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2010 UnTrends in Engagement

Now that I have had a chance to assimilate all the 2010 predictions made by all the self-proclaimed pundits, I thought it would be interesting to weigh in on what won’t happen in 2010.


Predictions for What Won’t Happen in 2010


1.     Engagement will prove to be a fad.

Far from it, more and more companies will not only measure engagement but learn new and innovative ways to improve it. In addition, the smartest companies will learn how to apply similar solutions to distribution partners, customers and yes, even suppliers.


2.     Employers will ignore the current decline in engagement measures.

On the contrary, an economy that stabilizes and improves will create an environment where employees will say enough and move on unless the work culture becomes win-win.


3.     Collaboration across functional silos will decline.

Just the opposite, the trend towards collaboration among HR, sales, marketing and operations will demonstrate excellent value and leadership will pay more attention to the continuous effort needed to break down walls and unite functional silos in purpose and action.


4.     Face-to-face meetings will continue to decline in use.

People still do business with people and deferred spending in this area will have its price, a price that will be increasingly difficult to ignore.


5.     Virtual events and meetings will prove to be an interesting experiment but generally ineffective.

The truth, in my opinion, is that the continued advancement in technology and the experimentation that has taken place will prove that meeting virtually can be effective, when objectives are properly matched with the right tool.


6.     The use of group travel for incentives will continue its decline.

I believe that barring any additional monkey-piling from our friends in Washington, incentive travel will grow in usage for one primary reason, it works.


7.     Credible results measurement will prove to be a fad.

When used properly, the insight gained from measuring results of people performance initiatives will drive evidence-based continuous improvement.


8.     Corporate social responsibility will decline in importance.

To the contrary, I think that there is a new paradigm for meetings, events, and incentives. Management gets it and target audiences will expect it.


9.     We’ll all learn how to properly say 2010.

There may be a chance here though. Say it with me, twenty ten.



Social Media & Engagement of Employees or Customers

May I Have Your Attention, Please!

Never before have we been so inundated with messages vying for our attention. Email, texts, blogs, radio, TV, direct mail, print, Twitter, LinkedIn updates, Facebook and more! Add to this the immediate access we have to a virtually unlimited amount of information via the web. It can be overwhelming.

The challenge we all face is how to get our message heard by the people you really want to hear it. It isn’t easy to be heard over the din and it’s not getting any easier.

When I face this complicated task I strive to simplify it. Who needs to/wants to hear your message?  What exactly is your message? Why does your audience want to hear it? And last should be, in my opinion, what is the strategy to get the message out?

Conversations I overhear include, “You have to Tweet!” Or, “You don’t blog? Are you crazy?” Or, “What do you mean you only have three connections on LinkedIn?” Or, you get a puzzled and demeaning glance when someone learns you aren’t on Facebook or have a fan page. Personally, this sounds arrogant and elitist.

Don’t get me wrong. Those are all great tools. The recent Influence Insiders Blog Talk Radio Show reinforced the power of new media channels. It also forced me to think critically about what is right for me and, more importantly, what is right for my clients. If you are wondering how to get attention so your message is heard, the show is worth a listen.

Relative to engagement of employees or customers, I think you should go where they are currently. That will pay short term returns. And for the more leading edge media, even if your audience isn’t there, consider being there when they get there and weigh the benefits of helping lead them into new media types.

From a practical perspective, this means that building engagement with your audience needs to be a thoughtful and deliberate effort. And, if you’re not there yet, fully vet new digital communication channels to maximize your impact. The best way to do this is to get involved in new media channels and just listen. If you’re not doing that, “what are you thinking!”

Listen to Influence Insiders on Blog Talk Radio


Getting Ahead with Coopetition

InfluenceInsidersLogo One side effect of the anemic economy has been the dispersion of many myths regarding how competitors face off in the marketplace. In fact, it has led to unprecedented collaboration among previously defined competitors and has led to the creation of the term coopetition.

Previously successful companies have been humbled by a stumbling economy and the proliferation of excellent content facilitated by the adoption of Social Media has made leaders rethink partnerships. It used to be easy, and even make some sense, to lock down your IP and thought leadership. But today, it seems to me to make more sense to collaborate, share what you have and help each other get ahead faster.

