CATEGORY

ENGAGEMENT

 

Building Tools, Tasks, Teams and Trust

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

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

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

 

A fresh chance to Go Green?

 

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

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

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

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

Getting started: Commitment, Motivation, and Productivity

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

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

Moving the dial on behaviour change

Getting People Behind the Movement 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Eco-Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

 


Human Crises Require Empathetic Responses

 

Brands know that sustaining and reinforcing relationships with employees and customers becomes more important than ever during downturns, crises, or just general uncertainty. Traditionally, recovery ‘crisis mode’ has been perceived as chaotic and all-hands-on-deck, with employees put under an increased amount of stress to deliver more results than ever. Unsurprisingly, customers are often put off by this. Quick responses are important, of course, especially when so many organisations have spent years streamlining processes to prioritise efficiency and immediacy. But, there’s danger in only responding for the sake of it.

Looking at current circumstances, 70% of European based executives in a recent study stated that the current coronavirus pandemic was accelerating the pace of their digital transformation. Equipping people with technology to remain productive and utilising effective communication channels are important elements, but are they enough on their own? These investments in technology will mean nothing if people aren’t at the heart of your strategy. Technology is only the delivery; a vital and valuable part of the experience but just that, a part. It is people who we want to connect to, build relationships with, and learn from their motivations, reactions, and needs. During times of uncertainty, values and perceptions become affected through individual, personal experiences – so it’s only right that brand responses should correspond. Human crises require human solutions and responses. It could be time to flip our thinking on digital transformation and focus in on how it can deliver better connection, empathy, and engagement.

Care + Concern = Connection

Care and connection for what another person feels and experiences, can be defined as empathy. It is a term that’s crept up significantly over the years, but do we really understand why empathy is important? Inheriting this behaviour is important in order to connect emotionally with customers and understand what they are looking for from you as a brand. Over 80% of 150 CEOs stated that they recognise it as a key to success. 72% state that the current state of empathy in the workplace needs to evolve, a 17% increase from the previous year. Somewhat reflective of the growing trend amongst many influential leaders we see publicly broadcasting their commitment to conveying and displaying empathy.

To be effective, it must be authentic and something that becomes a core component of organisational culture, not just a buzz word to integrate into messaging with no real action behind it. Genuine empathy helps us to stop, listen, interpret, and understand the environment we’re operating in. And through genuine understanding and appreciation, or care and concern, customer trust is gained.

When looking at the primary factors that led customers to feel trust for brands against the backdrop of COVID-19, not taking advantage of a crisis to maximise their own profits (authenticity) and caring for both their employees and customers (empathy) came out as the top 3 responses.

Consider March of this year, where due to the uncertainty that people started to feel at the beginning of the pandemic, their psychological and physical needs became a serious priority that was reflected in their shopping experience. Examples of empathetic response to this change, a number of large supermarkets offered private early morning opening hours for older or more vulnerable customers as a way to protect them but also enable their continued shopping experience.  This a great example of how businesses can display empathy for what their customers are going through. Instead of focussing solely on profit maximisation and reaching out with obtrusive or irrelevant marketing, reaching out with support or better still, facilitation and encouragement of human connection despite low-touch contexts, is a gesture that no one is soon going to forget.

It is important to note, you can strike a balance between a profitable strategy and empathic responses, it’s not just black or white, there’s an in between where you can work on attaining financial stability, while still being people focussed.

A lot of businesses see charity as the answer to dealing with the consequences that have arisen in the current situation and the main way to reconnect with customers. Despite this temptation to jump straight towards charitable donations – is it the right motivation? Dealing with uncertainty doesn’t necessarily mean giving everything you’ve got to fight towards charitable causes. These supermarkets for example, are still making huge profits during this time, but have been able to do so in a people-centric way by putting people and their customers at the centre of their strategy.

