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Engagement Radio: Gary Rhoads Talks About How Engagement is Gaining Momentum

Welcome to Engagement Radio, brought to you by the Enterprise Engagement Alliance and Engagement Strategies Media. This podcast brings you hard-hitting and important information from leaders and experts to help you and your organization profit from engagement. This is the third installment of Engagement Radio. Today we have with us Dr. Gary Rhoads, who is the Steven Mack Covey Professor of Marketing and Entrepreneurship at Brigham Young University.
Dr. Rhoads has a PhD in Marketing from Texas Tech. He has written a couple of entrepreneurship books, one called, Stop, Think and Lead: Dealing With Crucial Situations and another called Startup Marketing For Innovators. He was also a keynote speaker at the Enterprise Engagement Alliance’s Engagement University last April, and we’re excited to welcome him to Engagement Radio.
ESM: First question: You've said in the past that the field of engagement could actually rival the size of the advertising industry. Do you still see that as a statement you stand behind and believe in as we move forward?
Rhoads: Yes, for a number of reasons. The old advertising production model is simply not working today. In advertising, like engagement, you want to touch and impact people. You want to influence them in the market…and much of advertising, the way it works, it interrupts people. Then after it interrupts them it tries to sell them a product, and then it uses the sales from the product to generate more dollars for more advertising. It just keeps going around and around. 
The reality is it’s hard to interrupt people today in advertising. It’s hard to impact them and make a difference and influence them. And so you see social media and you see engagement programs becoming more valuable because, at the end of the day, we want to influence people. What’s the most cost-effective way to influence them, and what’s the best way? Advertising is losing its power to influence people
ESM: Interesting. Let’s stay with that line of questioning. The advertising industry spawned a lot of other industries, a lot of other subsets, direct marketing and even production, and how things were done on television. You could almost say some of the tracking mechanisms like Nielson were caused by advertising. What other industries do you think may pop out of this whole push for engagement as a field, as a discipline?
Rhoads: Well, I think you're going to see a lot of the work in social analytics. I think it’s becoming huge. Here at BYU we’re developing deep-dive programs, whereas the need in most corporations today is people that can be involved in developing social analytics and developing programs and software that engage customers and clients and vendors. You’re seeing that as one area. Also, you see a lot of companies that do service in HR that help organizations develop engagement platforms and programs. 
You’re going to see a lot of services rendered to organizations in that way, with analytics being huge – how you measure, how you perform when it comes to the key drivers of engagement? I think we are seeing a lot of different organizations spring up under this concept of how do you get people engaged in organizations, in your vendors, in your communities.
ESM: As you were talking about that the first thing that came to mind is the whole idea of apps and having the ability to interact via an application which, at the same time is giving you that ability to interact, is giving the sponsor data which gets back to your statement about data analytics. That’s all wrapped up in that same package. As these companies and this infrastructure is being built, that means things are going to change rapidly. We recently interviewed Bret Starr of The Starr Conspiracy, and he had mentioned that he thought that tipping point for engagement will come by the end of 2016. What do you think about that as a timeline? Is that too aggressive? 
Rhoads: I think we’re moving towards it. You see more and more CEOs today talk about engagement. You ask them what their top priorities are, and they'll say increasing market share, holding on to our customers, getting our customers and our employees more engaged. You see the term being used by CEOs as it pertains to some of their top priorities for 2016-2017, and so I think it’s moving…I think there’s momentum in that direction...I don’t know if there’s a tipping point. 
I think most people understand we need more engagement. Let’s face it. If you look in United States the markets are stagnant. Look at job employment, look at the stock market. Look at all the things. We’re really not being inundated with a lot of good news in the markets and all that. I think what you’re going to see is that one of the reasons for this is that people are so disengaged. 
A lot of the importance of engagement is because we’re seeing the results of a disengaged workforce, disengaged customers, disengagement in politics, etc. The reason engagement is becoming so critical is we’re seeing a lack of passion and a lack of people really being inspired at work. But we’ve got to get them engaged, and I think I see momentum in that area. That's what I see around the country.
ESM: You mentioned that CEOs are part of this. You said they’re paying more attention, but there seems to be this undercurrent out there that people don’t think the C-suite sees this as an essential strategy. How would you address that? Do think you think engagement will ever become a mission-critical discipline for the CEO…will investors look at engagement as a way to judge the value of, say, a publicly-owned company?
