The Engagement Revolution

revolutionIt’s said that the problem with revolutions is that we don’t know that we’re in one until it’s almost over. Well. I think we’re in one. It can be difficult to detect the signal amidst the noise of the current Brexit climate, but look for it, and it’s there.

The evidence is both factual and anecdotal. In a report published in March, PwC forecasts that 25% of jobs in the accommodation and food service sector will be automated by the early 2030’s, whilst at the same time research from the Chartered Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors (CIEHF) and CV-Library indicates that automation and AI are, so far, not putting UK jobs at risk.

We can be confident when both sides of the concern are being argued, that something is happening, even if we’re not entirely sure what.

Anecdotally, my clients who have employees and partners who feel impacted by the implications of Brexit – from food service employees to veterinary neurosurgeons (a very rare and valuable skill) are seeing them pre-emptively create their own certainty by leaving the UK.

Which brings me to engagement. Every report I see indicates chronically low levels of employee engagement and average customer engagement is little better. The causes are many and varied, but all seem to centre around a lack of connection.

Neuroscience  indicates that are five domains that critically affect our sense of engagement – our perceived levels of our status, and our senses of certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. In the current climate, all of those are likely to be bubbling away merrily for most of us, regardless which side of the Brexit fence we are on.

The implications are significant and far reaching. We know that engagement in the hospitality sector is a critical issue, both for staff and customers, and that engagement is the pivot around which service, reputation and brand image turn.

This is where technology becomes vital – it is a critical source of both data, and support. We know that in the end it’s not the technology alone that makes the difference, it’s how it informs and enables the people in the business.

Engagement is a contact sport.

Technology will inevitably replace many jobs, many of them routine and of low added value, but offers a huge opportunity for us to harness it and use it in harmony with those who really drive engagement – real, live humans.

I experienced a great example this morning. It’s Spring, so we’re been sorting the garden, and ordered some new garden furniture from Amazon.  Amazon’s robots sprang into action, with instant acknowledgement, and a few moments later, another mail with a scheduled delivery date and tracking. Great – but the best bit was a call this morning from the vendor:

Hi. I’m Sue. You’ll know we’re delivering your furniture today, and I thought I’d call just to make sure you were going to be in. Your driver’s name is Jim, and he’ll call you 30 mins before he is due to arrive. If you have any problems with assembly, or any other questions, my number is xxx, please don’t hesitate to call me. I really hope you like it”

Wow! I am very engaged with this company. Amazon turns from supplier to intermediary.

I think this captures the opportunity we have well. To use technology to set the stage, on which we, as suppliers and brands can perform.

It’s not a process, or a formula, but something altogether more visceral, more human. Technology providing augmented customer and staff relationships.

There is a saying in Agile that if it works, it’s obsolete. Engagement is like that – it’s dynamic, alive and evolving.  It’s a means, not and end. It’s certainly not a number.

The changes we are in the middle of are accelerating, and it will be too late to take how we work with technology to increase engagement via technology seriously when the revolution is over.

I think we should decide whether to be on the stage, or watching from the stalls as the actors take a bow.


Richard Merrick a coach / catalyst specialising in agile approaches to strategy, innovation and operations. 


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