Even the least romantic of us can’t fail to have been impressed by the glamorous spectacle of George Clooney’s wedding to Amal Alamuddin, complete with speedboats and vaporettos speeding through the canals of Venice.  This fairy tale engagement followed years of media comment about George’s reluctance to commit, despite being one of the most eligible bachelors in the world.  

Engagement has quickly become a leading buzzword in today’s corporate environment. Organisations of all sizes seek to woo customers and seventy-eight percent of business leaders say it is an urgent priority, according to Deloitte.  After a painful and prolonged recession, the economy is recovering from years of stagnancy.  Employers across all business sectors want growth and employees are thought to be the main component.  Leading research firms like Gallup have reams of reliable statistics and irrefutable facts: All key business measures--profitability, customer satisfaction, quality, retention and sales--are consistently and significantly higher in those organisations that orchestrate and achieve greater levels of employee engagement. 

However the art of engagement is a tricky business for most organisations today. According to Gallup * 70% of us are disengaged in our roles.  Perhaps it’s time to rethink not only how we measure, but also how we create conditions for better engagement.  In a dynamic, always on world do annual employee engagement surveys really serve us well?  As we move towards real time measures for customer engagement shouldn’t we be doing the same for colleagues?   

This week we held an interesting roundtable dinner in London to address the issue of agent effort; a topic which is being researched in association with Plantronics (link here).  How difficult is it for colleagues to serve customers well?  The relationship between agent and customer effort is similar to that of customer and employee engagement; get the right equilibrium and it is possible to create a win win for all.  Removing the barriers to meaningful engagement is critical, and that means not just listening to front line staff, but completing the circle of feedback and action.  It will be instantly obvious to a customer whether an organisation supports colleagues, (regardless of channel) with knowledge and resource, or whether it is simply providing a well meaning, but dysfunctional buffer zone.  

Post recession we are operating in a whole new world where the expectations of employees and customers alike have shifted permanently.  According to John Knell, who delivers CCA One day MBA, (link) ‘we are now hardwired to austerity’  One of the main disruptive forces in this change is social media, now recognised as a highly efficient research tool and magnifier alike, reflecting not only customer engagement but broken processes which frustrate employees and customers in equal measure.   

Whether your communication needs are for long term relationships, or efficient once and done, it seems that the entire organisation needs to commit fully to engagement, ensuring that we get those important happy endings.