In the same way it’s important for companies to empathise with what their customers are going through, it’s also important to find ways for customers to understand and empathise with what you’re going through. This can be achieved through authenticity and transparency, especially with what is truly going on with your business during turbulent times. Take Airbnb for example, part of an industry that saw performance and profits plummet as a result of worldwide lockdowns. Despite the mass of uncertainties in the travel industry, CEO Brian Chesky sent out a humanised, public message that succinctly defined their situation and outlined their steps moving forward and various support measures that were in place. This authenticity and transparency is a clear example of how, despite uncertainty, being honest with your employees and customers about what is truly going on, but what you’re doing to handle the situation, can help gain empathy in return for the empathy that you provide.

The Customer Experience

“New behaviours, needs & responses”

As we’ve said; with new uncertainties, come new realities, expectations, and priorities. It is important to be aware of these in order to respond and evolve as a business. So, first step? Empathise to innovate. Inspired by Design Thinking, it’s a simple approach that often helps teams who aren’t traditionally close to customers bring together what is desirable for the target audience with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. And it can be applied in a range of settings to foster a more appealing customer experience. Whether by personalising brand messaging and communication, redesigning products and services to be more intuitive or accessible, or moving into new spaces you wouldn’t have associated with beforehand in order to adapt to customer’s new needs and priorities, rather than the brand’s.

For instance, the coronavirus pandemic has seen fashion retailers such as Mango disassociate with being solely about fashion and reach out to customers covering additional topics such as music, writing, and journalism, with the essence of becoming more about lifestyle. The message or association becomes “we are with you” rather than “look what you can buy from us”. Innovators in health and fitness have also done a great job of this, moving away from being just a retailer, and offering new experiences for their customers. Numerous leading personal fitness brands have partnered with Samsung to launch new premium health and wellness apps to provide high quality, exclusive content for users. This is a great example of how providing something exclusive for your customers, can help to build a greater connection. Gymshark is another great example. They have been paying personal trainers, who would have been struggling with gyms closed, to host live workouts via the company’s Facebook page – helping to combat the issue of loneliness and isolation whilst simultaneously creating a togetherness aspect of the brand’s community, despite the uncertain circumstances they find themselves in. The common denominator in all of this? The personal touch, or human element. Just because your audiences have become remote, does not mean you can’t still access them. Use tech to help humanise your brand, rather than just adopting technology on its own – it will end up feeling cold to the people you are trying to reach and connect with.

It might not be necessary to find new things to do, but maybe even just new ways of doing things. Perhaps a period of uncertainty is the perfect opportunity to digitalise certain physical store experiences. It can be easy to get stuck in the mindset of ‘investing in online presence is overhyped’ or ‘I don’t want to endure the costs of operating online’ but take Primark, for example, who due to their lack of online channel has caused them to lose out on £650m in revenue a month while their stores were closed. This is reflective of the pill that many have to swallow, as the retail sector especially is rapidly moving to a space where an omnichannel strategy is simply essential not only to remain competitive but also towards future proofing the business.

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Customer Service

“Engaged employees to support customer success”

With a lot of potential uncertainties of their own, customers need exceptional customer service and support. But who is behind the online help desk? Who is on the other end of the phone helping to troubleshoot? AI may have become popular for customer support, but actually it is really brand teams and employees on the front line, and results will be ineffective if they lack motivation, productivity, and loyalty. Brands cannot lose sight of this or neglect to invest in understanding and engaging their workforce. One disgruntled employee can taint brand image just as much as an angry customer online review – if not more.

Engaged employees who feel that their voice is heard, are nearly 5 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. With this in mind it’s fair to say that in terms of having care, concern, and empathy with your customers – the same should go for your employees first.

Companies are quick to implement gimmicks in accordance with trends with the goal of connecting with staff. Whether digital, such as creating a Facebook Workplace news feed, or non-digital such as hotdesking, green spaces in the office, help-yourself-kitchens, or Taco Tuesdays. But these are just a temporary fix. When facing a stripped back future where a lot of these engagement “adrenaline shots” are being removed, what will actually help towards continuously engaging and committing the people you need to connect with and count on?