In addition, I see the constant blurring of lines between disciplines and the increased need to offer genuinely integrated solutions for client’s people performance needs.

It’s in that spirit that we are bringing together a group of smart and successful entrepreneurs in a forum where we will explore ideas, brainstorm and learn from each other. I’m very excited and you can join us!

The Influence Insiders BlogTalkRadio show will take place the first Wednesday of every month, 12:00-1:00 pm eastern time and we want to hear from YOU!  The show can be found at: Use the call in number (646) 381-4430.

You can read more on the I2I Blog and read more about the team below.

Influence Insiders is a core group of experts, bloggers, thought leaders and smart folks who will be getting together monthly to talk about the things that challenge them and their clients associated with engaging audiences.  

The Team

In no particular order:

  • Ann Bares (Minneapolis): Managing Partner  – Altura Consulting Group, author of the blog Compensation Force (a featured blog)  and editor/contributor for multi-author blog Compensation Café and one of the Top 25 Talent Blogs as ranked by Fistful of Talent (FOT) – a popular talent management and HR focused blog.  Ann has been a compensation consultant with RSM McGladrey, Inc., Riley, Dettmann & Kelsey LLC, and Watson Wyatt Worldwide.
  • Frank Roche (Philadelphia): Partner iFractal – sponsor and contributor to very popular KnowHR blog.  Frank and his team focus on helping their clients talk to their employees.  In the past Frank led Mercer’s Human Capital Practice in the Netherlands and worked at Hewitt Associates.
  • Heather Margolis (Boston): President Channel Maven Consulting – Prior to her current role Heather led channel programs for companies like EMC, EqualLogic, and Dell.
  • Julien Dionne (Ottawa, CN): Julien authors the very informative blog and works with OpenSymmetry a consultancy that specializes in Sales Performance Management strategic planning, business process optimization, technology assessment and system integration engagements across diverse industries and software providers.  He has worked with Accenture and nGenera prior to OpenSymmetry.
  • Lance Haun (Portland, Or): Lance has a long history in the HR field and authors the highly rated and read blog YourHRGuy – now called Rehaul. He currently is VP Outreach for a company called Meritbuilder – an online employee reward/recognition portal with a unique feature of being portable – moving with the employee as they move.
  • Todd Hanson (Appleton, WI): President and Founder of Catalyst Performance Group and .
  •  Paul Hebert (Greenville, SC): Managing Director I2I – author of Incentive Intelligence, contributor at Fistful Of Talent and general good guy.  20 years helping companies design and operate incentive, recognition and loyalty programs – degree in Statistics, worked on the Space Shuttle and B1 Bomber while employed at Rockwell and did a stint at a branding and corporate identity firm.


When NOT to Measure Engagement ROI!

Sometimes, maybe most of the time, it doesn’t really make sense to measure engagement ROI.

Does that sound like a flip-flop? Well, don’t worry. We’re still as fanatic as ever about helping companies build the business case for engagement. It’s just that sometimes results measurement can’t or shouldn’t take the evaluation all the way to ROI.


I write about this at 1to1 Media’s Guest Blog. In short, you can gain a tremendous amount of insight that will fuel continuous improvement by measuring results at lower levels than ROI by using ROI Methodology™.

Make sure you check out 1to1 Media, a division of Pepper’s and Roger’s Group. You’ll find excellent content and great thought leadership by Don Peppers. I really enjoy hearing what he says and follow him on Twitter at .

You may also want to check out Pepper’s Unplugged, Live at The Motivation Show.


Game on!

It's been two weeks since The Motivation Show wrapped up and I'm just getting feet back on the ground.

First of all, it was a blur for my team and me. We formally launched the ROI of Engagement partnership and were involved with presentations, a press conference and more. You can see some of what we were up to here:

The prevailing attitude at the show was puzzling. Actually, there was no consensus. I heard dramatically different opinions from people. It didn’t make sense… we were all experiencing the same event!

