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Engagement drives Social Business success

 

What is engagement? Very simply, it is the way that a company or country holds the attention of its ecosystem, client, or potential client. Engagement is personal. It drives businesses to think of being not only business to business (B2B), business to consumer (B2C), or government to citizen (G2C), but also people to people (P2P). Engagement also means that experiences are differentiated, relevant, and valuable. Engagement is always two-way—meaning dialogue, interaction, and interest through both parties. Those parties could be client to company, or company to employee, or employee to client!
Questions around engagement include these:
• How will you hold your clients’ and employees’ attention in new ways that increase interest and loyalty?
• How will you involve the client and employee more effectively and directly?
• How do you use two-way collaboration to sync with your clients and employees?
• Can you hear the voice of your customer through the vast amount of data? How about your employees?
• How can you personalize your engagement with the customer based on their online behaviors, previous experiences, and profile information?

Now, engaging your clients, employees, and other influencers is your top priority. For example, Apple’s genius bar is near- perfect support, real geniuses and scheduled help sessions that overdeliver. The recommendations of  Netflix, an online video provider, provide customized user movie recommendations based on previously selected movies to promote itself as more of an entertainment advisor than a transaction site. Build-A-Bear, a business built with both offline and online experiences, adds social content like parties, websites, Facebook pages, and more to turn a product into a full experience.

Why is this a point of focus now? The customers of today and tomorrow have a different level of expectation in terms of engagement. They expect customer service teams to be customer-friendly and knowledgeable about what they tweet. If your company doesn’t have a great reputation, customers probably won’t consider your brand, and if they do decide to go with your product or offering, your teams need to be available at any time in all channels. Customers expect your company to have an experience that is like none other. On top of all that, they expect you to be able to anticipate needs before they are demanded. With the unprecedented level of focus and heightened customer exposure for every employee, honoring your customer above all else has become a mandate. I call this new client the “social client.”
The same has become true of the new employees. They expect to be social and online. They want a leadership team that is open and involves them in the decisions. Brainstorming and ad hoc teams to solve key problems are expected and required in order for this new employee to remain with your company. Millennials, those born between 1977 and 1997, expect you to use the new social tools, and 94% of them in 2011 will use online methods like LinkedIn and Facebook to find a job with your company, according to the new study by Elance, a leader in online employment and millennials. These new employees are networked 24/7 and expect the company to accommodate pervasive connectivity
and collaboration. I call this new employee the “social employee.”
Engagement is real and active. The experience needs to set you apart in the marketplace and becomes a long-term competitive weapon, not just a fleeting advantage.
A Social Business has engagement through an experience—the feeling of good friends at a party, the trusted neighbor over the backyard fence, the perfect retail experience, the wisdom of the crowd. In short, this engagement will come from daily experiences with your company. A Social Business’s
experiences are not a hard sell but a relationship through community activities, events, charity, and more activities that humanize the corporation.
Those other industries will set the bar for your clients and employees who will want similar experiences in your industry.

Employee engagement drives business results.
If you look at engaged employees, there is a correlation between performance and engagement. Gallup’s Q12 (a 12-question survey designed by Gallup to predict employee and workgroup performance) defines this relationship as follows: “Engaged employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. They drive innovation and move the organization forward.” In addition, Gallup wrote this:
“The world’s top-performing organizations understand that employee engagement is a force that drives performance outcomes. In the best organizations, engagement is more than a human resources initiative—it is a strategic foundation for the way they do business.”
In May 2011, IBM published a paper called “The Essential CIO—Insights from the Global Chief Information Officer Study,” which was based on face-to-face conversations with more than 3,000 CIOs worldwide. A key result of that study showed that 66% of CIOs from top-performing
organizations see internal communication and collaboration as key to innovation.
According to the Social Workplace, a leading resource for research, best practices and insights on social intranets, and employee engagement, those companies that used social techniques (Web 2.0 tools) with their employees achieved an 18% increase in engagement versus 1% among those that didn’t. And the benefits they achieved from that higher engagement with their employees were in four key areas:
• More effective client interaction
• Faster connection with experts
• Greater productivity
• Stronger recruitment and better retention

Client engagement drives strong business results.
If you now look externally at engaged clients, you see similar business results. From that same methodology, Gallup has identified 11 questions—the CE11—that measure customer engagement and link powerfully to financial performance. The 2011 study revealed that customers (both B2B and B2C)
who are fully engaged represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth over the ordinary customer. Organizations that have optimized engagement have outperformed their competitors by 26% in gross margin and 85% in sales growth.
Their customers buy more, spend more, return more often, and stay longer.
The 5th Annual Customer Engagement Report of more than 1,000 companies, produced by Econsultancy, a company focused on advice and insight on best-practice digital marketing, found that customer-engagement importance is growing by 5% year over year, demonstrating that the best
companies are focused on increasing engagement through social techniques. The greatest increase in engagement experimentation was in the use of social networks, video, and mobile.
These are the benefits of a more engaged client:
• Higher loyalty
• Greater advocacy
• More spending
• Stronger satisfaction
At the end of 2010, IBM published a study called “Capitalizing on Complexity.” The study was conducted through insights from CEOs worldwide and was the largest CEO study ever completed. A top trend was about reinventing relationships with their customers. The study showed that 95% of standout organizations, those that outperformed on their financial results, will focus more on “getting closer to the customer” over the next 5 years because of the increased shareholder value that it brings.
This makes customer engagement the number one priority to succeed in the new economic environment. Standouts are especially determined to put customer engagement front and center, convinced that they
must not only stay connected (or reconnect) with their customers, but also keep on learning how to strengthen those bonds.
So regardless of whether we are discussing employee or client engagement, social techniques drive higher engagement, and higher engagement drives a more competitive Social Business.