Let’s think about a generic example to hopefully get you thinking of how this could apply to you and your circumstances. Say company X recognises they need to engage employees in order to provide great customer experience in light of new needs or priorities. Management decide to integrate a new real time communication tool, to help boost morale and productivity in the company, with the hope that more ability to communicate will provide better customer service. Employees understand the features and functionalities, but they don’t really know how they can best use it to suit their business needs. They already had ways of communicating – what does this new tool add aside from potentially more threads to keep track of?

This is likely a common occurrence, going back to the point about implementing gimmicks in accordance with trends. It may seem like a great idea to implement some new technology to solve problems, but focus can’t be lost on the people who will be using it. Why not think about how to creatively use the tools you have in place to bring people together. Instead of using a company ‘wall’ to post updates and stopping there, or a programme to capture hourly log ins to prove that employees are at their desk, find digital solutions that encourage brainstorms, idea sharing and collaboration. It is known that these collaborative, inclusive environments foster innovation, a key for navigating and surviving uncertain backdrops. Making your employees feel you have invested in them, rather than the technology, is a powerful motivator. Go back to Empathy First and as a first step in your problem solving learn more about what your employees need and want, what will make a process more streamline or their daily tasks more efficient, and how technology can enable that in order to deliver customer success.

Even if there’s just one key takeaway, let it be that human crises require empathetic responses.

For genuine impact in problem solving, empathetic responses need to be more than just a catchy leadership trait. Putting people at the heart of your strategy and operations and not just in your marketing and communications is key. This people centric outlook will help to harvest a more appealing customer experience and a more engaged workforce with the motivation and capability to put care and concern into their customer service, and this will help to recover and reconnect.

 

Balancing Business Needs & Employee Priorities

What lies ahead? Businesses are having to quickly re-evaluate strategies, objectives, resources and culture as well as develop new policies and approaches. However, what people have recently experienced will also have affected their own values, needs, beliefs and priorities. As a result, there will be a new round of challenges to face in supporting and sustaining an engaged, committed, and productive workforce in what will undoubtedly be difficult business conditions. Check out our session where we discuss how these very human challenges call for empathetic solutions.

In this webinar our team walk through a practical framework for addressing common issues and build a structure to help your business evolve – however and whatever that may look like. What lies ahead is an opportunity to make a real difference by reassessing and improving approaches in the workplace, focussing on people to achieve business success against an uncertain backdrop.

 

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The role of technology in recapturing consumers

When looking into the near future of the retail sector, little seems clear. Security measures have naturally taken precedence over most other matters in order to safeguard the health of employees and customers – retailers’ greatest assets. Meanwhile, over in the boardrooms, work is going into strategising and bracing for the effects of a challenging economy and the changes that society must now face.

There are many questions and uncertainties: how will new circumstances affect our traditional shopping habits? Can retailers stay profitable even when adapting to strict protective measures? And what does their relationship with customers now look like?

Not only has there been a change in the consumer mindset, but also a change in the mindset of retailers. Many large companies had already been advancing their omnichannel capabilities: reinforcing e-commerce and m-commerce development, customer-centric strategies, big-data processing, etc. The numbers we are now seeing speak volumes to how relied upon those systems have become. Deloitte’s recent report on “The Road to Recovery of the Consumer Industry” states that e-commerce in Spain went from representing 28% of total consumption to 74% in just two months, only possible thanks to the prior development of those online channels. However, the move to online is only half the story.

If we look at the sudden shift in the consumer landscape, confidence fell to 49.9% in April with 63.8% of citizens believing that they will need to watch their spending post-confinement, even after an eventual return to normality. Additionally, 61.3% of respondents mention price as an important factor to consider in their shopping habits, but the top purchase priority is instead close proximity. Consumers have moved to a ‘what do I need” mentality (as supposed to “what do I want?”), in some cases even taking up DIY activities from home, with mending and sewing and upcycling almost becoming more fashionable than fast fashion itself.

Without downplaying this data or consumer’s concerns, the work ahead now lies in implementing measures to support the industry – creating and designing effective strategies that will help regain and enable market confidence. So in this new environment, what role can technology play as a tool for recovery?

