Big Picture (Mar/Apr 2011)
Talk about witnessing the birth of a new business discipline.
Presenter after presenter at the recent Marcus Evans Internal Branding and Employee Engagement Conference in Miami – representing companies ranging from McDonalds, Hewlett-Packare and NYSE Euronext to Isle of Capri Casinos, Coca-Cola and AstraZeneca – spoke about their respective journeys, as more than one put it, towards becoming “fully-engaged organizations.”
What was so striking from the various presentations was the commonality of their goals, challenges and solutions, even though, as some speakers admitted afterwards, they had to make it up as they went along since there are no formal, established processes for moving toward a culture of engagement.
At least not yet.
Different Approaches, Same Goal
Each speaker was coming from a different type of company with a different type of challenge. Gayle Deringer and Mike Balaka, both Directors of Global HR design at McDonalds, explained how, in establishing their employee brand and value proposition, they had to contend with the potential for highly public ridicule due to the company’s size and leadership position in the oft-maligned fast-food industry. Their advice: look for the strengths of your brand and be true to them; don’t try to be something you’re not.
AstraZeneca faces a challenging regulatory and industry climate; NYSE Euronext has many people who might have difficulty understanding the connection between their jobs and customer satisfaction. Isle of Capri faces tremendous competition without having the deepest pockets in its industry. Each company has its own culture and climate to deal with, but each nonetheless has found a highly similar path to engagement, with similar lessons to share. They all spoke of the need for:
- Top management that really gets it
- A long-term approach
- The customer-employee brand
- Rewards and recognition
- The role of polls, surveys and measurement.
Through the Looking Glass
None of these points should sound unfamiliar to our readers, because what these speakers all describe is the framework for the Enterprise Engagement Curriculum and Certification program we’re developing in a distribution agreement with Marcus Evans, and which was tested at the EEA’s inaugural education event last June.
I was invited by Marcus Evans to introduce the new curriculum before this audience and had a sort of “Alice in Wonderland” experience as I went through my slides laying out precisely the framework the representatives from the abovementioned companies had described in the session before mine.
The speakers present admitted that their journeys were based on experience, instinct and anecdotal best practices such as those shared by companies at this conference, rather than on a formal, research-based approach. Rick DeMarco, Director of Internal Brand Alignment for Hewlett-Packard, told the audience that at HP they had to depend on experience and instinct. Almost every attendee, by a show of hands, agreed this is a discipline everyone in management needs to understand.
Finally, speaking of the birth of a new industry, there were sponsors there like Interbrand and Corebrands that specifically spoke of helping companies make the link between external and internal branding. We’ve heard of well-known companies in the marketing world like EGR International and JWTINSIDE (a division of J. Walter Thompson) officially positioning themselves as engagement agencies to meet the needs of large companies that need to fully integrate their engagement strategies and tactics.
We think you’ll be hearing a lot more about the emergence of these and other “engagement agencies” as this concept crystallizes. It’s a field that encompasses suppliers as diverse as marketing agencies and management consultants, diagnostic specialists and meeting planners, rewards and recognition companies, training firms and social networking specialists, but also requires strategists who can provide zero-based analysis and solutions.
It’s already a billion-dollar business with plenty of opportunities. Welcome aboard.
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