13 Employee Engagement Lessons from Best Employee Brands
It ain’t what you don’t know that will hart you. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.
Are your employees giving your company their all? Do they believe that what they’re doing is important? Do they feel appreciated? Do they show up for work each day filled with passion and purpose? If so, you should share employee engagement lessons with this community.
A red flag should go up if you answered “no” to any of these questions. Why? Business owners who aren’t taking care of their employees are missing out on significant cost-savings and profits. And like Mark Twain says, don’t assume you know. Do your research and listen carefully.
According to Scarlett Surveys, “Employee Engagement is a measurable degree of an employee’s positive or negative emotional attachment to their job, colleagues and organization that profoundly influences their willingness to learn and perform at work”.
Here are some surprising statistics we found recently. Only 31% of employees are actively engaged in their jobs. That fact is amazing to us. These employees work with passion and feel a profound connection to their company. People that are actively engaged in helping move the organization forward. 88% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively impact the quality of their organization’s products, compared with only 38% of the disengaged. 72% of highly engaged employees believe they can positively affect customer service, versus 27% of the disengaged.
Engaged employees feel a strong emotional bond with the organization that employs them. This is associated with people demonstrating a willingness to recommend the organization to others and commit time and effort to help the organization succeed. It suggests that people are motivated by intrinsic factors (e.g. personal growth, working to a common purpose, being part of a larger process) rather than simply focusing on extrinsic factors.
So what engages employees?
The drivers differ regionally as well as person to person, but employee engagement is largely about social connections happening within the organization. But there are factors unique to certain winning businesses have in common.
Today’s best employee brands make it a priority to get to know them so they can provide whatever’s needed to keep their employees fully engaged in what they do. This creates wins for everyone. With that in mind, here are 13 lessons for creating and sustaining employee engagement:
Publix is the largest employee-owned company in America. For 83 years Publix has thrived by delivering top-rated service to its shoppers by turning thousands of its cashiers, baggers, butchers, and bakers into the company’s largest collective shareholders. All staffers who have put in 1,000 work hours and a year of employment receive an additional 8.5% of their total pay in the form of Publix stock.
The Publix compensation grants shares of a store-specific bonus pool every 13 weeks. The exact amount varies, but typically 20% of quarterly profits go into that larger pool; 20% of the pool is then paid out in cash to the store’s employees. When competition opens up across the street and sales are impacted, they’re impacted. So employees are incented to make sure they’re doing everything they can to serve that customer to the best of their ability.
Open, honest communication
At Lockheed Martin, where I was a management leader for a decade before my retirement, we were expected to have meetings with employees every week or so. This was for the explicit purpose of communicating status and information to employees.
Communication was core to our culture. Employees were trained to understand the ‘why’ behind their jobs, what they were expected to achieve, and why it was important to the business. The collaboration was emphasized and valued. All leader managers were expected to listen carefully to employee feedback and encourage it.
In short, communication was a core element of employee engagement.
DHL Express is an example of a business that improves employee engagement through employee appreciation. Its culture of thanking employees, whether through monetary rewards, honoring top performers at business events, or simply pinning simple thank you’s for the extra effort on the company corkboard.
At Publix, employees are encouraged to develop professional goals and connect with colleagues, contributing to growth in all jobs. This demonstrates to all employees there’s a long term future.
They almost exclusively promote from within, and every store displays advancement charts showing the path each employee can take to become a manager. Fifty-eight thousand of the company’s 159,000 employees have officially registered their interest in advancement. Associates are encouraged to rotate through various divisions, from grocery to real estate to distribution, to get a broad sense of the business. A former cake decorator in a store bakery is now in charge of all strategy for its bakeries. A distribution-center manager overseeing 800 associates got his start unloading railcars. There are 34,000 employees who have more than ten years of tenure.
Understand employee thinking
Using employee surveys are just one of the ways the best employee engagement companies can keep close to the pulse of their workforce. That was a staple of the IBM culture where I worked for over 17 years. We had companywide surveys every 2 years and then manager leaders put together action plans with employees to improve employee issues.
On the other hand, others like Recreational Equipment use social media to get intimate with employees. Its online ‘company campfire’ offers all employees the ability to share their thoughts and participate in open debates and discussions. Over 5000 of its 11,000 have logged in at least once since it was launched. Having voice matters in employee engagement.
Combine work and play
Google offers its employees a workplace that combines work and play. Complete with scooter parking stalls, free late afternoon espresso shots, healthy snack bowls, and a full-service gym, Google is working to provide a workspace that people appreciate and ultimately work harder for. Sure it is an investment for Google to offer these perks to over 50,000 employees all year. However, the investment is clearly worth it with Google stock selling at $889 per share and consistent reports of the year over year increases in growth rate.
SAS employees and their families have free access to a massive gym featuring a weight room and a heated pool. They also have an on-site health care clinic, staffed by physicians, nutritionists, physical therapists, and psychologists–all for free! Deeply discounted childcare is available and additional no-cost work-life counseling is offered to employees. They’ve had 37 consecutive years of record earnings coming in at $2.8 billion in 2012.
Self-recognition and rewards
Employees of the Wegman’s grocery food chain are encouraged to reward one another with store paid gift cards for good service. Many workers like it there so much that one in five employees are related to each other, as so many referrals take place. Wegman’s has also been known to offer chartered jets to fly all new full-timers to Rochester to be welcomed by CEO Danny Wegman.
Let employees be themselves
Zappos has a casual work environment where employees can be their most authentic selves. The dress code is relaxed so they can feel comfortable. As long as their outfits are respectable and work-appropriate, employees have the freedom to express their individual style. You’ll see styles spanning from fashionista to jeans, shorts, and T-shirts. You’ll even spot pink and Mohawk hairdos.
Employees may also decorate their desks to create their “home away from home.” On any given desk, you might find pictures of family, friends, and things they value, or office toys and colorful décor.
Empower employees with tools to succeed
Full autonomy in customer-service decisions also increases employee engagement. At Northrup Grumman, where I worked the last 6 years before final retirement from the aerospace industry, leadership empowered employees to make choices as necessary to serve customers.
Regardless of what position they hold, employees were given access to the same tools as managers to live and deliver WOW — in every interaction. This applied within our company, whether it is a customer, employee, or vendor, we wanted them to say “WOW.” We always tried to go above and beyond. Empowering employees makes it feasible to scale the business to provide the highest level of service.
Communicate the brand’s stories
We like to follow Southwest Airlines because of their success with company employees as well as customers (one breeds the other, yes?).
Having a culture of fun and friendly is a big part of their DNA. A strong employment brand and culture attracts the people they are interested in employing. Whether it is participating in community events, celebrating coworkers, or creating open communication
Southwest works diligently to build a culture where employee engagement is a top priority. It creates a great place to work that both insiders and people on the outside easily recognize.
Offer flexible work options
The nine-to-five office culture that developed in the 20th century may be nearing the end of its reign. Sure, people are expected to put in their 40 hours and complete projects on a deadline, but they’re no longer tethered to a desk chair.
Best Buy Corporation exemplifies this shift toward flex scheduling. The Fortune 100 company switched to a result-only work plan (ROWE) in 2002 that allows participating employees to set their own schedules as long as their work is consistently finished on time. Since then, corporate departments involved in ROWE experienced a 35 percent boost in productivity [source: Brandon].