of replicating the traditional. A new learning environment should mean a new look into innovative approaches to spark interest, participation, curiosity and commitment. It can sound scary and resource intensive at first, but it can be something as simple as integration of Twitter threads for bursts of insightful information in a way that relates to the audience to help tap into the concept of microlearning. Particularly vital during a time where distractions are constant and attention spans are significantly shorter, the expectation to learn primarily from reading long blocks of information may soon be a thing of the past. Or, it could be something more captivating to make the learning experience more meaningful for students. Inclusion of game like elements such as immediate feedback, visualised progress and staggered learning across levels (i.e. have you understood X before moving onto Y?), are ways to enhance the online learning experiences. Various studies [Tan and Singh (2017) and Glowacki, Kriukova and Avshenyuk (2018)have been carried out over the years in the field of gamification in higher education by using gamified tools such as Kahoot, with many specifying its effectiveness for learning transfer, boosted motivation and overall engagement.  

Adding gamification or game elements is a great example of how taking advantage of technology can help to boost more meaningful learning in a way that’s fun and novel, yet also insightful and informative for students. Boundaries can be pushed further with other innovative approaches, utilising artificial intelligence aided virtual assistants or virtual, immersive environmentsAll of these approaches represent a look into how the near future of learning in higher education is developing, particularly as younger generations are in constant search of and desire for new and exciting experiences. 

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. 

Feeling Inspired? Why not talk to the team behind the solution?
Our team are always happy to chat through different challenges, ideas or even just compare notes. Drop us an email and we’ll connect you to someone who can help.
Get in touch

Persuasive technology is broadly defined as technology that is designed to change attitudes or behaviours of users through persuasion and social influence, but crucially not through coercion. The fundamentals of Behavioural Science are at the heart of persuasive technologies. When unregulated and misappropriated, technology that looks to touch human behaviour can have unintended or even unethical consequences. At its best however, persuasive technology can step in where other strategies fail, able to accompany us on our devices to help prompt us, support us, guide us towards achieving voluntary, positive, and lasting behavioural change which truly benefits us as individuals 

The potential for achieving genuine, lasting change and ability to help populations in need of support has resulted in its exponential growth in the field of digital health in recent years, where its usage is typically classified into 2 types. The first being when it is focused on the promotion and prevention of issues. This approach involves fostering awareness, promoting positive behaviours to maintain good health and habits, as well as reinforcing behaviours to review or detect early. 

The second being when it is focussed on the treatment of diagnosed conditions. This tends to involve improving the understanding and competencies of patients so that they can better manage their condition and follow the prescribed treatment more easily. 

Its effectiveness has been provenwith recent research stating the use of persuasive technologies (in both types just mentioned) is nearly 100%. This is specifically when the behavioural objectives are related to dental health, diet, sexual health, physical activity, and positive habit building. However, they noted effectiveness is slightly reduced when it’s applied to smoking and substance abuse.

 

Did you know..?
92% of health and wellness apps using persuasive technology yield highly positive results.

 

Achieving Positive ChangeThe Role of Motivational Strategies 

For a long time, behaviours and behavioural change belonged within the realm and study of Psychology. However, in today’s interconnected world, it is now not uncommon for Behavioural Science to be present when designing technological solutions aimed at people. Artificial Intelligence experts, UX designers, product managers, marketeers, software developers, all benefit from being able to gain better insight into behaviours when creating experiences for peopleAs a result, persuasive technology has infiltrated wide range of every day mobile applicationscomputer games, and smartphone functionalities, which you wouldn’t always associate as being supported by Behavioural ScienceAs with all aspects of technology, when used correctly and carefully, with a well thought through strategy, it has the power to enhance everyday life. Some of the applications developed in the digital health space are an excellent example of the positive influence all the different parts working in unison can have. So, what are the different pieces of the puzzle that come to deliver positive change?  

