The use of the written term ‘employee engagement’, according to Google Analytics, has overtaken phrases such as staff incentives and employee motivation for the first time since 1920.’ Enterprise Engagement Alliance bulletin, March, 2011
ENGAGEMENT IS NOT JUST ABOUT EMPLOYEES OR HR
Brand, enterprise and corporate engagement are relatively new terms that describe the many attempts by organizations to encourage their employees… and others to think favourably about them. The aim is to create improved profits through more loyalty, better efficiency and a ‘can do’ attitude. Most books and studies about engagement tend to make the general assumption that engagement is something you only do with employees.
Without consumers employees have no work to engage in. What about distribution, whether we mean your own employed sales people or channel partners? Without channel sales, there would be no products for consumers to buy. Distributors are probably in day to day contact more often with your consumers and retail customers than your employees. They play a vital role in bringing your goods to your eventual markets so they need to be fully engaged with your brand. But most engagement programmes pay only lip service to consumers, sellers and channel partners under the guise of ‘the brand’.
The problem is that most organizations are hard-wired to deliver service messages to their employees via the human resources function. Sales messages to distributors, internal and external, are usually delivered via the marketing or sales functions. Typically there is very little day to day consultation between these two teams. The result is that well-researched, painstaking work on organizational values can be completely undermined by brash and shallow marketing communication.
Or clever, target-marketed brand imagery can be ignored by the actual teams that design, service and distribute the goods to consumers. The additional complication of a distribution chain with its own, multiple brand identities within its own value chain simply adds to the engagement confusion.
The mismatch is relatively easy to fix. But it does require some corporate rewiring to ensure that C-suite level engagement strategy is successfully carried out by staff and distributors in a consistent fashion and that they, as well as consumers, engage with the brand on a level platform with the same values and messages. This means that HR should talk in depth and on a regular basis with marketing… and vice versa… so that they both understand that effective engagement is now a team game.
It is not often that there is the opportunity to change the old way of doing things and take advantage of new insights. Employing an Engagement Director may be the answer. True corporate or organizational engagement planning brings together HR people development models with marketing and communication skills under one banner.
What’s more, it is a message that consumers and media commentators can understand and respond to. In the years to come having an Engagement Director will be viewed as an obvious improvement for all successful organizations to have made.
Future commentators will no doubt chuckle to themselves that until the 21st century most large organizations deliberately split the strategic task of engagement between two or more departments with the inevitable misalignment and lack of mutual accountability. Now that we have, or could have, Engagement Directors the big divide between HR and marketing will become an historic oddity of the past.
John Fisher, Managing Director, FMI Group, the brand engagement specialists. @John_Fisher01
John is the author of Strategic Brand Engagement which is published by Kogan Page in November, 2013. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org