Big Picture: Timing is Everything
By Bruce Bolger, Publisher
In some respects, we couldn’t have chosen a worse time to create the Enterprise Engagement Alliance. This is the outreach and education organization dedicated to promoting the emergence of an enterprise approach to engagement and to creating and promulgating a formal curriculum for effective implementation. The time was early 2008, just when the U.S. was slipping into the beginning of what will likely be called the second Great Depression. By all accounts, the EEA should have been a flash in the pan – why would organizations focus on engagement at a time when basic survival became the imperative?
Ironically, the answer to that question might help explain our success. The dozens of leading organizations known to have strategic engagement programs are doing so precisely because engagement may be the key to growth. The relentless recession and the disruptions being created by the Internet and social networking are exposing the inefficiencies that come from emphasizing processes over people. The easier it is for customers to defect to competitors and to share their experiences with other customers, the more organizations have to focus on the fundamental “people drivers” that make the difference between having engaged or disengaged customers and employees. It is in fact far less expensive to grow businesses by strategically focusing on engaging customers, distribution partners, employees and vendors than it is to run large advertising campaigns while cutting corners on the critical, human drivers of customer satisfaction.
Signs of Progress
Organizations can for the first time begin to measure the long-term benefits of word-of-mouth advertising, customer loyalty and a good reputation. As more and more products and services become commoditized, the unique selling proposition and source of innovation becomes the ability to engage employees (and distribution partners and vendors) to not only perform to the continual delight of customers, but to be relentlessly in search of new ways to please them. Here are some of the many signs of progress both in the field of Enterprise Engagement and at the Enterprise Engagement Alliance:
- More and more leading companies have formal engagement strategies that have been presented publicly at the education events of Marcus Evans, the Business Marketing Association, American Strategic Management Institute and many others. Such companies include McDonalds, the New York Stock Exchange, Coca-Cola, Barilla, Isle of Capri Casinos, Nicor Energy, Ernst & Young and Fairmont Hotels.
- There have been over a half-dozen comprehensive articles published this year specifically on Enterprise Engagement by the American Management Association, HR Executive, HR.com, Training magazine, Incentive magazine and Corporate and Incentive Travel.
- The EEA formally launched its first paid Enterprise Engagement half-day curriculum program in conjunction with Marcus Evans, with nearly 20 attendees all representing Fortune 1,000 companies.
- The EEA tested the launch of a Web-based curriculum program this fall that will be formally presented in 2012 on a monthly basis in conjunction with Marcus Evans. A key finding is that most participants no longer need evidence that engagement can improve performance. The key issue is how to implement it at the practical level.
- The EEA published new curriculum modules on Measurement and Rewards & Recognition that provide specific, practical steps based on research that organizations can use as part of tactical efforts to implement engagement. We expect to publish an additional dozen curriculum modules on different areas of engagement in 2012.
- The EEA has launched the Enterprise Engagement Benchmark Indicator, a free tool companies can use to confidentially benchmark their Enterprise Engagement practices in 15 minutes or less, both against best practices and other organizations that use the tool (go to www.eebenchmark.com).
- The EEA has launched version 2 of its portal at www.enterpriseengagement.org, making it easier to find the latest research, news, how-to and reference information, including over a dozen recent authoritative articles on social networking and other elements of engagement.
- The EEA will shortly announce additional tools to help organizations benchmark enterprise engagement and promote their commitment to people.
Loyalty and Commitment
When the recession hit, a business friend and long-time leader in the incentive business, Jim Dittman, President of Dittman Incentive Marketing, predicted that in the long-run the recession would be good for his business. It would force organizations to focus on the value of their people, he said, as loyalty and commitment would finally be exposed as the best way to enhance performance.
The recession turned out to be more brutal than he could have known when he spoke those words, and I’m sure there were days he regretted saying them, but evidence is growing every day that Jim was right.
If you believe that capitalism works in relentless search of the most efficient way of doing business, you can put your money on Enterprise Engagement.
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