Some lamented about attendance. Actually, attendance was pretty good with only a 13% decline year over last year which, all things considered, seems pretty darn good.

Some whined about lack of traffic while others raved about being jammed with high quality attendees. What’s up with that?

I think perspective is one big variable. If you look back, and many can’t seem to get the rearview mirror out of their focus, you see an industry that had the stuffing kicked out of it. Politicians ranted, media monkey-piled, an uninformed public pointed fingers, and programs cancelled. And did I mention umpteen months of consistent economic decline? We lost the battle if you look at it that way.

The perspective I chose was looking forward. In fact, I wrote about it in Incentives and Meetings International Magazine. In the article I discuss how the rules have changed and how we can successfully fight back with the use results measurement. I believe that if you can build the business case for engagement programs we will win the war.

Nope, the war is definitely not over. In fact, I say…

Game on!

You can follow Paul Hebert at and Incentives and Meetings International at


Green Shoots

Had my TEC meeting where my peers, guests and I had the pleasure of meeting Jeff Dietrich from Institute for Trend Research . He spoke for over three hours and there were plenty of complicated charts and graphs as well as many very simple and straightforward takeaways.

First of all, the last year has been brutal. For virtually everyone. When asked if the last year has been defining for our businesses, virtually all hands shot up. When asked if the last year has been defining for us personally, again almost every hand shot up. We have all been, in Jeff's words, slammed. As a result, virtually everyone personally and professionally has experienced a permanent course correction.

From a national perspective, it is as bad or worse than you have been thinking. Obama's 10-year deficit projections, which have already been revised upwards once (and probably need to be revised another time or two,) reveal an escalating national debt that is virtually incomprehensible. Debt service relative to our GNP will be staggering. So, what will we do? Or should I say what will Washington do? It is pretty simple, we will either perish as a nation under our debt burden or, more likely, start to pay it back. That means increased taxes, no matter what politicians are telling you, and more fees. Lot's of fees. We will also pull out of this dire situation, in part, by paying back what we have borrowed with devalued currency. You can go ahead and bank on it, inflation in 2011 and 2012.

There's good news, though. We saw graph after graph showing precpitous declines in economic measures. And, in some cases, we saw little hooks at the end of lines tracking progress. The hooks represented a change from decline to improvement. Ah yes, the green shoots of an economy poised for, and some would say experiencing, an improvement. We were told by politicians they existed in January but it just wasn't so.

So, what should be our response to the mixed message of doom and gloom and the emerging green shoots? First of all, do what you need to do in order to make it through the valley. You gotta be with us as things turn.

We need our clients to be there too, right? How can we help clients be there, poised for growth when things really turn. Personally, I have overlooked a couple of lagging receivables when I could. We have also bartered our services with great success. We have also seen that when we can save a client time, those ideas have been quickly embraced as they are doing more with less as well. 

Next, think about how we can capitalize on the pessimism that exists and won't go away soon. Can we change the focus and inspire clients to invest in their people? They more than likely have eliminated underachivers and trouble makers and are asking their keepers to do more. A focus on these people as green shoots emerge seems obvious.

Part of the new normal seems to be that we are all striving to do more with less. That means we need to create and maintain an engaged workforce, distribution partners, vendors and customers. Measure engagement. There are lots of tools. Pay attention to engagement metrics and identify trends. And use our investments in engagement wisely.


Afraid of ROI?

I recently found disturbing information relating to a form of engagement strategy, recognition programs.


Most believe that creating an environment of appreciation in the workplace is a good idea. In fact, most believe that a strong commitment to recognition pays big dividends.


But how solid is the business case for this type of engagement strategy? Currently, it appears to be fairly weak. In a survey conducted by Recognition Professionals International, “What is the greatest recognition challenge you face?", the third greatest challenge proved to be “Determining ROI”, with “Lack of Funding” and “No Buy-in from Managers” as the top two. (Hmm, I wonder if proving the value of recognition programs would eliminate the other two challenges!)


In another survey participants were asked “Does your company/organization measure the business impact (ROI) of your recognition programs.” Only 21% stated yes.