Getting Close, Again 

Companies need to know more about the customer, get closer to them, understand them to make better business decisions, and above all, be able to provide them with memorable experiences at every touchpoint with their brand. Buying and selling is increasingly becoming less transactional, with growing focus on the experiences around purchases. Technology is vital to achieve this. Seamless transactions, accessible information, appealing design – the customer should remain at the centre of everything, across all channels. Retailers should think like the customer, dedicate time and effort into getting to know them in depth, and empathise with what they need or seek from the brand. Feeling that they are understood and ‘seen’ is the only way customers are going to go the extra mile to buy something. The technology that brands implement should support, communicate, and enable this connection effectively throughout a customer’s experience.

Personalise the relationship and connect emotionally, and in return, the customer will go to suppliers that they feel share their values. For example, the increasingly pronounced trend towards sustainability and the environment in the world of fashion. Customers are becoming more sceptical and demanding of the commitments they expect from their favourite brands. It is not enough to say they are doing ‘something’. People want to know how deep their commitment grows. Tendam is an interesting example in this space. Its sustainable model has been applied for years not only to manufacturing across all its brands, but also to business processes such as the use of renewable energy and the strengthening of a social and environmental supply chain. The commitment is profound and conveying that to their customers in order to foster meaningful engagement, to leave individuals who come into contact with them feeling good, is an equally important endeavour.

Fostering meaningful engagement – it’s more than just selling

Value is Greater than Price

Evidently, coming out of the last few months and looking at the challenges ahead, consumers will be avoiding splashing out. However, brands shouldn’t focus their responses on slashing prices. Customers can be swayed and won over by more than just the price point. Stores need to look to incorporate solutions that provide more value to their audiences both online and offline.

Technology is not simply a tool for improving reach, but also a fundamental part of the shopping experience that can enhance customer activity and loyalty. Encouraging messaging, reinforcing commitment and empathy to users, enabling access from the palm of your hand – effective use of digital channels can generate lasting, sustainable engagement even during a time of uncertainty.  It’s not just talking about digital transformation or application of technology; the important thing is to make a difference, and to use tech to execute strategies that captivate the consumer, that encourage them to interact with the brand, that they can identify with, and receive intrinsic, emotional rewards. Offer your customer more than what you sell; provide a meaningful experience.

The physical store still has huge appeal for the customer of course. To be able to touch, assess the quality, work out sizes, try it and take it home at that time. Physical contact with the shop assistant and the ability to, ask questions and seek advice. That said, the latest in innovative tech solutions can be designed in a way that envelops and invites customers into an attractive environment for them to search, browse and explore. Technology also originally helped to enhance the experience in store, and continues to do so for everyone’s benefit: facilitating payments, scannable information on different products, virtual testers, or even virtual reality adventures that immerse the customer in a fun environment.

It is important to not forget that the employees themselves  also have a key role here. Excellent customer service provides excellent profitability. Excellent employee engagement produces excellent customer service. We cannot afford to neglect talent, so there should be a call to action across the industry to retain, nurture and motivate its employees, devoting time and effort to training, professional development, solutions that improve commitment, participation and communication.

Maintaining ‘non-negotiable’ business objectives and providing engaging customer experiences aren’t exclusive and can be sustained against an uncertain business backdrop. The essence of omnichannel points to where the future of retail could lead us, with continued emphasis on technological integration of physical and online commerce channels. And we are running out of excuses to avoid exploring innovation. Thanks to the many devices and wearables available, the consumer is permanently connected. They have the power to choose how, when, and where to buy. From searching on a mobile app, to going to the store. The memorable experience must be continuous across all channels, through engagement solutions that generate the excitement and regenerative loyalty that retail needs now, more than ever.

