Looking for a new way to engage employees? Try using interactive communication. Your employees already experience interactive videos, websites, emails and more every day in their personal lives. You can enhance your internal communication by providing similar experiences at work. In this episode of Employee Buzz, we’ll discuss key features to engage employees and drive deep knowledge.

Episode transcript: 

Alyssa Zeff:
Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Employee Buzz. I am Alyssa Zeff, your proud Star Wars geek, a Connect Four champion. I'm not really a champion as much as really good at that game, and a former voracious reader of the Sweet Valley High series. I'm here with Casey, our technology director here at Davis & Company. Casey, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, sure. I'm also a Star Wars geek, the movies and the cartoons. I'm a gamer, Atari, Nintendo, the list goes on. And, from those influences I studied animation and interactive design.

Alyssa Zeff:
Wow. That is a great segue into what we are going to talk about here. Since you are our in-house technology expert, we're going to be spending some time talking about interactive communication. Why don't we just start with some basic definition. When we say interactive communication, what does that mean?

Casey Gatti:
When it comes down to it, it's really about a two-way flow of information. Usually the user is taking action or making choices that cause something to happen.

Alyssa Zeff:
Okay.

Casey Gatti:
There's different degrees of interaction and that scale is really like the highly active, let's call it the active side. That's like immersive input, video game controllers, VR headsets, things like that. Down to the other side, which is relatively passive. That could be where you're sitting back relaxing and you're really just using your mouse and you're scrolling. Your scroll action is continuing to take that action and allow other information to actually be revealed to you.

Alyssa Zeff:
That's interesting. As I think about the kinds of interactive communication we use in internal communication, this comes to life in anything from really detailed learning modules that are very interactive, which we work on for our clients, to intranets, to just simple infographics that you can scroll through like you just described. I know this is something that our clients are becoming more and more and more interested in. Do you think that the meaning of interactive has changed over time or has it really stayed the same?

Casey Gatti:
You know, I'll borrow a phrase from Obi Wan Kenobi from a certain point of view. The meaning definitely has changed and a big part of that is because technology continues to change. Web browsers and the devices that users use has evolved a lot. For content creators there are new solutions that offer rapid development and allow different kinds of interactions to be more possible and not be super costly.

Casey Gatti:
But I want to say, I guess, one last thing there is, I kind of feel that the meaning is also very nebulous to different people and the level of expectation is different. I'm from the 80s. I've experienced so many kinds of interactive content.

Alyssa Zeff:
I just love the way you say that. "I'm from the 80s." Like, "I'm here from the 80s." Casey's a time traveler.

Casey Gatti:
For me, nothing really seems too new and I don't want to say that kind of like were just glossing over the fact of what interactive means to people, but I'm seeing it being realized in different ways and being harnessed I guess in very focused ways that is to a lot of people, very new.

Alyssa Zeff:
Yeah. It's interesting in that you talk about people's expectations. We say very frequently that employees are used to things in their everyday lives and like to experience that in their workplace as well. When it comes to interactive, because our expectations are tied to our daily experiences, what do you think employees are expecting today?

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, I'd say that they definitely would prefer that they match or compliment what they're used to outside of work. Experiences that are thinking about their iPhone or any device that they're using. It needs to be simple and quick. We're so used to apps on our phones, banking sites, all of those kinds of things and navigation is easy to understand. You really don't need any kind of like handholding with that stuff.

Casey Gatti:
When it comes to what users are going to be experiencing at work, there really needs to be minimal or no learning curve. It needs to be very intuitive, engaging. The users need to enjoy the time that they're spending inside that experience and if the tone allows for it, make it playful so that they are really having fun as part of that. I think that's why you find a lot of gamification in different platforms because they're really tying to people's interests.

Alyssa Zeff:
I think so many companies today are missing the mark here. We work with a lot of companies and there's so many reasons. They're intimidated by cost or the technology or security or whatever they think it is. All of which are obstacles that we know can be overcome no matter what. It doesn't have to be outrageously expensive to be engaging.