Digital Health apps frequently employ multiple motivational or persuasive strategies. The traditional elements we all recognise from using health related apps are also unsurprisingly the most successful nudges and techniques to build and reinforce behaviours and a solid starting point for persuasive technology according to studiesProgress monitoring, reminders or alert messages, feedback (both visual, textual, or audio) and positive reinforcement all contribute to encourage a patient on their journey. Then through the advancement of new and emerging technologies, simulations and virtual re-enactments of situations are becoming more widely used and opening up more opportunities for persuasive tech, especially to help people get more accustomed to new, unknown or complex behaviours.  

When reviewing the most popular apps, they often had collaborative and cooperative motivational strategies such as social support and knowledge exchange which turn out to be very popular with users, and that helped towards driving adoption and self-awareness. Though intrinsic strategies are most effective for driving meaningful engagementthere is no harm in seasoning solutions with elements that trigger extrinsic motivation (rewards, medals and pointsto generate balanced, sustained participationUltimately, it is important to bear in mind that the success of all these strategies is mediated by the level of personalisation and customisation that they allow. The more they can be adapted to meet the individual’s needs, the better the results. 

 

Putting it into Practice 

Let’s consider an example health application, focussed on helping clinically obese patients make permanent, positive changes. By using persuasive technology, intervention becomes more accessible as it lands into the palm of the user’s hand – allowing for an effective, personalised experience where the individual feels the technology speaks to them, on their terms, in their space. And this personalisation doesn’t need to come at the cost of rigour, for example with the example app, it could be set to run across a duration of 12 months, following a structured but automated program with weekly training sessions. The treatment could be multidisciplinary; touching on diet, physical activity, sleep, psychology, coping with stress and general health to offer a multifaceted look at health and wellbeingThe strategy could set challenges for users to select and take on depending on which ones best suit their preferences, needs and interests. As part of making the content and journey more engaging, challenges or tasks can be grouped (for example, into 50 training sessions) into a variety of formats, such as virtual simulations and trials or social and support groups where you can share your concerns and experience. The follow-up of their progress would be done through immediate and continuous feedback over time. You might be thinking, ‘but what if I don’t remember to go onto the app, or simply don’t have the motivation or desire to do so?’ The app would issue consistently frequent alerts or reminder messages to ensure the treatment is carried out. And for extra motivation, users would receive positive reinforcement comments and also virtual rewards such as points and special badges for their good workGoing that step further and tapping into personalisation, mentioned earlier as a main key to success, each patient throughout the program would also have a personal trainer who would virtually support and guide themThis would significantly help to enhance the main components that make up the programme: self-control, personal trainer communication and feedback, group support and the implementation of a semi-structured intervention adapted to each patient. 

Studies have shown that in comparison to more traditional face-to-face interventions with the same objective, this kind of digital intervention allows 4 times as many patients to be treated for the same cost. With this in mind, not only are these types of apps that are based on persuasive technology beneficial for the end users in terms of preventing and treating health problems, but it can significantly help to improve how things are done across wider organisations and communities as well. Perhaps the inclusion of motivational strategies in persuasive technology represents a glimpse into what the future of digital health could and should look like. And perhaps the future of persuasive technology can learn from positive applications across health and wellbeing to pave the way for more positive experiences at the intersection between people and technology.  

References 

  1. Orji, R. & Moffatt, K. (2018). Persuasive technology for health and wellness: State-of-the-art and emerging trends. Health Informatics Journal, 24(1), 66-91. doi: https://doi.org/10.1177/1460458216650979 
  1. Orji, R., Vassileva, J. & Mandryk, R.L. (2014). Modeling the efficacy of persuasive strategies for different gamer types in serious games for health. User Model User-Adap Inter, 24, 453–498. doi: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11257-014-9149-8 
  1. Väätäinen, S., Soini, E., Arvonen, S., Suojanen, L., & Pietiläinen, K. (2019). Potential direct secondary care cost benefits of HealthyWeightHub – Virtual Hospital 2.0 digital lifestyle intervention. Finnish Journal of EHealth and EWelfare, 11(4), 342–356. doi: https://doi.org/10.23996/fjhw.82457 

 

 

This is part of a series – check out part 1 here 

Schools have long followed the most traditional approach to learning and potentially struggled the most when it came to lockdown learning. With a dramatic range of learning needs, ages and attention spans, examinations, and home situations, it has been hard to deliver lessons with the same consistency and rigour over a screen or via a platform. Helen, a Chemistry teacher from North London, says the COVID-19 lockdown turned her world upside down from one day to the next. 

