SEARCHING FOR ENGAGEMENT-WHERE IS THE HOLY GRAIL?

It appears the word engagement as in people is increasingly being used to demonstrate the need to bring together various parties to a level of consciousness and so-called “meeting of minds”.

The various groups involved include politician’s communities and business all who have a particular agenda in achieving their preferred outcomes.
All such groups have witnessed considerably more resistance with engagement as social behaviour has undergone rapid change; together with the effects of a number of significant events which have unfortunately hampered efforts to engender and maintain trust across many parts of society.
One can point to the deterioration of our political process where politicians seemingly have increasingly difficulty in convincing the population that their efforts are for the good of the individual and collectively the country as a whole. All signs point to the suspicion of their ultimate intentions.
Other examples include the distrust of the relationships between authority and the general public with various strategies have been implemented to gain traction and understanding of the actions being taken on their behalf.
Continuing research informs us that business engagement levels have reached exceptionally low levels and are continuing to deteriorate at an alarming rate. This is despite considerable efforts being made by many organisations searching for answers to improve matters.
All the above examples have seemingly one thing in common that is a breakdown in trust, so why is this the case? And what could be the reasons for this fundamental shift.
One could point to a level of personal expectation in our society due to increased living standards over a prolonged period leading to a growing sense of entitlement being felt by the population. In recent years this has been challenged due to world and national economic events affecting a lack of confidence and optimism where we are positioned, what our prospects for the future, something Australians have had in abundance in the past.
Furthermore the explosion of technology has created an environment where everyone can express their own individual opinions fuelled by an ever encompassing media industry which has delivered a new dynamic never seen before. In a sense this has opened a Pandora’s Box which seemingly can never be reattached and closed.
Whilst we all can see the benefits of free expression what we have witnessed is an avalanche of opinion which is not necessarily based in fact fracturing the long-held beliefs previously held. There can be no doubt that this new challenge cannot be solved easily and presents us with major dilemmas in terms of how we work and live together into the future.
If we are truly honest with ourselves many people are rather confused and perplexed how we can begin to approach the problem. It was thought that the adoption of better listening attitudes and methods maybe one of the ways to make progress. Unfortunately the target audiences have failed to embrace this initiative dismissing it as the modern tactic of “spin”, mere words without accompanying action.
Until we arrive at the fact this is not a one-way street where one side dominates the other we have no chance of widespread success. Society sentiment and environment today does not allow for that outcome; it may only achieved when we can control the white noise of misguided opinion and rhetoric which seem to dominate our daily lives. It will be a challenge for every interested party to adopt the practice of deep listening to determine the real issues which inhibits good engagement.
In terms of the wider society problem I cannot speak with real authority how we can resolve our difficulties in the short term.

Perhaps it will become clear in due course (2023) when we will see the changing of the guard of the upcoming generations. Maybe this type of problem that has always been around although we don’t recognise it manifested in its current form.
I can only speak from my experience from a business perspective that every organisation will have to take its own individual position how this can be achieved, one size does not fit all in these circumstances. It is certain that many will come to terms with the new dynamic that applies today whilst others will still take convincing for the need to change.
Meanwhile must keep searching for solutions.

Ken Wood
People Specialist
27th July 2015