At this year’s Employee Experience Hackathon, I had the chance to speak to delegates about channelling your inner teacher to create immersive communications that can really capture the imagination.

The power of the ERPOW

Why a teacher? Well, I’m reminded of my favourite teacher at school; Mr. Smith. We came into school one day, about eight years old, and he sent us out to the playground to search for something. Something that we were told magically appeared overnight. After a class-full of kids searched high and low, we finally got our hands on some surprising little packages.

Now, you could be forgiven for thinking this is just plasticine wrapped up in a cloth. Naturally, that’s what it looks like at first glance. But what did we know? We were eight. It was actually pieces of the ERPOW, as Mr. Smith went on to tell us. What’s that you ask? Well, all he knew was that it was pieces of the ERPOW and it came from outer space – the rest was up to us to decide. What ensued was a day of drawing and creative writing with some super enthusiastic eight-year-olds that thought they’d made the discovery of the century.

Ok, the big question: How is this relevant? Well the point is this – Mr Smith didn’t have to go to all of that effort to inspire us. He could have told us a story or given us a work sheet. But it’s nearly 30 years on, and I can still remember that day at school like it was yesterday. And I’m certain what he did helped set me up for the kind of creative roles I find myself filling today.

So it leads me to question - what the difference is between a communicator and a teacher? As far as I can see, the answer is very little.

Channelling your inner teacher

Teachers do a fantastic job at teaching people skills that will benefit them throughout their life. They work hard to impart knowledge and empower their subjects to make better decisions. Surely a good communicator should do the same. We should work hard to make sure our audience learn from the information we share and that we drive a positive outcome. If it means launching a reward and benefit scheme, maybe they don’t use it day one. But maybe they see the value it brings and they use it two years down the line when it makes a huge difference to their family. It’s not about clicking links, it’s about educating.

But how do we harness the power of the teacher? We’ve narrowed it down to three areas for you to consider:

Autonomy – internal reward is much stronger than external incentives. Doing things for ourselves, because we want to, is the drive we need to tap into to. We’re complex humans. We don’t want to respond to simple commands. Give people something to inspire them, get them excited, give a fun experience – and you can start making a real difference.

Interaction – the connection we have with employees is a relationship. Like any relationship, it requires give and take. Using interaction can not only ensure you are not always ‘taking’ but it can also help embed the experience in memory. After all, it’s claimed that we’re likely to remember much more of what we actually do than what we just see or hear.

Emotion – decision making is driven by emotion. So when we’re looking to drive a change in behaviour we need to consider how we evoke an emotional reaction. Excitement, happiness, laughter will all help to maximise out outcomes, and similarly to interaction, will also help commit the experience to memory.

Don’t forget remote workers

The teaching concept is easy to grasp when there’s a whole group of employees together. But what about those who work just as hard, but somewhere else? Do they just not get the immersive experience? Luckily, technology has the power to unlock those experiences for all of your employees, not just those in the office.

Virtual reality is your friend

Virtual reality isn’t all ‘Ready Player One’ and computer simulators. It’s being used for good, as a way of helping those with real-world struggles to cope and learn. It can help autistic children build social confidence, sufferers of PTSD to confront their trauma and surgeons to hone their skills – all in a low risk environment. From here, it’s not a huge leap to see how this kind of learning can be transferred into the workplace. To see how meetings can evolve from conference calls and Skype to virtual meeting rooms. It may be too costly to consider today but it won’t be long before it becomes the norm.

Pokémon Go showed us how our phones have the technology to enhance the world around us through augmented reality – and that is something we can use. You can create immersive remote experiences through bringing communications to life with music, videos and competitions. All from the technology you hold in your hand.

Personalising your communications

So, we’ve channelled our inner teacher; we know we need to bring our communications to life, and we can use technology to extend our reach. What about making our communications hit home in a personal, relevant way? Well, we need to put ourselves in our readers’ shoes.

When we’re speaking to anyone, we adjust our content and tone according to their circumstances. If your best friend was ill, you would speak to them differently to celebrating their birthday. It’s the same with your communications; when we consider the environment and circumstance in which our reader is receiving our communication, we can better adapt our content to accommodate for this and make sure our message is still heard.

Lots of technology is using personalisation these days to target content through personal details and messaging. If you have this opportunity – fantastic, you should use it. If you don’t, personalisation can mean a large increase in workload and an increase in cost. Start your campaign by exploring your audience with an empathy map and this will help identify - can you address the workforce as one, or do you need to segment.

Bringing the ‘teacher’ into the workplace

There’s a lot to consider when planning your communications, but a simple mind shift can make a huge difference. Start thinking about how you can help your employees use this information, learn and grow. Think like a teacher and you can get much better outcomes from the strategies you build – and ultimately help create an exceptional employee experience, every day.