Engagement has become a buzzword—and for good reason. Engaged customers buy products and engaged employees go the extra mile for their employers, which in turn increases profitability. Increasing customer and employee engagement, therefore, is a central goal for businesses. The question is: Is it one of yours?

Analysis of data collected in the Partner LifeTime Value® revealed some very interesting findings, particularly around the topic of engagement. Specifically, the study found that engaged vendors 1) collaborated effectively with their partners (people across functions were engaging with one another in both organizations) and 2) felt a sense of obligation to their partners for the services they provided (i.e. the individuals felt an obligation of responsibility to their counterparts in the other organization).

The fact that participants see collaboration as a critical component of engagement not only suggests that they are grateful for their partnerships but also that individuals are working effectively across organization boundaries with the partner for success. The fact that this item was found to be part of Partner LifeTime Value® shows that it is not simply partnership practices such as contracts and training that are important but that the feelings participants have about the partnerships also play a key role in partnership-building.

Survey respondents also indicated that feeling a sense of obligation is important to building mutually beneficial, cooperative long-term relationships. Obligation grows out of feelings of indebtedness and reciprocity. Previously, we discussed the difference between locked-in commitments, in which an organization stays in a partnership because it would be detrimental to leave, and value-based commitment, in which a partnership is actively enriching. Obligation is connected to locked-in commitment, as it creates a feeling that one can’t leave. So, the primary driver is the value-based relationship; but that value-based relationship then invokes a personal lock in. This is a more productive and ‘choice’-based relationship long term.

The goal of this research was to go beyond locked-in commitment and examine business partnerships focused on going beyond locked-in commitment to value-based commitment, however this finding suggests that ‘individuals’ obligation in the value-based relationship, which is related to locked-in commitment still plays a role in Partner LifeTime Value®. The key is that this sense of obligation must be combined with gratitude as well as the other factors that comprise Partner LifeTime Value®. Today’s long-term partnerships need to be based first on mutual value and choice. Then locked-in commitment can play a role.

Curious to learn more? This is the fourth in a 6 part series of blogs about our Partner Lifetime Value™ study and its results. Check back to learn why collaborative partnerships are important and what you can do to take action!