2017 and the future of engagement strategies
Successful engagement strategies hinge on their audiences. Unfortunately, the employees’ preferred interaction platforms, methods of communication, and structure of messages are all as diverse as each individual employee. This broad scope of needs makes it essential to map out and implement a dynamic engagement strategy. But, what does a successful engagement strategy look like in 2017?
Employers will still turn to several of the mainstays of good engagement strategies, like carefully selected and coached managers, employee feedback, and cooperative problem solving. However, these approaches will need to work in tandem with new innovations, like mobile learning, augmented reality and virtual reality, to meet the needs of the up-and-coming audience: Millennial and iGen.
A Focus on Millennial Employees
It’s no news that the population of workforce Millennials is ever-growing. Most Millennials have finished their education and are either employed or seeking employment; they are currently the largest generation in the workplace. This demographic shift is driving change in engagement. Five things companies will focus on for Millennials engagement are:
- Collaboration is king
- Mentor, coach, but not boss
- Growth beats stability
- Flexibility is essential
- Work-life integration, not balance
When creating engagement initiatives in 2017, companies will make them collaborative—especially involving coaching from an authority figure. This generation wants to feel like part of a team, and also doesn’t mind taking work home. This means that companies will create more elearning and self-driven initiatives for employees to complete at their discretion.
As far as motivation for these programs or trainings, the employee’s own potential to grow is the proverbial carrot. Millennials need to know that whatever they are doing will benefit them in the long run, even beyond their current companies.
Planning For iGen Employees
The first question that comes to mind with iGen employees (the generation currently in middle and high school) is, “Will they really be that different from Millennials?” Simply put, yes.
Much like Millennials, iGen employees are self-motivated and self-aware so engagement will need an intrinsic goal. But iGen are more pragmatic (with most seeking long-term positions at a single company), and will be more highly educated and diverse than Millennials.
While the next generation shares some characteristics with their predecessors, like immersion in social media, connection to the cloud, and reliance on online interactions, these future employees are really connected to the cloud. Having never lived without social media, these employees will always be seen with mobile devices.
In a recent study, one young middle school student said she didn’t have her phone for a week and received over 1,000 text messages!
This connection, coupled with a shorter attention span, and increased ability to multi-task means that companies will need to shift from traditional programs, like seminars, lectures or full-day trainings, to compact initiatives, like shortened bursts of learning. In particular, these new engagement strategies will take advantage of the mobile devices that every employee will have.
With this newest generation set to enter the workforce in the next few years, companies are starting to advance their technology engagement infrastructures to meet new mobile demands.
Changing Reality: AR and VR
Augmented reality (AR) isn’t just for catching Pokemon. The application of this technology has been successful acting as a museum guide, a gaming platform, and generally enhancing one’s surroundings.
For example, at IKEA customers can now virtually place furniture in their own homes to see if it will fit. While AR modifies the reality employees see, Virtual Reality (VR) throws employees into a whole new realm.
Virtual classrooms, meeting rooms, simulations, and even a virtual company can be built to facilitate engagement. Virtual Reality is already being used in medical training, circumventing the need for actual bodies to learn from and allowing students to see virtual bodies functioning.
Many companies are creating initiatives to use this technology and provide tours of their facilities. Imagine new employees entering their new places of employment who no longer need directions in and instead can follow live, interactive instructions on their phones. With each glance at an office wall or piece of machinery, employees could learn new information about their company.
Alternatively, new employees may already know their way around the building after taking several virtual tours of the company.
In 2017, the push for incorporation of this technology and mobile devices will be even stronger as iGen gets one step closer to the workplace and Millennials move one step higher up the corporate ladder.
Industry leaders are currently exploring ways to apply AR and VR to engagement initiatives and raising the bar for their mobile engagement infrastructures. The future of AR and VR are not only as a guide in employee onboarding engagement, but also on-the-job training and as a job tool.
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Blake Beus is a Director of Learning Solutions with extensive experience in healthcare and financial services. What Blake enjoys most about his role at Allen is helping organizations implement initiatives that have a real impact on the business.