energising people, teams, organisations and communities
I’ve just read a fascinating article called “the Social Life of Brands”, about the use of social engagement by brand owners to maintain advocacy amongst their loyal consumers. It’s interesting for a couple of reasons. Firstly, when I started out as a consumer marketer, 30 years’ ago, we were obsessed with the exploration into why people became brand-devotees. Working with some eminent researchers in the UK advertising world of the time – Leslie Butterfield and Gary Duckworth to name but two – we identified the social impact that wine-buying had on consumers and the importance of purchasing and conspicuously consuming products that endorsed you as an individual; the product as a self-affirming ‘badge’ of good taste. Our work in this field led me to launch the first New Zealand wine into the UK in 1985 (Montana’s excellent Sauvignon Blanc).
Secondly, with the aforementioned article (www.strategy-business.com/article/00118?pg=all), the discussion is still about consumer purchasing and loyalty but now takes an in-depth view based on thinking from neuroscience and the study of social media. Now the focus is on the amount of reflexive and reflective thinking that consumers conduct when deciding what to buy, and linking this to the social framework governing individuals’ thinking – “the context of a community influences how people interpret their experiences, and may shape their willingness to have an authentic relationship with a brand, rather than just engage in a transaction”.
But my reason for showing so much interest in this article is not a pining for my early career in marketing: it is about the application of the thinking in the area of employee engagement and the relationship of organisations to their members. For instance, the authors talk about marketers having to reframe in order to focus on the ‘whole person’: and to do this, the use of four key drivers - “the drive to acquire possessions and status; the drive to bond and relate with others; the drive to learn and understand the world; and the drive to defend what they consider important”. These drivers are similar to what psychologists have identified as key motivational forces: achievement, affiliation, self-development and personal assertiveness.
Furthermore, the article also identifies our personal values as a key influence on purchasing patterns; in the same way that they are in the strengthening or erosion of our engagement with our employing organisation. Employee engagement is to some extent determined by the convergence of our personal values with those displayed and espoused by our employer. I can imagine that employees at Barclays Bank might – at this time – be feeling somewhat disengaged with their organisation in the light of the emerging news that their company has been fixing the odds on LIBOR rates.
And there are further similarities: listening sincerely to the organisation’s employees and being shown to respond authentically has become a key part of the engagement process. Listening enables a follow-up process of individualising the engagement process to make engagement a personal thing.
Reading this re-affirms some thinking I did 7 years’ ago. At that time, I was fascinated by the efforts companies were making to deliver effective customer-relationship management (often, sadly by simply installing some CRM software). The underlying concept I developed in 2005 was as follows:
This thinking – the combination of consumer-philosophy and employee engagement – is really important because of the blurring of the distinction between external promotional activity and the employee as an influence on customer behaviour. Furthermore, the concept of employee relationship management has relevance because:
Consumer – employee – individual – team-member – stakeholder - influencer: does this now fully describe the people we work with?
If so, what are HR doing to align to this model and prioritise their efforts in pursuit of high employee engagement?