Gamification tackles transient workforce: Veolia

Across the globe, transient work, including casualised employment and contractor jobs, are becoming a predominant theme. Waste Management Review explores how a waste education app could result in sustainable behavioural change.

According to the Deloitte Insights 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, globally there were around 77 million freelancers in the US, India and Europe.

In the US, more than 40 per cent of workers were employed in “alternative work arrangements”, including contingent, part-time or gig work. Additionally in 2018, the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work reported that for the first time, over half of the nation’s working population were in non-permanent roles.

This global trend has implications across waste segregation and contamination. More than ever, education needs to be ongoing to ensure employees know when, where and how to properly dispose of waste.

In Australia, EPA NSW highlighted in its 2012 Better Practice Guidelines for Waste Management and Recycling in Commercial and Industrial Facilities that education must be regular and continual to overcome the transient nature of cleaning contractors in the commercial rental market.

It also considered other factors to be essential in overcoming this issue, including correct labelling of recycling bins, clear signage and the signposting of the location and direction of waste storage areas.

While many of these methods are often key to improving consumer education, they don’t always work in practice. Veolia Australia and New Zealand formulated an updated understanding of this in early 2018, when it began looking at ways to help its commercial customers tackle their unique contamination challenges.

Veolia responded by developing a unique app to tackle the challenges associated with waste education in workplaces with a transient workforce.

Kate Suters, Sustainability Strategist at Veolia Australia and New Zealand, says that the company first wanted to better understand the challenges its customers faced.

“We spent a lot of time talking with our clients, listening to their needs, industry challenges and what they really wanted and needed,” Kate says.

“To address these challenges, we developed a strategy that was engaging, impacted behaviour change and had frequent, short and snappy delivery.”

Veolia’s diverse range of customers are located across a range of industry segments, including retail, hospitality and commercial property. Many of these customers identified a lack of participation, confusing content and training not resulting in behavioural change as key barriers to progress. A lack of resources to develop and deliver training were also seen as barriers to waste education.

Kate says the company assessed available technologies and learning platforms that would deliver the best response to their customers’ requirements.

She says that while there were a lot of waste educational tools out in the market, not all of them were engaging, fun or focused on creating behaviour change.

In response to this, Veolia developed Way to Grow, a gamified waste education app catering for a wide level of user knowledge in waste and recycling.

“There is an assumption that people know the basics of what is and isn’t recyclable, but we’ve found this to be untrue, so it was imperative that the app was developed to provide a personalised learning experience,” explains Chelsea Rorimpandey, Marketplace Sustainability Manager at Veolia Australia and New Zealand.

For employers, Way to Grow provides personalised employee engagement, an innovative way to embed sustainability into company culture and the opportunity to connect to a network of environmentally conscious teams.

For employees, it’s an entertaining way to learn about responsible waste management, earn rewards for taking positive actions and be part of something bigger.

One of the most unique elements of the app is its use of gamification principles.

It taps into user motivation and experiences and combines this with microlearning processes to positively reinforce knowledge and actions.

“It can dynamically monitor user behaviour, then recommend activities based on previous responses and deliver information to enhance learning,” Chelsea says.

“Challenges, games, videos and activities were all designed to be fun, positive and provide bursts of information.”

Kate says the end result is behavioural change in a business setting – lowering contamination and cost per tonne and increasing diversion from landfill.

“Compared to more traditional methods, such as face-to-face education – which has its place – Way to Grow proves that gamified education can deliver behavioural change. The app goes beyond informing people of what they should be doing by incentivising them to actually do it,” she says.

She says that it is equally crucial to highlight the importance of the user experience, which is not typically addressed in other forms of education.

“Way to Grow delivers personalised, concise and consistent education right to the fingertips of the user. They can play and learn at a time, place and speed that’s convenient for them, making it more accessible than any other type of education,” Kate says.

“Critically, this also takes much of the financial and resource constraints off businesses to deliver their own education, be it on a scheduled or ongoing basis.”

Way to Grow has added other components such as avatars and team challenges to encourage peer interaction and digital and material prizes.

“We also added the functionality of reporting for our clients so they could use it as an induction program,” she says.

The app has already delivered excellent results for Veolia customers, including a trial at the retail centres of integrated property group Charter Hall and another office environment.

Kate says that Charter Hall is focused on achieving its sustainability targets and driving site engagement.

“Working with a sustainability partner like Charter Hall who is equally focused on implementing the best education model for its tenancies made the process a lot more rewarding and ultimately helped deliver a better product to end users,” Kate says.

Anudeep Beniwal, National Procurement & Contracts Manager at Charter Hall, explains that education in the retail sector is challenging.

“Time, availability of resources, cost and continuity of messaging have been the main challenges, all of which are compounded by the casualised workforce of the industry,” Anudeep says.

“It’s quite normal to have staff members that only work a few days a week, or conversely a shop with only one staff member who doesn’t necessarily have a lot of time to learn about waste.”

He adds that connecting with tenants and educating them requires extensive resourcing and affects the bottom line – a process the app alleviates.

“For our centres, it helped provide continuity of education. The app is accessible at any time, so tenants can continue to learn and play as much as they like,” he says.

Critically, he says the app enabled Charter Hall to help its tenants understand the role they play in generating less and recycling more in a fun and engaging format.

“Tenants were really responsive – they enjoyed the activities and challenges. We received great feedback particularly around the content and instructiveness. Importantly, we saw that the more people engaged, the better the results,” he says.

“We saw significant results across recycling tonnage increasing, diversion increasing and costs decreasing. This ultimately helps our centres from an operational, cost and environmental standpoint.”

He says that during the initial pilot, diversion at the site increased by almost 10 per cent in the following months of using the app. The app provides detailed reporting, allowing Charter Hall to understand behaviour and engagement with the information.

In a recent launch of Way to Grow in a commercial office building, 84.2 per cent of users said that playing the app made a difference to their waste and recycling behaviours.

This difference was also observed in knowledge of correct waste practices, which rose from 25.5 to 96.5 per cent following the campaign.  Some of the following feedback was reported by end users:

“After playing Way to Grow I noticed you are unable to recycle some items which my colleagues were putting in the commingle bin. Now I help educate my colleagues and have made them aware the items are non-recyclable,” one said.

“I make more of an effort to throw things like soft plastics, organics and other separable wastes into the relevant bins,” said another.

“I had no idea that it took so long for things to break down, I am paying a lot more attention to my purchases now,” a third person remarked.

Way to Grow is available to a broad range of sectors and is currently being rolled out to a number of Veolia’s key clients across Australia. Kate says that the costs associated with implementing the app are marginal compared to the results achieved and the cost of delivering any other type of education.

“For organisations focused on achieving their sustainability targets, reducing their costs and engaging and empowering their staff, this type of educational delivery can become an effective part of a broader sustainability strategy,” she says.

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