True Engagement Starts with Speaking Digital Natives’ Language

I attended a great conference in 2017 at the spiritual and literal home of England’s national rugby team, Twickenham. The event was the Verdantix EHS European Summit. I was lucky enough to be invited to participate on a panel that generated audience questions about the under-leveraging of Health, Safety and Environmental metrics and whether more data is desirable if organizations were already struggling to handle and gain meaningful insight from what they had. This was a solid topic and it played into one of the key conference themes of Big Data.

All was going to script, and then it happened… a senior director said the following, or something close to it:

“It’s all well and good this discussion of data, systems and associated metrics, but if we don’t find better and more innovative ways to engage our people in safety, nothing is going to change! Our performance depends upon it!”

He added, “We keep doing the same thing over and over and expect different or better results. It’s not working. How many more posters can we put on our walls for goodness’ sake?”

There was a general wave of nodding heads and, ironically, you could feel that the level of engagement in the room had just climbed a few notches.

My external reaction was to nod in agreement while internally, I was processing at Mach 3.0. That was because, in a little over a month, Intelex was about to launch a key strategy around engagement and ground-breaking capabilities to allow senior leaders, corporate teams and site safety managers the opportunity to change the game on engagement across their organization.

I knew I couldn’t let the cat out of the bag too much. Primarily because my CEO, Mark Jaine, was in the audience, this was his vision and I had been with the company for just a few short months. I would proceed cautiously. I quickly and, as best I could on the spot, figured out how to get on this train and up the ante on the statement.

And what was this proverbial cat I mentioned above? We already had research and direct customer feedback on engagement. This included the very basic stuff that indicated an engaged workforce is a safer workforce, with data to back it up. We had engagement best practices for messaging and campaign-crafting, specifically for EHS audiences, and how best to work to influence EHS (and Q) outcomes. We even had a way to track engagement out of the box. It seemed that the timing couldn’t have been better.

It was my turn to respond and I led with the fact that I didn’t think that we (meaning those of us in this hallowed home of English sport) were best placed to determine the most effective way to engage with our stakeholders. By that, I was referring to the mostly (not entirely) older demographic in the room. I explained that while many of us had educated ourselves in technology in order to compete in the workplace, the next generation of workers – so-called digital natives – had arrived. They had developed consumption patterns that differed radically from ours, not to mention the very sophisticated personal devices they used to accommodate their consumption.

The attention of those we need to engage is not focused on posters or any other static medium. The next wave of the digital revolution is here and we are paddling furiously to keep up with it. Just look at the shift in advertising across all platforms and watch, if you commute, how many people are reading the posters on the subway / tube, train or at the bus stop.

Not many (unless the battery had died).

In order to engage our workforce effectively, we have to take the key principles of engagement and exercise these in ways that reach and resonate with our people. We have to penetrate their attention bubble with effective messaging that reinforces our organization’s actions around engagement and support their personal values that drive engagement.

Effectively, we are marketing to them, and while we in EHS are generally caring and possess high levels of emotional intelligence, we aren’t necessarily born marketers. As a technologist, I believe that it is incumbent upon us to provide the tools to do this effectively for an entire organization. It is our responsibility to go beyond driving adoption and to truly engage, and that is what we intend to do.

My statement seemed to resonate, though I must confess that there were multiple conversations around the fact that engagement isn’t solved by effective messaging alone – and that is a fact. But without it, we are truly doing the same thing over and over and expecting a miraculous improvement.

Learn more about driving engagement around EHS by downloading our free Insight Report, Implementing New EHS Software: Value, Buy-In and Engagement.



This entry was posted in Health & Safety Management and tagged , , , by Rob Harrison. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rob Harrison

Rob Harrison leads the Intelex EHSQ content team and guides the overall EHSQ content strategy for the EHSQ Alliance. His focus is providing Intelex's market leading platform and the EHSQ Alliance with relevant, trusted and actionable content. He has 17 years of experience in designing, building, implementing, supporting and marketing enterprise Environmental, Health & Safety, and Quality management system software.

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