I think the fastest way to kill an idea in business is the question, “What’s the ROI?” Not because it’s a bad question. But because it needs to be one of many questions, not the only question. After all, if we were only looking at ROI, you could ask…
What’s the ROI of airbags in cars?
What’s the ROI of hosting a Staff Christmas Party?
Or my favorite, “What’s the ROI of your mother?” (Thanks to @garyvee for that one. Apologies for the language)
As Gary discusses in the video linked above, Social Media gets hammered by this question. It’s getting better than it was 3 years ago, but it’s still asked. Typically by someone who doesn’t “get it”.
It’s a big looming question in my world – the world of employee engagement platforms like Actionable Workshops – too.
Reading AIRMILES’ CEO Bryan Pearson’s soon-to-be-released, The Loyalty Leap last week, I stumbled on this quote, which works well for me.
“If your staff is not engaged in your company, then they probably aren’t going to be loyal to it. And if they don’t feel that loyalty it is unlikely they’ll be able to capture the interest, and hearts, of your customers.”
The Loyalty Leap, page 161
Logical. Engaged Staff = Loyal Staff. Loyal Staff = Better Customer Service. Better Customer Service = increased revenue.
Therefore, Engaged Staff = Increased Revenue… with a couple layers of cause/effect in between.
Anytime you bring human beings into the equation, things get messy. It gets near impossible to retain a “1 + 1 = 2” expectation on ROI. For Social Media. For employee engagement program. How do you quantify human interaction? How do you put a number to passion and opinion? And should we even try to?
Research firms like Gallup are working on it (and have a simple yet effective “Gallup Path” that shows what I’m talking about). I believe we can (if we haven’t already) validate the importance of employee engagement. I think it will be amazingly powerful when we do. But I also think that the business leaders who drag their heels on implementing employee engagement programs because of an undefined quantitative return are missing the point. If you wait until you can guarantee a return on an employee development spend, you may find yourself without any employees to develop.