Employee Engagement with the New Social Employee
Engaged employees are those who know the company’s values and are empowered to leverage those values with their partners and clients. They know their role and understand how to reach out to the right expert. These new social employee are about commitment and success. They know that the executive team, at all levels, is open and transparent.
While this is very important, not enough companies have an employee engagement strategy in place yet. In fact, when IBM recently surveyed 700 chief human resource officers and executives, more than
three-quarters (78%) said they didn’t think their companies were good at fostering collaboration or social networking. Additionally, fewer than one-quarter (21%) had increased how much they invested in the very tools that would make them more successful.
This new social employee is looking for certain things in this engagement. Michael Fauscette, who leads IDC’s Software Business Solutions Group, discussed five characteristics of the new social employees in order for companies to engage them in the workforce.
Social employees do the following:
• Look for coaches and mentors, not “bosses.”
• Want empowerment to take on business problems without micromanaging but within established guidelines.
• Need the freedom and ability to form ad hoc workgroups as needed to address business issues and problems, including those external.
• Demand open and transparent executives.
• Desire an inclusive decision-making culture.
Your social employee engagement strategy needs to include the capability to provide feedback, have frequent communications, form relationships, share desired experiences, and brainstorm solutions. For example, IBM has a program for new employees called Succeeding@IBM. For the first 6 to 12
months after new hires join the company, they are part of a social networking group where they collaborate on topics and get to know other folks outside of their immediate departments. This engagement experience helps with networking on a worldwide basis, a key skill for today’s global workforce. It also gives new employees a broader base of knowledge that they can tap into as they adapt to their new jobs and culture.
For employee engagement, I would measure these factors:
• Employee sentiment (how your employees feel about issues in real time): For example, many leading companies are using social analytics tools to pull out of company blogs, wikis, and other social networking forums inside the four walls of a company the insight on how their employees feel about the company, policies, and overall issues. Many leadership companies are now doing this instead of doing yearly company surveys that are dated as soon as they are released.
• Crowdsourcing (new innovations and ideas from employees): For example, IBM held a “ThinkFuture” event. ThinkFuture is a four-day, online, collaborative event bringing together IBMers around the world to brainstorm and strategize on the future of leadership and talent development. The first 24 hours were spent web-streaming workshops to participants around the
world; the next three days were spent in an online discussion forum that IBM calls a “Jam.” There were 2,617 registered participants for the Jam, generating 3,579 posts.
After IBM’s analytics experts helped analyze the results, IBM commissioned five teams of early- career HR professionals from around the world to tackle major areas of insight. The first results from those teams are powerful and very forward-thinking—the first steps in a multistage strategic
planning and implementation process that will unfold over the next decade at IBM. Measuring the power of this collective intelligence and the value it brings to tactical and strategic issues is a key metric to consider.
• Increased productivity: For example, Konecranes is a company based in Finland that focuses on “lifting” businesses that offers a complete range of advanced lifting solutions to many different industries worldwide. They engaged their employees through an internal community to enable the finding of experts in a more effective manner. Some employees would need to find people who know about lift trucks and speak Russian, for instance. Using this internal community, they increased their employees’ engagement with other experts, which led to double-digit improvement in their productivity.
• Network density: Your network consists of your colleagues that you communicate and collaborate with. By measuring the density of someone’s network over time, you can understand whether they are expanding their reach and continuing to network with new people. By looking at the density
with a 2D view, you can correlate who that individual collaborates with most, as well as get a better understanding of their physical location. The goal is to ensure that your teams have the geographic and organizational structure to enable people to become “connected” beyond their immediate team.

 

How Do You Engage?
To leverage these principles of engagement most effectively, there are three essential techniques that we have found have the greatest success rate. I call these the Three I’s:
• Interact (mobile, gaming, gifting, location-based services, crowdsourcing)
• Integrate (online, offline)
• Identify (content, emotion, personalize)
Note that each of these is a two-way engagement:
• To interact means that your clients or employees become active participants. For example, in gaming, they are playing the game, as you are teaching and instructing them in a fun way.
• To integrate means that your company will have online and offline engagements that fit together to form a full picture of your company. So you will not see one view in an event online and a different personality of the company in a store. If you are not integrated in your approach, engagement is weakened.
• In identification, the key is to identify with your clients or employees and to personalize your approach in engaging with them. Your goal is to provide them an experience that is just for them.
They comment on your blog because it speaks in their voice, or about their passion, and gets them involved.How Do You Engage?
To leverage these principles of engagement most effectively, there are three essential techniques that we have found have the greatest success rate. I call these the Three I’s:
• Interact (mobile, gaming, gifting, location-based services, crowdsourcing)
• Integrate (online, offline)
• Identify (content, emotion, personalize)
Note that each of these is a two-way engagement:
• To interact means that your clients or employees become active participants. For example, in gaming, they are playing the game, as you are teaching and instructing them in a fun way.
• To integrate means that your company will have online and offline engagements that fit together to form a full picture of your company. So you will not see one view in an event online and a different personality of the company in a store. If you are not integrated in your approach, engagement is weakened.
• In identification, the key is to identify with your clients or employees and to personalize your approach in engaging with them. Your goal is to provide them an experience that is just for them. They comment on your blog because it speaks in their voice, or about their passion, and gets them involved.

 

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