 

The art of designing attractive and effective digital engagement solutions

Are the rules of reality broken? We have become used to dividing areas or putting things in their specific boxes. Work is serious. Games are fun. Learning is serious. Creativity is fun. Problem solving – serious or fun? When we dive into the world of game thinking or game design, often grouped together under the term of Gamification, the well-defined barrier between serious contexts and play falls away. Why apply game elements to traditionally serious contexts? To get the most out of all aspects of life, sometimes we need to add more play!

Now, reality can be much more attractive and entertaining thanks to “Serious Play Experiences”.

“Serious Play Experiences”, are situations where fun narratives and game elements can be introduced without losing sight of the serious objectives driving them (for example: incentivising recycling across communities, reducing employee turnover, sustaining interest in learning materials). Often because of the serious nature of such contexts, applying fun elements can significantly enhance motivation, commitment and participation – resulting in a successful achievement of objectives.

Doesn’t sound like something you’d use? You might be surprised, as there are more examples out there than you probably think.

Mixed serious gaming experiences, not just digital

By adding face-to-face challenges, the experience can help to build social relationships or interpersonal skills in the process. This can be seen in educational contexts/scenarios, where the “escape room” concept has been adapted to provide a fun yet educational classroom learning experience. For example, Breakout Edu where as well as having an immersive game platform, players also have to work face-to-face collaboratively to solve a series of critical thinking puzzles to open a locked box. These experiences rely on a very collaborative narrative plot. When this dynamic is replicated within a digital context, the solution can include multiple communication channels and a virtual social area that further increases the feeling of community and positive group identity.

Serious gaming experiences in virtual reality environments

This is one of the most prominent emerging trends in Serious Play Experiences in the last few years. Virtual reality offers infinite possibilities due to its great versatility. A lot of use can be seen within training contexts, both educational and corporate, especially where very specific training or practice is required (such as unconscious bias training for example).

From a gamification point of view, virtual reality reinforces the weight of game elements such as avatars and non-linear or open plot narration, substantially improving users sense of freedom.

Are you interested in gamification?

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Gaming experiences in augmented reality environments

Many examples are also appearing in the market of this type of initiative. To name a few: “Zombie Run”, “Ring fit” and “Peloton”. These experiences rely on a mission structure. Each mission includes challenges that gradually increase the difficulty to increase participant’s sense of progress. To support this, other game elements are added such as the progress bar, badges and points, which reinforce the perception of autonomy and self-improvement.

So, how are serious contexts “seasoned” with the right amount of play, to ensure the objective is still met? And how could they work for you and your organisation? Let’s take a look at the solution-design steps required for taking users toward fulfilling objectives.

  1. User-centric analysis:

Before getting stuck in, it’s important to carry out a detailed analysis of the situation your target audience or objectives are operating within. You will need to understand information about the context and the users’ behaviours, characteristics, game preferences and digital skills, to be able to create a solution that will integrate easily into everyday life.

  1. Include effective components:

With client and user needs forming the foundations, you can next include the necessary components to build the actual journey or strategy of the solution. By basing or choosing components with an understanding of Behavioural Science, you can create a path that users will actually want to follow and that will feel intuitive to them.  The different parts need to consider user characteristics and preferences (collected from the previous step) as well as client requirements. The aim of the game is of course to deliver results and achieve the determined objective, but this will only be successful if you provide an experience that people feel able to collaborate in.

  1. Integrate game elements:

Making people want to take part, rather than feel they have to is a powerful motivation. Here is where introducing gamification is useful. It is no secret that people do better at something when they enjoy the activity itself. Applying game elements to a mundane or even dreary process (imagine if compliance training could be enjoyable) does not mean you simply turn the experience into a game or lose all sense of seriousness. Elements can be discrete nudges or prompts, or recognition of a user’s progress, spurring them to stick with the process or activity, boosting their motivation and commitment. To ensure a more fulfilling, engaging experience, you’re ultimately looking to weave together three interconnecting gamified structures: the narrative, the challenges, and the energisers.

Following us so far? Let’s look at an example to see how it all comes to life.

A large hotel chain was looking to reduce its high staff turnover by implementing new corporate values and culture that would hopefully encourage commitment to the brand. They needed an effective vehicle to deliver the information in a way that would stick with the employees, engaging them in the workplace and reducing feelings of detachment.

