Friday, November 11, 2011

Employee Engagement in the Post-Edsel era

Employee engagement goes beyond loyalty. It is simply the degree of satisfaction employees feel with the organization, or the measure of the relationship an organization has with its employees. Sort of. Anyway, now the field is entering the modern age.

The Edsel has been held up for over four decades as the worst marketing blunder of all time. It really was not. Seriously. The product research morphed into Ford's next cars, particularly the Mustang. From a marketing standpoint, the Edsel event occurred just as the world was transforming into a new era. Prior to that moment, customers were segmented by social class: the market provided a Cadillac for the upper class, and a Chevy for the less affluent (maybe a Buick in the middle?) Ford wanted to compete with GM in the higher range, so spent swimming pools full of cash to develop and market it. It seemed that the marketing flopped. What they learned from the incident is that people were no longer limiting themselves to purchasing based on salary level. They were categorizing themselves into lifestyle groupings.

This concept has progressed to the point that marketers now rely more on psychographics than on demographics.  We might now be ready to adopt that knowledge to the human capital development field.

David Richardson, when he was head of Tesco’s Employee Insight Unit divided employees up into several categories, such as: "Pleasure seekers," "Work/life balance," "Want it alls," "Work to lives." (Though he would probably not approve of putting the period/full stop at the end of that last sentence within the quotation marks.) Tesco was seeking to make employees happier, and realized that they didn't all have the same priorities (see Sarah Butcher, Financial Times; Jul 07, 2003). A person might be most concerned about promotion when joining, but after accumulating a family and a mortgage, the same person moved into the "work-to-live" group. Later, they might become either pleasure seekers or become most concerned about work/life balance.

I would be concerned if we automatically categorized people into such groups based on age, but the news is good. We may finally be pulling ourselves out of the slavish dependence on demographics for decision making. People, it turns out, are more complicated than we thought they were. 

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