Alyssa Zeff:
But I really think that there's such a huge runway when it comes to interactive for our clients and for workplaces in general to create that experience. Because what we've done is we've created an environment where employees just come to expect less. They have these great experiences and they're like, "Oh well, that couldn't happen at work," when the reality is it can and should happen at work if you want to drive awareness or knowledge.

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, and just to add to that, one of the key things is making it purposeful.

Alyssa Zeff:
Right.

Casey Gatti:
What's in it for me. I think that's a common theme within any kind of employee communication. The user really wants to understand how they're going to use this information to do work better or whatever-

Alyssa Zeff:
Right, whatever it is they need to do. Yeah, or know or believe. What are some of your favorite examples of good interactive communication?

Casey Gatti:
I would say the kinds that help me learn and keep me engaged. Learning and development experiences tend to have a great mix of interaction and they complement academic learning. Many operate by layering information and making the user literally connect the dots, the cause and the effect, the term, the definition. Those kinds of tactics really help better strengthen knowledge.

Casey Gatti:
An app that I use actively is called Duolingo. It's a language learning app. It does all of that because you see as you're experiencing it. They're now using other words and they keep building on words. You see how that layering works and you're remembering more. Of course then, they also layer gamification into that.

Alyssa Zeff:
Right.

Casey Gatti:
I'm getting notifications about reminding me that I still have three lives, that I've been doing good on my quizzes so I could still keep going. It's kind of like it gamifies it. It's pretty interesting.

Alyssa Zeff:
That's very cool. You and I worked on a project together, which was really interesting for a large financial institution. They wanted to share with employees information about what they call the technology they interact with every day. Typically in an organization, this would live on an intranet site and it would just be lots of Word documents and here's what you need to know about this product or this technology or everything else. We created an interactive experience that was like a virtual workspace where it lived on their intranet site, but it kind of looked like a typical desk station of one of these employees.

Alyssa Zeff:
You could click around on the different parts of it for their phone conferencing. You could click on the phone and then you would kind of go into that phone and get the same information. But we created this environment where it just made it a little bit more interesting and people wanted to, and it was also so user friendly in the sense of like, "Okay, I need to know something about my phone, I'm going to click on this phone." I think that was kind of a cool example of a way to use interactivity. Pretty simple—

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, yeah. Absolutely.

Alyssa Zeff:
... not overly complex programming but creating a really interactive experience for the employee.

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, definitely. An example that I really like is interactive videos. This is kind of a newer thing, at least newer thing for these days. Because in the 80s once again, game developers and even the authors pick-a-path types of books, that kind of concept existed then. Now, it's being used as a way to allow the user to take paths that they want to either learn information or pretty much test their knowledge about how they need to go about processes. It's a different tactic and it's definitely something that's heating up a lot, that a lot of companies are starting to really go in that direction. It's a new space.

Alyssa Zeff:
Let's talk about when it's appropriate and effective to use interactive for internal communications. What are your thoughts on that?

Casey Gatti:
I would say the first is to really help the user be informed. Let's say you want to have the user go through new features on a website and you're launching phase two of an intranet. On the home page you want to bring and elevate information that you feel is going to be relevant to them. In that case, you want to have some kind of overlay system that is helping identify key things that they're going to find useful and hopefully, make things faster and more efficient for them to find what they're looking for. That's a very, I would call it like an overlay-style interactive, where there you just kind of like understanding the key concepts of where to go.

Casey Gatti:
A second is to drive deep knowledge. Let's say you're launching an initiative and need to give users training. I think we touched a little bit about like different kind of training approaches. The topics could be security, company processes or whatever, the key objective is that you want them to understand and remember the information. That's when a training module can be really helpful and useful.

Alyssa Zeff:
I mean we talk about how adults learn. When you're talking about driving deep knowledge, if you really are trying to get people to retain the information that you're talking about, experiencing it is a great way and that's we know adults learn through experiences. As we think about internal communication and if we have an objective around driving a behavior change or driving knowledge, then experience and interactivity as a form of experience is really important.