In a school, not all teachers are following the exact same schedule, facing the same challenges, addressing the same needs, or even required to deliver materials the same way. So, when we moved to remote learning, those different circumstances suddenly became even more accentuated.” Because the immediacy of the lockdown, Helen and her colleagues faced a scramble to work out how to balance teaching in terms of prioritising age groups in need of more personalised tutoring across MS Teams, and in terms of who had more availability. Sometimes this meant everyone doing less, sometimes it meant people without caring responsibilities taking on more than their share. It was almost unavoidable.” Lesson materials were uploaded and shared, homework was returned, the practicalities of teaching and learning continued, but something she genuinely noticed and felt hard to replicate was the pastoral care – both for students and staff.   

On paper, the move to more online learning could be great. By the day younger generations are increasingly familiar with and adept at technology. There is ample potential for bringing learning to the screen. One study showed learners recall more when using virtual teaching methods than with traditional methods, a comparative study of the same core content but through different mediums, which proved a 76% increase in learning effectiveness. With this in mind, going virtual shouldn’t mean a drop in attainment, but of course the theory is not always the case in reality.  

As we have seen, schools were an area of society that were never going to stay ‘closed’ forever and though reopening has its share of challenges, we wonder how technology could assist in the teaching and learning ecosystem of the future.  

Firstly, teachers and schools would argue there is more to their role than just delivering learning. In the move to screen time learning, the biggest missing piece for them became the complexity in sustaining pastoral care – for students and colleagues alike. Pastoral care can feel juxtaposed online, especially when so much can be noticed by watching students in the classroom, picking up on individual moods and behaviours. A significant part of pastoral care is the support network between teachers and co-workers within schools. Grabbing each other for a quick word in between classes, comparing notes and building a better picture of what works and what doesn’t. Coming out of lockdown, Helen says that she came to really value how everyone managed to sustain that teamwork in order to create more flexibility for each other.     

Could schools take a page from the corporate world’s book and adopt team catch ups, incorporating more teamwork and collaboration into the day? Easier said than done though as teachers are renown for having barely any time in the day already, adding another call or meeting maybe wouldn’t be the best use of their time when they may feel stretched or that their focus is needed for curriculum creativity and innovative ways to capture student’s attention. However, the way to navigate that issue, is to design solutions with the teacher’s needs and schedule in mind. Digital platforms can centralise easy and instant creation and sharing of learning materials, that teachers can then adapt in delivery to the needs of the students. The experience can then be enhanced though, by including elements that will support the teacher’s working day. Features that facilitate immediate feedback, flag good news to the wider team, and enable recognition can provide automated motivation boosts during a day where they may not get an actual thank you for their dedication. Within the same platform, messaging can connect colleagues interested in or working on similar areas to improve collaboration or provide functionalities that enable teachers to ‘raise their hand’ for an offline conversation about a concern they may have regarding work, materials or safeguarding. By using personalised, digital solutions a fragmented day becomes streamline.

Asking for help or getting recognition could be sped up for instantaneous responses, and all the effort needed to “connect the dots” becomes less labour intensive, so teachers could then spend less time on frantic creative content creation, and more time on the personalised, pastoral care that technology can’t exactly step in and help with. Innovation doesn’t need to result in overhaul, but we won’t necessarily enhance the learning experience by just moving materials online or creating video content for classrooms. Real change comes by understanding your audience, and identifying where connections can be made, where they struggle, and how to enable small improvements for huge steps forward. A bit like every great teacher we’ve ever known.   

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.