Kevin Thomson on the seemingly “extra terrestial” engagement phenomenon.

I’ll start with the answers then work back to the question:

Answer 1 – The stories of Brand Champions

Answer 2 – The Top Ten of ‘Engaging Organisations’ which include:

1. Strength of communication to communities beyond customers

2. Depth of brand engagement (the forgiveness factor)

3. Value (performance) and values (emotional capital) of brand engagement with employees

4. Collaboration, involvement and innovation

5. Powerful messages

6. Creative delivery

7. Consistent and sustainable brand positioning

8. Clear expression

9. Authenticity of voice and actions

10. Delivering the promise

 Engagement: “take us to your leader “!

Received wisdom apparently now has it that organisations must move from measuring and acting on ‘employee satisfaction’ (which they arguably should never have been placing as much emphasis on), to acting on ‘employee engagement’.  Hence the vast industry of recent surveys and “events” picking and plucking as if engagement is a just landed alien phenomenon that needs to be approached with suspicion and caution. 

The MacLeod Report only confirmed what decades of data had already informed the enlightened CEO, Comms Director and HRD, namely that the top four factors that drive employee engagement  are (using my mnemonic):


  • Leadership
  • Integrity
  • Voice of the employee
  • Engaging managers.

Internal Comms 101, surely? The mnemonic is so easy to remember, but so hard to implement (clearly) or it wouldn’t be such a big issue with 3.3m Google references like ‘Employee engagement is a word that gets bandied about a huge amount and often without clear definition.’

We now have The Employee Engagement Task Force picking over the runes and looking to create ‘best practice’ to deliver the definitive solution. Perhaps the engagement enlightened will eventually get some great advice. But will it be about the right thing? Is it really ‘employee engagement’ that is the problem, or is it something else? Like how engaging are the organisations employees work for?

Is it really as simple as saying that once you know the Engaging For Success ‘LIVE’ formula, off you go;

  1. L – looking to create strong leadership
  2. I – being true to what you do (integrity)
  3. V – listening to employees (more)
  4. E – ensuring you have really good engaging managers and supervisors.

 Hasn’t this been the same for the last 50 years of ‘modern management’?

So what‘s the answer? Or more importantly, what’s the question?

If you were looking at this from an external ‘customer engagement’ perspective the fault (after 25 years of really inconsistent results) would lie squarely with the marketing, branding, communication and advertising functions. Why? Because they wouldn’t have covered the basics of making the product, the promotion, the price and the place engaging enough to engage the customer.

But if employees are disengaged, where should the responsibility lie? Yes, in part, with the board. But what have the functions responsible for employee engagement been doing to initiate the LIVE formula given that it has hardly just arrived on planet comms?

Hopefully your engagement leadership trio of HR/Comms and Marketing aren’t holding their breath waiting for magic moon dust to descend from the stratosphere. If you’re struggling, rather than launching yet another engagement survey, why not be appreciative, have faith that best practices will already exist and try inverting this simple external logic:

 1. How can you increase the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees (like engaged customers) using existing Brand Champions (and they will exist)?. Where do you find them, work with them, encourage them and help their stories spread?

2. How do you become an ‘Engaging Organisation’ like the great external brands? Stop looking at the employee for the answers in surveys etc and explore what the story of the evolution of your business says about how ‘engaging’ your organisation is, what it says and does, not just the managers and supervisors but the whole organisation.

The 2011 Brand Engaged Report takes an outside-in perspective on engaging brands.

Contact us for a copy and why not see how your communication culture compares against our top ten tick list?

If you’re still feeling a little puzzled, or even frightened to venture out from behind the corporate sofa, take another look at the answers at the top of this piece and watch this space as future blogs will explore these solutions in further detail.



2 thoughts on “Kevin Thomson on the seemingly “extra terrestial” engagement phenomenon.

  1. Although to be fair, Wefald and Downey (2008) looked at satisfaction and engagement and their impact on performance and found that while they both predicted performance, the measures were significantly related and that in fact, satisfaction was a greater predictor of performance than engagement. So I’m not sure why concentrating on employee satisfaction would have been SUCH a disaster.

  2. But you have to be engaged to be fully satisfied don’t you Karen?
    For my part, I think the term satisfaction has an image problem along the lines of what a former boss used to call “sixth form common room” thinking, implying “”nice to have” versus what’s required for businesses to function. The enagement term runs the risk of being similarly marginalised, but for different reasons namely that it’s being over-complicated. Yet the core principes behind both are sound – connecting people with the business and the business with the people makes sound business sense. Yes, that does involve soft skils and emotions as well as the left brain, but so what? And it certainly isn’t something that’s a nice to have but is a necessity – especially in a downturn when businsses need people to go the extra mile and not as a result of the lash…..

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