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One moment in time: how to create memorable employee experiences 

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One moment in time: how to create memorable employee experiences 

If you look back on your working life, what memories stand out? Chances are you’ll remember specific moments that have come to define how you feel about a particular role or organisation.

We remember these moments so vividly because of what psychologists call the peak-end rule. When we review an experience after the event, we tend to focus on the best or worst moment – the ‘peak’ – and the ending. Everything else starts to blur.

These moments happen throughout our working lives, either by accident or design.

But if they have such power, why don’t we make more of them? Why do we miss so many opportunities to create meaningful moments that have an extraordinary impact on the lives of our employees?

That’s the question posed by Chip and Dan Heath in their book The Power of Moments.

According to the Heaths, defining moments at work tend to arise from:

  • transitions – an employee’s first day at work, a promotion, the end of a project
  • milestones – long service landmarks, retirement, the recognition of key achievements
  • pits – employees facing bereavement, stress, or even a poor performance review

These moments create unique opportunities to transform the employee experience and build engagement, yet we often fail to take advantage.

With a little effort, we can create powerful moments that linger long in our employees’ memories. The recipe for success, according to the Heath brothers, involves one or more of the following ingredients…

Moments of elevation

Defining moments rise above the norm. To achieve that, we have to ‘break the script’ and do something unexpected.

A study of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor, for example, found that 60% of guests who were ‘very satisfied’ would unconditionally recommend the hotel. But when guests reported experiencing a ‘delightful surprise’ during their stay, that figure jumped to 94%. The surprise had broken the norm.

High street food chain Pret A Manger artfully incorporates this principle into its customer service. Regular visitors will probably remember the first time they received a free coffee or pastry – the unexpectedness makes it memorable.

Rejecting the traditional loyalty card approach, Pret allows its employees to give away a certain number of hot drinks and food items each week. This random element not only creates more memorable moments for its customers, it breaks the script for Pret’s employees too. They get the power to decide whose day they’re going to make more special, while happiness research shows that the act of giving is itself a powerful booster of wellbeing.

Moments of insight

Moments of insight deliver a jolt: a sudden realisation that changes your outlook. While such moments often happen by chance, the Heaths offer two tactics for creating moments of insight.

First, invite colleagues to ‘trip over the truth’. This tactic is widely used in ‘big picture’ communication activities, where colleagues discover the need for change by exploring a graphical ‘roadmap’. Inviting colleagues to reach their own ‘aha!’ moments is more powerful than simply telling them the reasons for change.

Second, mentors can help colleagues ‘stretch for insight’. Self-understanding comes slowly to many of us, but mentors can nudge people to venture outside their comfort zone, creating moments of insight about their own abilities and ambitions.

As internal communicators we can help others reach moments of insight through informal mentoring or by taking part in formal mentoring schemes run by organisations like the Institute of Internal Communication (IOIC).

Moments of pride

The easiest way to create moments of pride, say the Heaths, is to offer colleagues recognition. Yet the power of recognition is still vastly underrated by many leaders.

Carolyn Wiley of Roosevelt University reviewed four studies of employee motivation carried out between 1946 and 1992. She found only one factor made the top two motivators every time: full appreciation of work done.

According to Wiley, more than 80 per cent of supervisors claim they frequently express appreciation, but less than 20 per cent of employees say their bosses do this more than occasionally. The Heaths call this the ‘recognition gap’.

Organisations often attempt to close this gap with initiatives like ‘Employee of the Month’ or annual awards. But these schemes can be selective, predictable and mechanistic.

Recognition works more effectively if you make it personal and unpredictable.

Even simple notes and gestures of appreciation can have an extraordinary impact. What’s important, say the Heaths, is authenticity. It’s about managers saying: “I saw what you did and I appreciate it.”

Moments of connection

Internal communicators can create powerful moments by engineering opportunities to bring colleagues together and deepen the connections between them. Email, social networks and video conferencing allow us to work more remotely, so powerful moments of connection are increasingly about bringing colleagues together face to face.

Managers have an outsized opportunity to create powerful moments by strengthening their relationships with their team members. Relationship science suggests the key to building strong relationships in all areas of life, including at work, is to show ‘responsiveness’: understanding and validating an employee’s needs, and demonstrating you care about them.

We can also create powerful moments by connecting people to a larger sense of meaning – a ‘purpose beyond the pay cheque’. Research indicates that employees with a strong sense of purpose outperform those with a passion for their work alone.

So that’s the recipe for success – but it’s not easy. Going the extra mile to create defining moments takes thought and perseverance. The results, though, can be well worth the effort.

So why not take the Heaths’ challenge? Target a specific moment and challenge yourself to make it more memorable. After all, life is full of ordinary moments “waiting to be transformed into something special.”

by Dave Wraith for Alive!

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Jo Hobbs — Communications Manager

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Sarah Crowdy — Campaign and Media Officer Communications, South East Water

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Sobha Varghese — Tata Consultancy Services

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Alexander Mills, Communications Manager — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“We had the privilege to work with the Alive team. It was our first time to be involved in creating an animation for our patients within paediatrics. The team were approachable, friendly, creative and very accommodating. Your vision for what you want to create, is at all times acknowledged, appreciated and accommodated by the team. They worked effectively and with great passion towards our project and worked not only alongside health professionals but also our patients who really enjoyed the experience of working with the Alive team. It has given our team the confidence and inspiration to do further projects in the future. We highly recommend Alive and their exceptional team.”

