Engagement is a super important business word and at the same time it can be a pretty fluffy term.
What business people call engagement can be thought of as a combination of alignment and action.
Everyone involved in creating change (deciders and doers) needs a shared view of the current world and how the future will be different and better. Priorities, goals, rewards, resources etc. all need to be aligned.
Employees and/or customers need to know what problem is being solved, what the proposed solution is and how it will make it easier to achieve a particular thing.
Unfortunately most businesses communication defaults to an email or maybe a town hall. Emails can have lots of important, accurate information in them. But there is just so much email. Open your work email inbox now and see for your self. How much impact will another email have? Emails clog your short terms memory and create stress with all the additional tasks they create for you to do.
Email is also not a highly visual medium. File size and the design tools and skills available make creating effective visual emails pretty difficult. So you’re stuck with lots of important, accurate words that most people will have to ignore along with lots of other emails.
Change designers know that people learn and recall information much better when it is presented as a story. Can you remember any books you read or were read to you as a child? Now you don’t remember the exact words, but you can probably retell the story. What about a movie you saw years ago? Brilliant. What if all business communication was just as effective. Stories can involve emotion. When we feel something we are more likely to do something (feeling angry = shouting, feeling hungry = eating, you get the idea).
Along with stories change designers use visuals. Visuals clarify what communicators mean when they are using words alone. They can also be memorable (if they are relevant vs. decorative e.g. most stock photos of hand shakes). A visual story is a powerful communication tool, far more powerful than email can ever be. Plus visual content is shared far more across today’s digital networks. In fact, a picture of words in a book is often more popular than the same text copied and posted into a social network post.
If you’re in the learning and development or training industry you’ll often be asked to design training. Training (think elearning, slides, user guides) are basically tools for providing information (probably with a quiz at the end). These tools typically aren’t about producing action. They are focussed on compliance and telling people information before they actually need to use it.
Tools that enable action are used by people practising a skill in a real or simulated situation. Yes you might need to provide information to people while they are practising. The difference between traditional training and enabling action is that people are putting that info to use and referring to it where and when they need it, not just so they can click through another elearning course.
Change designers use stories, visual communication, games, digital technology and design thinking to create alignment.
A quick example that most people can relate to is a healthy diet. Yes you can read a book about healthy diets and recipes. The problem is that this is a tool for information delivery. What are you going to do next?
If you open your smart phone’s app store and search for recipe or healthy eating apps, you not only get the recipes but often you can create a shopping list based on the ingredients you are missing from your kitchen. Then you can take you phone to the shop and tick off the missing ingredients as you buy them.
Then when you get home you can fire up your app and most likely watch a video of how to prepare the recipe.
Plus if recording exercise, weighing or measuring is part of what you’re trying to achieve with your health, the healthy eating or another app can remind you to exercise and measure and even help you record you results so you can see you progress.
So while most businesses are in the mode of training (information delivery), tools that enable action will always be more effective at creating change because they are available in context (where and when you need them) and they provide practical information and even progress tracking.
What tools do you use to create engagement at your company?