In every blog related to business or leadership, you’re going to find buzzwords, and mine is no exception. Culture, engagement, ownership–and even the very basics of leadership, change, and management–are all words that start to lose their meaning the more we talk about them. It’s like saying a word over and over again, until it doesn’t even sound like a real word any more.
Lately I’ve been thinking, reading, and writing about engagement (both customer/member AND employee) and strong organizational cultures. These ideas seem to have hit the saturation point, in the blogosphere anyway, because many are now so sick of the terms that they try to invent new ones (remember when we tried to do that with strategic planning?).
Anyway, I feel like in the conversation we’re missing an important concept: the idea of stickiness. We miss it because it’s hard to describe, but when I think about engagement from a customer/member context, for me it boils down to someone whose affiliation with the company or membership organization in question is so close that they become “sticky.” It simply becomes easier for me to pull the trigger when it comes to opening an email, buying a product, or recommending to a friend when this stickiness is present. I always have lots of options, but the ones with more “stickiness” get my attention and action.
Even employee engagement can be understood at least partially in this way. A main difference between employees who are more engaged than others is the way they give their discretionary effort, rather than just doing the minimum. That’s being sticky. If your culture doesn’t generate that stickiness among employees, then the opportunities to give discretionary effort sort of bounce off of people. They just do what’s in their job description, or worse: they get in the way of others doing their job.
I think a lot of efforts to improve engagement (on both sides) clarify what more sticky looks like, but do not fully understand what created the stickiness in the first place. That is, we see employees giving discretionary effort, and we notice that they are happy and like their flexible schedules, so we try to offer flexible schedules to more people. But the truth is, we don’t know that flexible schedules is really what created the stickiness in the first place. It might be, frankly, but we don’t take the time to know that.
It may not be easy to really know what causes the stickiness. But the insight you gain from figuring that out will have a tremendous ROI.