13 Employee Engagement Lessons from Best Employee Brands

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.

Employee-owned business

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.

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.

Show appreciation

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.

Career development

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.

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.

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.

Provide perks

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.

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.

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?).

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.

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