Casey Gatti:
Yeah. I know were talking about it right now really in the lens of what people are seeing possibly on screen, interactive in that context. But yeah, the same goes for in a classroom environment. I would say that those kinds of interactive experiences hold a lot more value for the users in the end-

Alyssa Zeff:
Absolutely.

Casey Gatti:
... and the people learning.

Alyssa Zeff:
You're an expert.. from the 80s, can you share a few things right now that you see trending in the world of interactivity?

Casey Gatti:
Is it okay if I use the word interactive in front of each of the things?

Alyssa Zeff:
Absolutely. I will not hold that against you. Let's go rapid fire. Go ahead.

Casey Gatti:
All right, so the first thing is interactive video. I touched on it earlier. It's great for training and role play. Interactive email, there's big traction in the consumer world where basically programmers and the designers have found ways of making emails actually be interactive on mobile devices, on computer, Gmail, whatever it is. We do have the roadblock of Outlook. For a lot of corporate users that that's kind of a challenge.

Alyssa Zeff:
Microsoft is not listening.

Casey Gatti:
But it is definitely an interactive space that is trending. The other is interactive websites. Okay. Well, what I really mean to say is a different kind of interactivity through your company's website.

Alyssa Zeff:
I was going to say, aren't all websites interactive you hope?

Casey Gatti:
What I mean by that is voice.

Alyssa Zeff:
Oh, okay.

Casey Gatti:
Your voice asks a question or commands something.

Alyssa Zeff:
Siri, Alexa, all those.

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, yeah, and the site correctly serves it up using machine learning, A-I mumbo jumbo-

Alyssa Zeff:
Right, right, right.

Casey Gatti:
... and that's technical speak. Having all of that kind of stuff I think that new interactive mechanism of your voice is going to mean a lot to enterprises going forward.

Alyssa Zeff:
I mean I think that the implications for internal communications are just beyond measure. You can think about just trying to engage employees with that sort of technology would be incredible. If our listeners wanted to start using more interactive communication right away, what are some first steps? How do they get started?

Casey Gatti:
A part of me I guess, and maybe this is just me, is to experiment small, but think big. You talked about infographics a little earlier. I would say if you're going to share a visual diagram or an infographic or data charts. Turn that story into an interactive experience. It's a small, bite-size type of piece of content. It's not going to take forever to produce and to make, and let the user peel back each layer and experience it that way. Don't forget that you can even connect analytics into that.

Alyssa Zeff:
Right.

Casey Gatti:
You could see really what they click on, how far they go down that journey and you'll get measurement back so you can actually see how effective that piece is—

Alyssa Zeff:
It's so interesting.

Casey Gatti:
... in comparison to more, I guess a passive, just an article.

Alyssa Zeff:
Right. Or even just a static infographic, right?

Casey Gatti:
Or yes, exactly.

Alyssa Zeff:
Because if we're using a traditional infographic, we're presenting lots of different data points visually. If you create an interactive experience, then the user gets to sort of navigate through it based on the information that they want to know. Which is great for them because they're going to retain and they're going to remember it.

Alyssa Zeff:
What you just mentioned about data, which is also great as a communicator, because now I'm seeing, "Okay, they're really interested in this data and this data point is just falling flat." If that's an important data point that I need them to know, then I have to figure out a better way to communicate it. Or if I realize maybe that's not so important and I could leave it out, those types of data points in the future. I mean that kind of knowledge as a communicator is so valuable. Anything else in terms of where people could get started.

Casey Gatti:
I would say probably one of the most important things some people are not really thinking about is making sure that you're thinking mobile first. Because everybody has a mobile device and hopefully within your organization, if that barrier of entry to get into protected content is very minimal, then that's going to be your target place of where you want that content to be experienced. Because they could be traveling, they could be anywhere. It doesn't matter where they, they could be sitting in the lobby just waiting to watch a movie.

Alyssa Zeff:
Absolutely. I mean, you know that we could do a whole podcast just on mobile alone, probably several. We're not going to go too far down that rabbit hole, but I think this is a really interesting topic. One our listeners can learn a lot from. So Casey, thank you so much for being here today.

Casey Gatti:
Yeah, it was great to be here.

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