I spent last night having my brain stretched at a debate called “Employee Engagement, art or science? Fact or fiction? The event was put on by Matt O’Neill and his team at Event Extra Limited and was hosted at Baker Tilly’s offices in London. The panel included Sean Trainor, John Smythe and Karen Drury.
The atmosphere was charged, helped in part by the fact that the event was being filmed. Maybe folks were hoping to deliver Oscar winning performances?
The debate moved at a good speed between the panellists, each offering different and sufficiently opposing views to make the conversation stimulating. Sean Trainor in particular was up for a fight and had some edge about him, and some humour too. I’m afraid I found the audience’s participation somewhat less stimulating. Too often folks were handed the mike only to….well, go on a bit. And I felt there were a couple of pretty poorly executed plugs too. That said Brad Jennings made a powerful pitch for the need to see employee and customer and brand experience as connected elements of what makes work engaging. I think it was a shame that the chair, who managed the panel quite well, could not assert the same effect on the audience.
Art or science? I prefer to see engagement as an art. I believe it is fundamentally a conversational thing, and that it is simple too. And that does not make it easy. I love the arts and I love helping people to make work better.
I enjoyed Karen’s point about the slavish need for consultants to connect engagement so directly to measurable results. Personally I often tell the board of prospective clients that together we don’t really know what we’re doing. We’re going on a journey of discovery which my experience and global research shows us can lead to lots of real benefits and lots of fun. Will it work? That is largely down to them. I’m not ashamed to say I don’t have the answers; it’s usually the folk at the front line who do. I can help draw those answers and insights, and together we can shape a different future for the customer. Does that cost me business? Probably – but it’s business from half hearted folk that I wouldn’t want anyway and at least we both found out early on that we aren’t suited.
Overall I thought the event was well run and good fun. Well done Matt and co. I look forward to hearing the debate continue.
Other resources: Scott McKenzie’s Collective Conversation Blog