DR ELENI ATHANASAKOS, Lead Paediatric Clinical Scientist — NHS Barts Health

“‘The short animation developed in co-production with clinicians and young people is outstanding! Informative, developmentally appropriate, vitally fun and engaging. We are really grateful for the expertise of the Alive with Ideas team for their innovative approach in building children’s health literacy.'”

Kath Evans — Director of Children’s Nursing at Barts Health

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Lianne Springer — Communications and Engagement Lead

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Louise Burnard, Head of Marketing and Communications UK — Be | Shaping the Future

“I think the team have done such a brilliant job, particularly with responding to our requests. It's one of the best mental health videos I've ever seen. Very proud to be associated with your exemplary work. Thank you so much.”

Dr Anna Batho — Clinical Psychologist – Critical Care, UCLH

“We have worked with Alan, Caroline and the wider Alive With Ideas team for many years. In that time, they have provided a dedicated service that is second to none. We appreciate their attention to detail and creative approach to bringing our brand, communications and stories to life. And would recommend them to anyone looking for creative communications support.”

Georgia Beech — Internal Communications Specialist, Ocado Group

“This is brilliant. I wanted to give my heartfelt thanks to all of the team who worked on this. You all understood exactly what we wanted to communicate and why, and then managed to do it in a way that was far better than anything I could have imagined. I’m a bit choked up to be honest!”

Sarah Wright, Head of Communications and Campaigns — NEA

“Each time I work with the team, I am always stunned at the effort and creativity that goes into each detail and am always eager for the end result. The team is extremely accommodating and always provide a fresh approach to our projects that elevates our communications materials!”

Alana Khaytin, Communications Specialist — Braskem America

“What I really appreciate about Alive is that they work with us as partners, and care as much about getting it right for our patients as we do.”

Sara Langston, Patient Engagement & Marketing Manager — italk

“Alive are unique in how much they deeply listen and invest in you and your ideas. I have not come across a company that listens as much as they do to ensure your needs are understood and met (actually - they always exceed my needs and expectations). Everyone I recommend Alive to has an equally brilliant experience. When you work with Alive, you are not only getting some genius creativity brought into your life, you are also hanging out with some of the best examples of human beings I’ve ever known.”

Steph Tranter, Hybrid Exec Coach & Psychologist —

“The (Alive) team were able to creatively pull together and document (in just over 2minutes) everything our service has achieved over the last few months, from thousands of prescriptions deliveries to hundreds of phone calls made to the vulnerable. The final product was so powerful and reflective of what our service has and continues to achieve. It couldn’t have been better received within the service – thanks Alive for once again helping us to communicate our vision!’”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire & Rescue

“We worked with the team at Alive to create our staff recognition video.
At a time like this, its never been more important to share the amazing work that our staff have done and continue to do on a daily basis under very difficult circumstances. We wanted to shout about this and recognise that when the time came, South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue stepped up to the plate. We didn’t want an ordinary thank you post on social media or a basic email sent out internally, we wanted something special. Enter Alive. ”

Emma Wright — South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue

“Our company is fun, we have great brands, but most importantly we’re all about our people – and I wanted an agency who would understand that and help us bring it to life through our website and other comms. Straight away I felt that Alive ‘got’ us and provided the creative inspiration exactly where we needed it, as well as the technical expertise to deliver a well-functioning website.”

Keren McCarron, Head of Corporate Affairs & Communications — KP Snacks

Thank you so much. Incredible work done at incredible speed by incredible people.
Outstanding work as ever and what a turnaround. As for the concepts – wow. These are that good it would be an insult to describe them as just good. It’s a joke, quite frankly. This is exactly the Alive effect I was after. Right now I feel like I am living in an Alive With Ideas wonderland. Thank you!”

Jack Grasby, Campaigns Manager — SYFR

“If you are looking to improve creativity and build teamwork, I highly recommend a session like this for your team. No matter where you are in your creativity journey, a workshop like this can give your team a boost of energy and ideas to invigorate their creative thinking.”

Amy Lilja, IC Manager — Hennepin Healthcare

“Alive were there to help when we were working every hour to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. They gave us the creativity, ideas and support we needed to deliver campaigns which empowered our residents in the most difficult time most of us have ever seen, personally and professionally. The team understood what we needed, worked closely with us and delivered fast without any compromise on quality. Working with Alive has been a joy in the darkest of times and I have no doubt will have helped to save lives. Thanks team x”

Julie Odams, Assistant Director of Communications & Customers — Derbyshire County Council

“We got 'Alive' involved to help us shift mindsets across our organisation and they delivered! Using simple, clear and creative ideas the team have delivered us a campaign which has seen a dramatic increase in idea sharing and development. They’ve also played a significant role in creating a culture of shared success. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with again, in fact, we already are!”

Gavin Buckle — B&Q
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