By Ursula Jorch
Upping your employees’ engagement level is well worth the effort, not only in your bottom line, or even triple bottom line, but also in the culture of your company, that sometimes ineffable ‘stuff’ that makes yours a great place to work.
Employees who are highly engaged are set apart from even satisfied employees by the discretionary effort they’re willing to bring to their work. They’re willing to go the extra mile (or two), and infuse what they do with passion and a strong connection to your company and its mission. They solve problems and bring in new customers. These are the people who drive innovation and growth.
Gallup’s 2016 State of the American Workplace research found that the top quartile in employee engagement performed better in customer ratings, productivity, sales, and profitability, had less turnover, shrinkage, and absenteeism, and fewer safety incidents and quality defects.
Employee engagement isn’t just a HR department issue. It’s a strategic imperative if you want sustainable growth.
Here are the stories of three companies who exemplify three ways you can increase employee engagement:
Develop a Clear Statement of Your Impact Purpose to Inspire and Attract the Right People
Employee engagement is enhanced by the clarity of your mission, your Impact Purpose. KIND Snacks’ founder and CEO, Daniel Lubetzky believes that impact isn’t something you just apply as a varnish on a company with a cause marketing campaign. It goes deeper. It begins with your Impact Purpose statement.
When that is clear, you both energize your current team members and begin to attract those in alignment with your Impact Purpose. KIND Snacks has recognized that candidates and employees at all levels consider social or environmental mission to be important. They look for team members who go beyond ‘fitting in’ to advancing and strengthening the team and culture.
You can do the same by looking for congruence between your Impact Purpose and the candidate’s consistent interest. KIND Snacks looks for authentic passion for and interest in their mission, in addition to problem-solving ability, agility, and thinking like an entrepreneur. Have they done their research? Do they know your company’s Impact Purpose? Do their passions show up in their personal interests and activities? Do they show up in their social media presence? You can enhance and refine your process of hiring over time to reflect these considerations.
Your clarity of mission helps guide both candidates and team members in how they can contribute to your company in a more meaningful way.
Build a culture of connection with each other and to the work
Building a culture that supports your Impact Purpose and really contributes to everyone connected with the company and beyond is an ongoing process. Connection plays a significant role in your company’s culture. The more connected your team members feel to each other and to the impact you’re dedicated to having, the more likely everyone is to contribute creatively, to help each other actively, and to become ambassadors for your brand.
ResolutionCare, a B-corp that offers palliative care in northern California, brings weekly practices into the operation of every location to form bonds between team members. Each weekly meeting begins with the ringing of a Tibetan prayer bowl. To further establish the meeting as a sacred space, everyone, even those who video conference in to the meeting, participates in passing a candle as they each check in and then a stone that represents a current or former ResolutionCare patient who died that week. They keep the candle burning throughout the meeting, even as they move into practical operational issues.
This spiritual connection to the focus of ResolutionCare, their patients, helps team members honor, listen to, and respect each other. The culture at ResolutionCare results in the touches that make such a big difference: getting a patient with a history of pulmonary embolisms and stroke a lounge chair so he can elevate his legs and take pressure off his delicate veins, or finding a walker for a patient whose insurance won’t cover it. It shows up in picking patients up and taking them to appointments, or calling them to remind them to take their medication. It even appears as taking a woman bedridden for years out in a gurney to her front yard to feel the sun on her face.
In ResolutionCare’s democratic, team-based approach, team members support each other. it was agreed that asking a patient to complete paperwork in a loud and bustling chemotherapy setting was not something they wanted to repeat: it was hard to have a real conversation with the patient.
The company has grown exponentially, even as they allow teams to explore solutions that reflect their values and intentions. Growth has been challenging for founder Michael Fratkin, as they strive to maintain the company’s lofty ideals, but fulfilling and nurturing.
Consider Employee Ownership
If your considering your own retirement or company sale, 100% employee ownership through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) can be a way to protect your company’s unique culture and impact. And what better way to engage employees than making them part owners, along with everyone they work with?
The B-Corp Butler/Till, a marketing and advertising firm, has always stressed teamwork and collaboration. Their philosophy, “if we lift each other up, we are all going to rise together faster”, helped them grow to gross media billings of over $70 million and more than 60 employees in 11 years. When owners Sue Butler and Tracy Till considered their exit, it was an opportunity to reward their employees and protect jobs, as well as receiving tax-free capital gains on the sale.
The process of a successful transition from a privately owned business to an ESOP took 3 years, and another 3 years to reach 100% employee ownership. It seemed a natural outgrowth of their open-book management style. The company implemented in-house education so employee-owners understand how their work impacts company value.
Was it worth it? Butler/Till has seen higher productivity, less turnover, and an ownership culture that includes participation in hiring future employee-owners. The current president of Butler/Till, Kimberly Jones, believes that employee ownership “strengthens communities, fosters a financially savvy workforce, increases resiliency during recessions, and offers big benefits during economic booms.”
These three stories highlight the financial and impact value of employee engagement at an exemplary level. What can you carry forward into your company, to increase your financial health and impact?
Ursula Jorch is a speaker, business coach and consultant who helps entrepreneurs grow a successful business that makes a difference in the world. A 21-year successful entrepreneur herself, Ursula helps you define the difference you want to make in the world and develop strategy and marketing so you have ever-expanding impact.
Find Ursula on her podcast, Work Alchemy: The Impact Interviews where she interviews impactful entrepreneurs and leaders like Seth Godin and Marianne Williamson, and at WorkAlchemy.com for free resources for you and your business.