Making a Case for Mobile Motivation
By Rick Dandes
We live in an increasingly mobile society, where almost everyone, no matter the generation, from gen Z to boomer, carries around a smartphone, can text and is at least marginally familiar with Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Twitter. So it shouldn't be surprising that the use of mobile applications as crafted by motivational experts have become essential tools in driving employee engagement and conducting effective recognition and incentive programs. People always have their phones on them, and this makes it easy to access a program anytime, anywhere.
"Mobile has dramatically changed the dynamic of program rollout and delivery in a number of different ways," explained Paul Gordon, senior vice president Sales, Rymax Marketing Services Inc., of Pine Brook, N.J. "The use of smartphones has become a phenomenal communications tool in administering, announcing and updating programs. And it is also a way for the product offerings to be fresh."
There was a time, a few years back, when reward catalogs were released and printed, "and they'd be around for a year," Gordon said. But the product lifecycle is shorter these days because of technology. And the ability to refresh is much greater with mobile. "With mobile," he continued, "we are now creating a dynamic to do what a company wants—rewarding employees for what they are doing and in an environment they feel very comfortable using."
When you look at mobile you are looking at all things smart, and all things Internet-based. "Fundamentally," said Mike Ryan, senior vice president, client strategy, Madison Performance, New York, "there are a couple of different dimensions to revolve around the mobile delivery of incentives. First, incentives are available 24/7 and on demand. That's different from having only a workplace laptop or some type of terminal. You now have people walking around with their phones who can access their incentive programs to see how they are doing, what they need to do to win, how they stand and rank across others instantly, any time they want to."
More importantly, employees can also give and receive recognition at any time. That really caters to the work styles of the modern day worker. "You have a whole generation of workers now that is accustomed to working mobile-ly, accustomed to working away from offices." Ryan said. "And so the ability to reward and recognize others at any particular time really suits not only their lifestyle, but also suits the demographic of a global workforce."
Trends and Dynamics
When it comes to mobile, added UI/UNIX architect Dan Gurney, Maritz Motivations Solutions, Fenton, Mo., "you need to think not only about the web but also about native applications, which covers android and iOS devices; applications that can be downloaded from the app stores."
Many organizations have BYOD, or Bring Your Own Device, policies, which means that whatever program you are introducing to your employees, it needs to operate on those platforms. You need a system that is responsive to a phone's resolution, and the way it's used so that people can use their fingers and it can accommodate touch. Programs need to be designed in a way that makes it simple for users to access their statistics or redeem their rewards.
Everything should be very easy to navigate, Gordon added. Aesthetically, the program on mobile needs to be user-friendly, in terms of searching for things. And it needs to be very much a social vehicle as well, he said, "so that participants can share when they redeem things, or be noticed by their peers if it is an internal business type of promotion, where you achieve certain tasks. Make it a social gathering site as well."
Caution: If the program doesn't operate on an Android the same way it operates on an Apple, you will be creating an experience that is not very high end and not very employee focused. So responsive design and the application that you choose is an important tool, as is configurability.
What mobile allows you to do best is tap into the technology of the device, Gurney said. He cited an example where "one of our clients' users were having trouble making claims. It was a tedious process," he said. The user had to enter in a lot of data, which really didn't work very well on the phone. So, what Gurney recommended was each product that they had to enter in have its own bar code. "We allowed them to use the camera on the mobile phone to scan those codes in, which entered the data automatically. It worked. Mobile really does help people simplify the process because it gives you access to better technology and more features that aren't available on their laptops and on their desktops."
Text messaging and push notification allow you to communicate instantly with people, Gurney said. "People are used to using those mechanisms in their daily lives. So try to tap into that as well. Allow people to communicate constantly.
"One of the issues we ran into on the desktop and laptop programs were troubles people had redeeming their points because they didn't know they had them. But with text messaging, you can send them notifications saying, 'Hey, you have 100 points. You can redeem them now.' That's the power of mobile; to be able to be in constant communication with those in the program and even personalize those experiences to their needs."
When you roll out a program on a mobile device, you have this instant communication mechanism. It's almost like it's your first touchpoint. "If you don't have a good mobile experience," Gurney said, "most people will abandon that company thinking they don't know what they're doing. In the past you would start with a desktop and work your way back, but we all know that we live in a mobile-first society so that is where we start and that is what makes sense"
That's right, agreed Ryan. "What else is interesting about mobile," he said, "is it gives sponsors of these programs an opportunity to personalize everything." You can create programs that are more specific, more data-driven, and contain more on-demand assets like training and educational modules, but do it in a delivery mechanism that is very convenient and very cost-effective.
The Future Is A.I. and A.R.
The next step forward is artificial intelligence, or A.I., said Gurney and his colleague at Maritz Solutions, sales engineer and loyalty strategist Bill Hennessey. "It's going to happen. We're actually looking into that right now," Hennessey said, "with machine learning and bots, to handle some of those tasks that are important to the process."
Amazon's Alexa utilizes A.I. and is gaining great popularity, but A.I. is on your phone too, with Siri. Mobile A.I. will be a combination of voice-enabled as well as touch-enabled on your phone, Gurney said.
AR, or augmented reality is also something we'll see in the future. One idea, Gurney said, is to have people receive a sweepstakes cards, with an identifying mark on the card. The employee would use the phone to scan that card to see what they've won. And it would pop out of the card, what prize they won or if they won points. "It would be entertaining as well," Gurney said. "Part of all this is geared toward engagement. You want to engage your audience rather than just tell them, here is 100 points. Make it fun and interesting."