Rhoads: We’re seeing a lot of results showing that a highly engaged company is more profitable…the Engaged Company Stock Index and others suggesting that when you have more engaged customers and employees you get better share of wallet. I think that when the industry gets better connecting engagement to profitability, that’s when you'll get the CEO’s attention
It’s just like quality. Everyone knows quality is important. And everyone knows engagement is important. You don't have to convince them. But if you want it as a real initiative and to put a lot of resources behind it you’ve got to connect it to profitability measures and KPIs, and I do see that happening. 
ESM: I know this a very big, expansive topic, but if somebody said, “What would I have to do to profit from engagement as an organization?” are there a couple of really big rocks that need to be moved in your mind when it comes to profiting from the engagement movement?
Rhoads: In most organizations, when we hire people we hire them in a silo. There’s the finance group, the marketing group, accounting, production, HR. The reality is that organizations have to break down these silos. They’ve got to start thinking about everybody who’s involved in engagement. I always say we need more horizontal skills than vertical skills. I know in our MBA program I’m always trying to highlight the fact that our students need to be able to work across disciplines and across functions. 
I think that’s one of the big barriers that I see out there. If you want an engagement platform, they have HR, marketing, customer engagement, employee engagement…but the reality is we need engineering to be in that same group. We need marketing. We need accounting. 
I always say that when individuals in an organization cause the pain they should feel the pain. You're in marketing and your customers are dissatisfied because the bills they get or whatever are indecipherable. They don’t understand them. The problem is that marketing usually has to solve the problem. In my view it’s the accounting department that needs to solve the problem. Let’s give the pain to where the pain is caused, right? I think we need to start thinking more horizontal than vertical. Organizations should have an engagement team that’s made up of every area of the company and there’s an executive in line with that group. 
ESM: You talked about your students and currently teaching engagement as part of that. Do you see this as something that’s going to become more common in business schools? 
Rhoads: I think it will be happening more. But here’s the problem: We talk about engagement just like we talk about quality. Everybody knows it, but then when you say, “Well, define it for me” I think that’s one of the biggest problems in academia and why you don’t see it in business schools so much, because everyone defines engagement a little different. As we move toward more standardized measures of engagement, then I think it becomes more acceptable and more credible. 
But more specific to your question, I do teach issues of engagement – particularly in sales – because a number of studies have shown that 60% of the sales process is done via social media before an organization even gets to interact with a customer. Think about it. When you buy anything today you’ve probably researched it in detail so that by the time you get to the store you already know what you’re going to buy. They say that now that people are going out buying cars without test driving them because they’ve research everything they want to know. They just walk in and pick the color. In these cases the salesperson has little influence. 
If 60% of the process of how people buy today is being done before they ever go into a retail store or to an organization, then you’ve got to be out there in the social media engaging these customers in a dialogue…so yes, I teach the importance of developing platforms and systems and engaging customers in ways that we haven’t in the past. We don't have an entire class on engagement. We have a section in sales, we may have a section in consumer behavior, but there's not a formal class, whereas you do have classes in customer service and quality. Engagement will get there.
ESM: So is there anything we didn't talk about that you think is hugely important. something that should be addressed, some piece of information or point of view you think could really help our listeners as it relates to getting involved with engagement and making it happen in their own organizations?
Rhoads: Sure. I define engagement as: “Am I inspired? Do I believe in the mission and vision of the company? Am I willing to give extra effort, discretionary effort? When we get our customers and employees engaged, that’s what we get. To get there I think we have to recognize that we’re not in the business of just managing people and telling them what to do. We’re in the business of inspiring people and getting to their hearts. I think that for us to move forward in corporations, in organizations, we have to realize that we’re now in the inspiration business, and that’s how we’re going to get our constituents, our vendors and our employees engaged.
ESM: I think that’s a great note to close on. I really appreciate your time today, and I hope this conversation inspires people to go out and do some engaging of their own. By the way, today’s Engagement Radio podcast was brought to you by C.A. Short Company and EGR International, courtesy of Engagement Strategies Media and the Enterprise Engagement Alliance. Remember, you can find us at, and on Twitter, @eea_org. Let’s engage.

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Hosted by

  Paul Hebert
  Engagement Strategies social media editor
  Engagement implementation consultant

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