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Human Engagement in a Digital Age

Updated: May 25, 2020

We use the word engagement to describe multiple phenomena in organisational settings. Employees, customers, users, learners, stakeholders and communities all interface with each other and with a growing range of entities, many of which are digital, digitally enabled or digitally derived. Every interface is an engagement and whilst machine-machine interfaces are likely to proliferate, machines still represent and are intended to serve people.

As organisations have evolved through the agrarian, industrial and knowledge ages our understanding of organisational engagement has shifted from being primarily physical to a whole person construct. Today optimal engagement is understood to tap into the physical, social, emotional, intellectual and spiritual aspects of personhood.

The engagement of whole people in the digital age involves three dimensions; intentional alignment, relational connection and synergistic action.

Aligned intention recognises the strategic will behind people’s actions and the technologies which they create to support their purposes. It recognises the age-old “Why?” question popularised by Simon Sinek. Technologies will only engage people when they support our reasons for being and the choices which we make. What organisational leaders have to become aware of in the 21st century is that the people they seek to influence have exponentially widening choices and growing courage to exercise these.

The call for awareness of the relational connectedness of people is likely to become increasingly strident as technology burgeons and interfaces appear to become less and less human. As digital interfaces proliferate it will be those organisations who design these technologies with the spiritual, emotional and social aspects of personhood in mind that are ultimately most likely to succeed. Capturing hearts remains an incredibly powerful driver of human choice.

Mutually supportive, synergistic action supports intentional alignment and relational connection to produce desirable results. When machines make our lives easier and enable us to function optimally then engagement becomes productive, reduces discomfort and enables progress.

There is no doubt that digital technologies are primarily designed to accomplish these ideals and that our future world will be characterised by people and machines working side-by-side, hopefully to create a better future for all.

Engagement is an increasingly dynamic construct influenced by the challenges of change, complexity and catastrophe inherent in organisational life. Our inevitable trajectory into a digital world will most engage those who thrive on change, can assimilate complexity and who have the fortitude to navigate conflict and the resilience to survive catastrophe.

This article was originally published in South Africa in the April/ May 2017 edition of the Business Brief and republished in the September 2018 newsletter of the ISODC. It is based on the Dynamic Engagement Framework© developed for Engagement Dynamics by Janet du Preez, MD of Engagement Dynamics.

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