Digital solutions, either web or mobile applications, are easily accessible to wide audiences and often help to set experiences outside of the ‘real world’. In a digital solution, participants feel they can attempt challenges, immerse themselves in situations, and progress without the pressure of a manager looking over their shoulders. This means you can provide environments that resemble real life, with fewer real-life stresses.

Digital solutions also help ensure the same information reaches all people in the same way, standardising and centralising processes – such as the hotel chain communicating the new corporate values and culture. With all employees receiving the same core message, the next step is to help employees engage with this content and ultimately embody it.

Here is where we could introduce a learning by doing strategy (or learning through play). First you plot what the strategy of the solution should overcome, with an understanding of what the users need. Feelings of detachment can be resolved through tapping into people’s need for mastery, purpose, and achievement. Presenting the disillusioned employees with the chance to prove themselves and feel they are improving, which in turn gives their managers the cue to recognise this improvement. The strategy helps employees feel that they contribute to the overall success of the company and their contribution is valued. So we can look at gamifying three core steps to the strategy: a) provide opportunities to overcome challenges and improve, b) provide content and materials for employees to learn from and train with, c) foster and promote a positive environment where good work is recognised and encouraged.          

Next: how to get people involved. A narrative structure always helps to increase individual’s interest in participating. This can be achieved by introducing an appealing plot that will engage participants and encourage them to follow and commit to the process. In this example, the employees of the hotel could be invited to join a virtual hotel (call to action) as virtual staff, attending to visiting customers. They are presented with different scenarios and opportunities (challenges) where they have to demonstrate the new brand values and behaviours, earning virtual currency or levelling up when they successfully overcome their challenges.

Designing meaningful “Serious Gaming Experiences” that make an impact or drive change is a complex but rewarding process, requiring the designer to consider a multitude of perspectives in the process. All of the elements have to work in harmony with each other to create a balanced experience, that drive the desired results. If the experience is too much like a game or too removed from reality, the core message becomes diluted. When an experience doesn’t take the participant’s needs and motivations into consideration it runs the risk of turning people off from engaging. Daily life is full of distractions and examples of innovation at our fingertips. Is it crazy to consider people’s expectations and attention need more stimulation in the experiences you offer?

Like most aspects of life and learning, you will get more out of any solution if you add a little play!

Written in collaboration by Marta Calderero & Andrzej Marczewski

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

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

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

 

 

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

People are often quick to put themselves down. “I’m not creative”. “I can’t draw, I’m not a designer”. “I couldn’t do what you do”. We’d argue that, actually, anyone can be a designer and more people today are involved in design than what they probably realise. We all live in a world surrounded full of services, solutions, innovation, and transformation. Behind every product or solution, is a development process, with people working on the development – or design – that will make their offering stand out from the masses. The best way to successfully stand out is to create something that is wanted, needed, and enjoyable for the end users. Made with them in mind. For us, Design Thinking is the path to achieving this.

Design Thinking is essentially an immersive approach for creative problem-solving. It’s about looking at processes and products with a people focussed lens. It brings together what is desirable from a human point of view with what is technologically feasible and economically viable. It offers tools for understanding, inhabiting, and moulding the end user’s experience, to teams who are not traditionally close to a customer.

By approaching product or process development through Design Thinking you change your immediate focus (create/produce item), reframe the challenges you’re tackling (what do we want it to do versus what the user will need it to do), shift the scene you’re setting development in – with simple values to bear in mind.
Empathise: think about how people will use what you’re creating, think about what clients need to achieve through it. Observe them, understand their needs. Looking at things from different perspectives and reviewing the wider data discovered from this, unblocks mindsets and identifies criteria that could have been otherwise missed.

If you use a narrow perspective, you will get a narrow result. The reality is different needs and pieces don’t always fit together neatly. Design Thinking guides teams to design and develop with all the pieces in mind, from the beginning.

