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Practical Strategies for User Engagement

Guest post by Office 365 MVP Jussi Mori, Peaches Industries

In today’s technology-dominated world, we tend to forget the most important variable within the game: the human being behind the machine. There is a legendary recording of comedian George Carlin about the modern man, which summarizes many of the problems that our modern, technological society faces, in four hilarious minutes:

“I have been up-linked and downloaded, I have been inputted and outsourced and all the upside of downsizing and all the downside of upgrading. I’m a high-tech low-life. A cutting edge-state of the art bi-coastal multi-tasker and I can give you a gigabyte in a nanosecond.”

How can we cope with the continually increasing demands and overall economic insecurity that we all face? No wonder we have a user engagement problem today! A study by Gallup found that over 70% of the US workforce are not engaged at work, or are actively disengaged at work. But what does this mean in practice? What makes an employee or a user of your application an engaged user? According to Wikipedia:

In the online world, user engagement refers to the quality of the user experience that emphasizes the positive aspects of the interaction with a web application and, in particular, the phenomena associated with wanting to use that application longer and frequently.

When we look at the overall user experience of today’s enterprise applications, we need to recognize that we have a problem. Enterprise applications are designed to serve and fulfill a certain business need or business process. But mostly, the design of these applications is done in such a way that the human factor has been (or is) totally ignored. In order to overcome these issues, we need to start thinking and problem solving from the ‘human being’ perspective, and not treat everyone like a convenient, predictable machine. We need to lead a paradigm shift from process-focused design towards human-focused design.

Let us look at a few examples. Most of them should be familiar, but it is always good to reflect on the things you should already know:

    1. Celebrate failure
      Create an environment where your users feel safe and are encouraged to make mistakes. We often evolve and learn through making our own mistakes. So how can we grow when mistakes are not being encouraged? In reality, we can’t — and this is limiting us from reaching our full potential. Look at the mobilization phase of a small child when she or he first tries to walk. The child may fall over a 1000 times, but on the 1001st time, walking becomes a reality. Fail fast, fail often, and iterate fast until you achieve your goals.
    2. Give autonomy
      To a certain degree everyone knows that rules are important. I would rather call them boundaries within a certain playground. But within that, the person should have absolute freedom as to how, where and when the work is carried out. By giving a worker autonomy, he or she receives a high level of responsibility and project ownership that will automatically motivate them to be more engaged and motivated.
    3. Provide instant and constant feedback
      Nothing is more frustrating than not knowing what’s going on within a project. Therefore, in certain situations, it is best to give too much feedback as opposed to not enough, or none at all. Organizations usually perform annual staff performance evaluations, and in many schools grades are given twice a year to students. How, in these cases, are we able to change our daily behavior to accomplish our goals, when we only get official feedback regarding our performance once or twice a year? This is a risk-based system, and it provides punishment after failure (See number 1).A way to overcome this is to regularly provide positive feedback, in a way that encourages the development of certain behaviors and performance, leading to the improved delivery of business milestones/objectives.
    4. Embrace positivity
      Creating an active and positive work environment for your teams to operate in is not something that will happen by chance. Nothing is more demotivating than negative thoughts and energy. Negativity attracts negative outcomes. FACT!!Instead, bring fun into your work or application experience. Imagine what positive emotions you would like to trigger in your users or employees. When something is learned together with positive (or with negative) emotions, it can become hardwired into our brains. Some examples of activities that trigger positive emotions: Join, share, gift, exchange, collect, complete, choose, accomplish, help, etc…
    5. Be social
      Empower your organization with co-creation. Make collaboration, communication and co-creation as easy and seamless as possible. Reward teamwork and altruism. Humans are very social beings, and not being part of social groups or circles makes us extremely unhappy (most of us anyway!). Try as much as possible to involve ‘lone wolves’ in your social circles. Collective intelligence is always more capable and effecting than a single person.
    6. Reward instead of punish
      Operant conditioning has taught us that educated and motivated humans perform better with the prospect of receiving a reward, rather than the threat of receiving a punishment. We all have fundamental desires for status, achievement, self-expression, competition and altruism. Using these desires as rewards will help you to motivate your teams and create a positive working environment. A very good example of this type of environment is the speed camera lottery project.
    7. Be transparent
      Play with an open hand. Make your teams understand how valuable their contributions are to the organization, or to the online community. Let them contribute to your strategy by not having secrets. Embrace a ‘sharing is caring’ attitude as one of your cultural core values. This will give meaning to your venture and everyone involved. If your teams can believe in the things you do and know what you want to achieve, wonderful things can happen.

Alright, so we have looked at seven mindsets that could, if implemented with good intentions and compassion, be a way to improve how engagement occurs within your organization or with the users of your digital assets. You might be thinking that this sounds all nice, but how in practice can you achieve everyday performance results in these areas? Think big, but start small. Look at one of the seven points described above and think how you could start to incorporate new, positive behaviors and routines into your daily lives. When you start to believe you can make a change, it will begin to manifest a lot sooner than you might think!

Christian Buckley

Christian Buckley

Chief Marketing Officer for Beezy. Passionate about all things collaboration & social. Office365 MVP.

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