(Every Friday, I am honored and delighted to turn this space over to Mr. Engagement, one of the world’s leading authorities when it comes to Engagement and its related intangibles.  I hope you enjoy his contributions to the conversation.  JG)

Dear Mr. Engagement:

I just read an article saying that a good way to increase employee engagement levels is to treat employees as though they were customers.  We are giving serious consideration to implementing this at idea at ConDet.  Do you have any words of wisdom to impart before we go forward?

Best Regards,

Dooley Womack, Sr. VP of HR, Consolidated Detritus, Inc.


Dear Mr. Womack:

In theory, this can be an effective strategy...iff it’s based on the analytical framework below.   (Note to Mr. Engagement’s proof-reader:  the “iff” in the preceding sentence is not a typo, so keep your ink-stained mitts off of it.  It’s a shorthand way of writing “if and only if.”  Then again, I’ve now taken 41 words to explain a bit of shorthand that would have saved me just 3 words, so I probably would have been better off just going with if-and-only-if in the first place.  Oh well.)

There are indeed strong similarities between a business’ relationships with its customers and its employees.

      ·      Both are seeking to maximize value received from actions they decide to take.

·      Both have finite resources to invest.  In the case of customers, it’s cash.  For employees, it’s discretionary effort/energy.

·      Both have options when it comes to investing these finite resources.  Customers can go to a competitor, or purchase another product or service that represents better value at that moment in time.  Employees can decide to change jobs and invest their effort/energy with a different company.  Or leave work at 5:00 in order to get home in time for dinner with their family rather than staying late to complete work on the Penske File.

·      Not all customers are alike.  Success in attending to different customers requires a finer parsing of their wants and needs.  Ditto for employees

Those are just a few of the notions that must be parsed and considered before employing such a strategy.  The problem lies in the fact that—How shall I put this?—the desire and ability of most business people to be vigilant about making and maintaining such fine points and distinctions is roughly equivalent to that of a college sophomore who has just put himself on the outside of three liters of screw-top wine.  As a result, a well-intentioned effort to treat employees like customers will likely result in pandering to employees, resentment of management, and a corporate culture less suited to delivering value to customers.

Other than that, your instincts are sound.

Yours in Othership,

Mr. Engagement