So, why don’t most companies/organizations measure results? You could be fairly confident in assuming that they don’t know how where to start. The Phillips ROI MethodologyTM changes this but we haven’t gotten that message to everyone yet.


There is another issue. Many are afraid of ROI. For example, I have gone toe-to-toe with engagement industry veterans regarding the relative merits of measuring ROI. When the debate evolves to the irrational, a lightbulb goes on for me. They’re afraid of ROI- afraid that it is too confusing, too complex and maybe most importantly, afraid that their programs won’t measure up! And heaven forbid that they don’t measure up. For the sponsor, they think the program will be in jeopardy. For the vendor, they fear a loss of sales. If they only knew how to position ROI properly and knew how to address the myths associated.


What about you? Are you afraid to measure the results of your engagement programs? Let me know why. I promise to listen.



ROI Weapon and an Army to Fight

We know it's a good idea to engage people, right? We even know how to measure it thanks to Gallup and their Q12.

It's interesting, the industry spends nearly $46 billion dollars a year to motivate engagement. We must think it's a good idea.

In fact, recently, we have demonstrated the correlation between engagement and a company's financial performance thanks to the Enterprise Engagement Alliance. Check out the white paper, Economics of Engagement .

But that's just not enough. Today, leadership wants proof. I believe that the lack of metrics proving the value of engagement  has been part of the cause behind cancellations. And now we have this lack of confidence thing going on that makes redeployment especially challenging.

So, what are we going to do about it?

Today we announced a strategic partnership with The ROI Institute of Birmingham, AL - designed to bring credible results measurement to engagement programs. Armed with ROI data, leadership can defend existing programs, justify future spend and fuel evidence-based continuous improvement of incentives, meetings, events, rewards, recognition and loyalty programs.

Now for the weapon. The ROI Institute has developed and refined a worldwide accepted method of measuring ROI that includes isolation techniques and strict guiding principles, all in an effort to create results that are credible with C-Level executives. This methodology is used in many disciplines to conduct literally thousands of studies a year in over 40 countries. We're refining the methodology for engagement programs.

Now we just need an army. Our partnership will result in one, two and five day workshops being offered later in 2009 and a series of webcasts being offered through media partners. We want everyone to have the opportunity to develop the skills required to understand and measure ROI.

Our goal... help create a new paradigm where the results of all engagement programs are measured. Big idea? Yup. Can it be done. Definitely. We have to.


What is it going to take?

Sure, the economy is bad. But depending on your sector, we have already bottomed out or are close. Other sectors are definitely headed up.

But... I keep hearing about and experiencing first hand the delays in making business decisions. I just heard Thursday from a reputable source about a firm that has delayed buying a $300,000 machine, even though it's "on sale" for $200,000. This is a company that can easily part with the cash and my source would know.

It's unmistakeable that confidence weighs heavily on business decisions. Think about it. Have you delayed spending just because you don't have a good feeling about things?

I'm not advocating that we revert to the unbridled consumerism of the last decade. Hey, if you don't have it, don't spend it. Frankly, I like the trend - moving from a national net savings rate that's negative to one that is positive. That's an excellent trend. But if you do have it, get going and do your part to help us get things moving.

The Vistage CEO Confidence Index shows an improvement in CEO confidence for the 3rd straight quarter. Now that's good news. Check out the full report.

Relative to enagement programs, I can't help but think that the lack of good, solid metrics is paralyzing industry. "Can I confidently redeploy my incentive, meeting, loyalty program, etc?"

More later...


I Have a Dream!

I have a dream that one day leadership stops whispering about their engagement programs as if they were something to be ashamed of.

I have a dream that one day leadership confidently stands in front of stakeholders, stockholders, employees, customers, clients, board members – even the media and the government - and proclaims “We are proudly investing in our greatest asset, our people. “

I have a dream that one day we will openly share the manner in which our incentives, meetings, events, loyalty, rewards and recognition programs are designed and state “Look! Here’s what we were trying to accomplish, and here are the results - more engaged people, better business results and improved profits.”

My dream is to make this vision a reality.

We just need a few more things to fall into place.