Monday, September 28, 2009

Engaged Companies: Are You Serious? Really?

Today’s post is written by Barbara A. Hughes, Co-Founder, Intellectual Capital Consulting:

I’m impressed – and frankly amazed sometimes – at the sheer number of blogs, articles, posts, etc. that turn up in my Google Alerts on the topics of employee engagement and customer engagement. Some of the information is interesting and occasionally, it is thought-provoking. But, I wonder how many of these ideas are actually applied in organizations?

Here is my problem with this stuff: it often mirrors what doesn’t work in organizations. We have silos of data, knowledge, know-how and information gathered, hoarded or used as our personal or departmental power bases which cannot move the company toward its strategic objectives when it’s so fragmented. Thinking along these lines is like a Chinese menu – 600 items somewhat related but never integrated. And, like Chinese food, disparate discussions about engagement often leave us hungry for real answers after a couple of hours.

I read a blog post recently suggesting that companies create a new C-level position for Engagement because top level executives are too busy doing other things and middle managers don’t know enough about organizational strategy. As they say on Saturday Night Live: Are You Serious? Really? I’m not denigrating the idea of an Engagement Champion but I’ve held similar internal positions and it is a recipe for failure unless this position is accountable for bringing together resources and managing the execution of complex, enterprise-wide initiatives and not the dog’s body who has the thankless task of being the one who is “doing stuff to us”.

Inside-out, bottom-up, outside-in and top-down, it is our ENTIRE organization that must be engaged in order for any single factor to be engaged to a degree that makes a difference. Here is how we at ICC view the design of a successful engagement model:

Leadership: engages through continuous communication of strategy and vision; sets the tone for an engaged culture; creates resilience. Is relentless about linking business results to employee and customer experiences.

Strategy: engages by instilling a clear and compelling vision of the company’s purpose and future direction. Motivates by setting goals that link to each person’s contributions.

Culture: engages when there is transparency of thought, ideas and information; and when there is flow among units, departments, functions and individuals.

Employees: engage with an understanding of their work and how it furthers organizational strategy and goals. Give their best efforts to a company that values their contributions, and the customers they serve. Link their personal view to the organization’s view of success.

Customers: engage with an organization that is designed to provide a unique combination of product, service and experience they would find difficult to get elsewhere.

Linking and integrating the key engagement factors strengthens the process of delivering on your brand promise to both employees and customers. This model is your organization’s unique competitive advantage and will attract and retain the relationships – employees and customers alike – that drive business results. It’s not about copying Zappo’s culture or GE’s lean processes or Amazon’s analytics. It’s about discovering what you want “engagement” to mean in your company and then designing the five key factors to create the results you want.

I know that there are engaged companies out there. Will you share what is working for you?

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