By John Sylvester, Executive Director, P&MM.
Communicating is all about the message being received and understood not just about sending it. So with the explosion in digital media over recent years how can we be sure that our messages are getting through to everyone?
"We need to find a way to motivate everyone the whole team" is a phrase I have often heard from HR directors when being briefed to produce a motivational programme.
Quite right; companies should be wanting to inspire all their employees to achieve and exceed their best, whether they are the 18 year-old trainee designers or the 64 year old administrator about to retire.
However, there is a tendency among organisations to look at the diverse ages of their staff and to opt for the safest common denominator: - quite often that means using a 'tried and tested' communications methods such as newsletters, printed collateral and presentations by managers.
I believe that companies who employ a substantial number of 18-30 year olds should, more often, tailor their motivation communications to make the most of this audience.
This approach has provided highly effective with several major organisations where, for instance, call centres are staffed by a young
The reality is that there is a substantial difference between the way that this age group communicates and the older generations.
So how do we get through to them? Who are they anyway?
They could be aptly described as the PlayStation generation. They are the first to have had mobile phones, electronic games and the internet at the centre of their lives from a very young age. They communicate by fully embracing current and unfolding technology with frightening comfort and speed. Instant gratification is readily available.
Attention spans are shorter than ever because there are so many alternatives.
Games consoles, computers, mobile phones, iPods and MSN Messenger as well as TV shape the way they think and communicate. Text English, computer game jargon, street culture and internet speak have shaped their language.
'They' are seriously not scared by communication technology and are keen to adopt new 'stuff' and use it to the max. PlayStation, Xbox,
Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Nintendo Wii, MMS, videocall and the internet to all degrees are part of their mental Wiktionary.
The difference is radical and, in reality, to motivate them effectively, communications must use their language and media, either additionally or instead of traditional approaches. Gaining and holding people's attention is now harder than ever.
The essence of the solution is to join the race. Instant gratification is key which means the motivation programme needs to be based on real time data and feature interactive elements to gain involvement and buy
For instance, we have effectively used SMS texts with dot coded messages to call centre staff that could read on a special scanner sited in the centre and the determining whether they'd won a prize.
We've set up dedicated websites for the incentives with content and blogging areas (this one needs a well thought through 'policing' policy!).
We've structured online interactive sales incentives and peer nomination programmes using an online product called rewardbanking.com which allowed employees the freedom to choose from a variety of rewards to suit their tastes.
Clever motivation programmes have adopted themes and ideas which people perceive as fun. The language has to have more street cred and the themes and ideas need to reflect the culture in which these people live. I've also come across motivation schemes with popular themes adopted from MTV and reality TV.
How do we know it worked? We have the results to show staff retention increased, general performance improved and new targets were met, previously unseen before.
Greater performance improvement can be achieved simply by tailoring the language and communication methods we currently use.
Giving employees a greater freedom of choice and the right stimulation holds the key to motivating people. Rewards need to be structured to suit the audience and, in this age group, the communication needs to talk their language.
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