Something I’ve been thinking about a lot recently is engagement. That can mean lots of things but the more I think about it, the more important it seems to be. To me, engagement is not just a measure of how interested someone is in something, or how enjoyable they find it. It’s how truly invested they are in the results, how much they feel part of a movement, and how much they feel their views and opinions can have a genuine impact on the status quo.
I suppose the most obvious example of that is with our respondents. You only have to look at the feedback from some members of the long term communities Tonic Insight runs to see the satisfaction people get when they feel genuinely consulted, and like they can make a difference. It moves what we do as researchers beyond just improving marketing, to actually improving brands, products and services (and I know which I would rather be doing). I feel that in our role as the consumer voice in business decisions, we should be pushing for consumer-centric change wherever possible, and reminding our clients that entering into an actual dialogue with their audience (rather than saying ‘Like us on Facebook to Win Great Prizes!’) can pay dividends.
The other side to this is of course how well we engage our clients. Of course this is always a hot topic in the Tonic Insight offices - there’s clearly no point in having the best, most engaged respondents in the world if our client doesn’t know how to move forward with the results. Engagement with client needs, objectives, hopes and fears – before, during, at debrief, and after a project ends – is critical in making the work we do purposeful.
But actually what I’ve been thinking about most is engagement in the workplace – that is, how interested and invested we all feel in our place of work, and how much we genuinely care about the success not just of our own careers but the company we work for. Most of us spend more time at work than we do with our family and friends, and it seems to me a massive waste of time if those hours are spent clock watching rather than feeling like you’re working towards something important, and something that belongs to you.
John Lewis knows this already – every person who works there is a shareholder, and this has a huge part to play in the levels of customer service you get from them. The partnership's ultimate purpose is 'the happiness of all its members, through their worthwhile and satisfying employment in a successful business'. When every person, from customer assistant to CEO, feels it is ‘their’ company, then they do well because that speaks to their own sense of self-worth, rather than because it is their job to say ‘please’, ‘thank you’ and ‘enjoy your day’.
And of course it’s not all touchy feely – it drives a strong bottom line too, with John Lewis consistently delivering outstanding results, even against a backdrop of weak consumer spending.
I know for myself personally, I like going to work when I feel like I’m making a difference, whether it’s to customers, clients, or colleagues (and that goes for my time as barmaid and fruit picker, as well as market researcher). So I feel proud that at Tonic we focus on innovation, ensuring our ambitious and curious staff don’t get bored; we approach every project with fresh eyes and rigorous thinking, so we’re confident in the quality and integrity of our work; we encourage personal interests and knowledge sharing, to make sure we attract and retain interesting, well rounded individuals. Every voice is important and every voice is listened to – we absolutely believe that a great idea can come from anyone. At Tonic we believe all members of the team should feel this way – not just because we like our people and want them to be happy here, but because we believe it makes for a better experience for our clients, and ultimately, means we do our best possible work.