The Growing Demand for Personal Engagement

After shopping all day during the recent holidays, I visited with friends at a party comparing our various online and in-person shopping experiences. Three different retail stories reminded me about the value and power of genuine personal engagement.

I want to share those three stories with you because I know talent acquisition and human resource professionals routinely find themselves solving problems that process automation and larger budgets simply cannot solve. Specifically, personal engagement is the solution to those problems, and as such deserves more thought and organization than it usually receives.

Create time and space to be creative

The story I told at our holiday gathering was about a nice clothing store my wife and I had visited earlier in the day. I recognized the young man who waited on us and as we discussed the people we knew in common, he asked if he could give us a tour of his store.

He led us to a dim, wood-paneled room connected to the suit department, which reminded me of a drawing room or parlor. The space included thick carpets, overstuffed chairs, a wet bar, a wall full of cloth swatches from which to choose, and a platform customers stand on while they’re being measured for custom clothing. I laughed when the young man remarked, “you can’t get this kind of experience online.”

I remember thinking how calm that room made me feel and how taking time to sit there and reflect on physical choices would be a more creative experience than clicking around on a computer screen, distracted by return policies and packing up items that don’t fit.

To me that room is a metaphor for personal engagement that’s impossible to send or receive online. Specifically, it reminds me of the personal engagement talent practitioners provide that technology will never replace. It’s not cheap. But, ultimately it provides higher value.

Information that matters to you

After I finished my story, a friend mentioned that she just read about a businessman purchasing her favorite local bookstore. She enjoyed how the previous owners remembered her name, knew what she enjoyed reading and made appropriate recommendations based on her taste in books.

She hoped the new owner would continue with that tradition of understanding his community’s interests and preferences. But, she wasn’t sure if many modern book retailers could afford to know what’s important to individual customers.

Guidance to avoid unnecessary mistakes

Our conversation then turned to the local organic food market. The point was made that almost any packaged item can now be purchased online for less money.

Another friend laughed and said, “yeah, but the lady behind the cheese counter knows me and knows I don’t know what I’m doing.” It was worth the extra money to this person to gather knowledge from an expert and avoid making foolish mistakes.

Higher human touch requires higher profit margins

Advanced technology has changed retail forever just as it will continue automating components of talent acquisition and human resource management. To drive down costs, human tasks will be reduced. There’s nothing new or particularly interesting about these facts.

But, what is both interesting and important is the fact that the talent business is concerned with something more than the production and transport of inanimate widgets. Therefore, human-to-human engagement will always be required.

And, to increase your value and success as a talent practitioner within the ongoing march to automate every possible task, seek out and organize those human touch points and remember a few simple rules about human nature and economics.

First and foremost, you cannot continue performing tasks that are easily automated just so you can appear to be busy and valuable, hoping no one digs into your workflow. That simply isn’t honest, nor is it sustainable.

You must be transparent and help with automating mundane tasks so you can focus your energy on the tasks only humans can do. This is the honest thing to do and being proactive about it will build your reputation for being a trustworthy person.

When human contact is required, that human contact must be genuine, high quality and high value. The fact that personal engagement is more expensive is acceptable when it’s worth more than it costs.

What you can do

My retail shopping stories provide at least three examples of personal engagement that add value to others: creative space, unique information, and valuable guidance.

Think of other examples of your own, and then map everything you do to those examples. Then make a note of whether those things involve you interacting with your computer or with other people.

Create a list of the people-centric activities and prioritize them from the perspective of your supervisor and the company for which you work. Then build an outline using these priority items and write about how you can engage more deeply with people as you show them the qualities described in your personal engagement examples.

This simple exercise will organize your efforts and actually put you in a better position to leverage new technology. You’ll know more about yourself, what you do and how technology can help you become more efficient and effective at the things only humans can do.

Putting thought and effort into how you can add more value to the parts of your job that can’t be automated will make you more valuable to your co-workers and your employer. And, it will help other people increase their personal engagement while advancing your career.

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Scott Kinnaird

Scott Kinnaird is Director of Sales for Mercury Network. He has been a technical recruiter, staffing company founder, and recruiting division president for a publicly traded IT consulting firm. He loves to write and talk about applying uncommon corporate empathy to key segments of the talent lifecycle to increase employee engagement and corporate profits. Connect with Scott.


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