Connecting the Dots

Though there is a determined set of steps, we wouldn’t consider it to be a rigid process primarily as it encourages flexibility and iteration. The guidelines help teams who aren’t trained in design follow a structure – starting by removing them from the embedded mindset of “this is how things are done around here” or “we are here to create a profitable solution” – taking them on a journey of innovation and improvement.

Once you have ascertained the drives and needs of the end users and match them with the environment it needs to operate in, you can paint a picture of the opportunities available to you for design and development. Based on the requirements and setting, basic, low fidelity experiments (sketches, outlines…) help you begin to test and ideate, gradually improving the ‘experiments’ fidelity and detail with your learnings.

It’s an approach where, for once, it is recommendable to get comfortable, generate lots and lots of possibilities, unleash ideas and go a bit wild. For the best results, trust and psychological comfort is hugely important.

When people share ideas they need to feel they are in a safe, permissive environment, especially when trying to invent and innovate in radically different areas to what their own perspective or thinking usually sits. Hence why one of the key principles behind ideation is to suspend judgment in the team. Reviewing, refining, and selecting the wide range of ideas created can come later on in the steps, around prototyping and testing.

Testing a product before implementation seems self-evident, but Design Thinking helps teams take it one step further by prototyping before developing the end product or solution. Beneficial for many reasons, as it creates a safe space for failure and is a cheaper-than-making-the-real-thing way to understand and evaluate usability. It also means you start assessing the solution in a realistic setting long before it ever goes to market or reaches the end user.

You’re a Designer Too

More companies should turn to Design Thinking as a key to success. Structures, processes, traditional mindsets, pressurised management, can all end up absorbing and burying vision and creative problem solving. To develop a great product you need to keep the focus on the setting it will be used in and who will use it. This is relevant whether you’re developing software or a shoe or a system for signing into work. Empathise with the end user, let your teams loose on the problem with fewer psychological restrictions, and move rapidly and back and forth between creation and testing to provide something truly usable and user focussed. You’ll find that you’ll learn more along the way and make discoveries you would have never otherwise found until implementation.

At Motivait we have a well-defined process, founded in Design Thinking, but we never lose sight of the need to be flexible. It’s a process to remind us to ask less conventional questions, in order to get less conventional answers, often helping clients to get unstuck from how they’d been looking at the challenge themselves.

So, how do you convince employees that they are potential designers?

Design Thinking is not Design, any more than Agile is Engineering, or Lean is Business Management. Promote and foster a creative work environment beyond the virtual borders of design. Encourage knowledge sharing, be an open book and inclusive with your work and ongoing projects. By supporting employees to be connectors, collaborators, and facilitators, you may well find you’ve created teams of designers.


How to work remotely using Design Thinking 

  • Recreate the work environment your employees are used to: organise calls for brainstorms, set up catch ups where people can feel comfortable sharing anecdotes or stories – you never know where the next idea will come from
  • On fuelling creativity: Try to not lock people to their laptops. Ensure people are feeling able to take lunch breaks, go for walks, sign up to online courses, as well as meeting deadlines and performing well. Don’t keep people on a call “until the problem gets solved”. If ideation is going nowhere, then break up the session and regroup later. It will give people a chance to look at the problem from another angle.
  • Make sure everyone has access to the same tools and information: Digital ideation tools should be simple, accessible, and allow for unstructured creative freedom.
  • Promote Inclusion: Bring everyone together to solve problems, including necessary people in the tasks that are required, and people who may not usually be included in brainstorms.
  • Embed now for success later: Design Thinking should always be your primary toolkit, remote or not. Get people thinking about what areas they would want to enhance with Design Thinking so that they feel they are building to a positive future, rather than a return to old ways.

Written in collaboration by Begoña Repiso & Pablo Heydt

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Personalised Planning

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Clear instructions & Multiple resources at your fingertips

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

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

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

  1. Social support

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

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

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

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

  1. Reinforcements and Self-Evaluation

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

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

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

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

  1. Signs of action and habit formation

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

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

 

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