Last day of the old career path, and soon first day of the new. Exciting times!
I Want to Work There!
By Lorri Freifeld
“TGIM” (Thank God, It’s Monday) is phrase rarely heard from employees. But most organizations wish it were. Research continues to show that engaged employees are productive employees. And productive employees mean a bigger bottom line.
“We have conducted studies on Return on Engagement (ROE) and have found that there is a distinct positive difference in business outcomes (i.e., revenue, operating margin, customer satisfaction, etc.) from higher engaged organizations versus organizations that score lower on engagement,” points out Chris Dustin, senior vice president of Organizational Development at Avatar HR Solutions.
The firm’s research has found that the top three factors critical to employee engagement relate to recognition (see sidebar below), career development, and the direct supervisor’s relationship with employees. “Managers and supervisors are the key enabler of their employees’ commitment to their job, organization, and workgroup,” Dustin says. “And recognition and career development are directly linked to the manager.”
This leads to the conclusion that training can play a key role in developing an organization’s culture and increasing employee engagement. The $64,000 question, though, is how exactly can training help organizations foster engagement?
To answer that question, we looked at the 2012 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For list (produced by Great Place to Work Institute) to find leaders in employee engagement and cross-checked it with our 2012 Training Top 125 and Training Top 10 Hall of Fame lists, which boast leaders in training. Some 19 companies appear on both the Fortune and Training lists (see sidebar below), so we set about finding out what makes their employees so enthusiastic, how they use training to stoke that fire, and how they measure their success. Here are 12 of their stories, plus tips you can apply in your own organization.
American Fidelity Assurance
“According to survey results, our colleagues say the top three factors that make AFA a great place to work are our family environment, our perks and benefits, and our customer and colleague focus,” explains Jeff Forsythe, M.Ed, senior training specialist, American Fidelity Assurance (AFA). “AFA is a family owned company and is committed to treating colleagues as family. The company offers generous health and wellness options, 401(k) and a pension plan, a newly expanded fitness center, on-site clinic, restaurant, and many other great perks. We also are always striving to give our customers better service, as well as make AFA an employer of choice for our colleagues.”
David McLaughlin, M.Ed, Training team leader, notes that the company is committed to an environment of continuous self-improvement. “Whether it is through Lean initiatives, training classes, succession planning, or mentoring programs, AFA is committed to getting better.”
AFA participates in The Great Place to Work Institute’s annual survey as part of the annual Best Companies to Work For list. “We benchmark against ourselves from year to year, as well as against the other best companies in America,” McLaughlin says. “We analyze the results of the survey as part of our needs analysis process. This helps us determine what future and current training needs exist for the company.”
Since employee engagement affects the success of the business, Forsythe notes, AFA uses multiple surveys throughout its front-line departments to measure customer satisfaction, as well as colleague engagement. “Metrics are used in almost all departments to measure various levels of productivity. The president of our company has been very good about being sure we keep the score, know the score, and post the score.”
Capital One Financial Corp.
Capital One Financial Corp.’s associates, culture, and work environment make it a great place to work, says Crystal Reilly, vice president of Capital One University. “We aspire to hire great people and create an environment and opportunity for them to be great—and training is a key piece of creating a ‘Best Place to Work’ environment for our associates.”
Furthermore, Reilly notes, “Capital One has a culture focused around constant improvement guided by the values of Excellence and Do the Right Thing. The value of Excellence drives our associates to look for continuous improvement in their jobs. Training is a critical element in ensuring that associates have the skills to be successful here.”
As a result, Learning is a critical part of all key business initiatives and strategies, no matter how big or small. And Capital One University’s vision—“equip, engage, and inspire”—helps “ensure our associates are the best they can be so they continuously are able to flourish in their careers and support the business and its strategic priorities,” Reilly explains.
Leadership also plays a big role. Each year, Capital One Chairman and CEO Rich Fairbank hosts a series of full-day sessions to give associates an in-depth look at what has happened at the company over the last year and the strategy he wants them to focus on in the coming year. In addition, many leaders are involved as trainers in the onboarding program, which all new associates attend. As part of this 1.5-day class, leaders speak to new associates about the company in general and their personal experiences. Each new associate also is assigned a buddy to help adapt to the Capital One culture and navigate day-to-day activities. Virtual executive-hosted sessions are held throughout the year to teach associates about career development, Capital One earnings, customer strategies, and major company initiatives.
At Capital One, associates are expected to “own” their career and take personal ownership for their development, Reilly explains. COU’s Career Development Centers have career counselors who can provide specific advice and training and meet with associates one on one to guide them through key career decisions.
To measure the effectiveness of employee engagement initiatives, Capital One conducts an All Associate Survey (AAS), specific pulse surveys, and targeted focus groups. “Our associates’ opinions help shape our current programs and the development of new initiatives to support them. Our associates know that this honest and open feedback loop has created many of the current associate-focused initiatives and programs, such as flexible work solutions and associate networks.”
CHG Healthcare Services
CHG Healthcare Services believes in putting people first, fostering a Return on Culture philosophy, and providing an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives. CHG is built on the belief that having a great people-driven culture based on trust, open and honest communication, and engaged employees directly translates into industry-leading business results and exceptional service to its clients and providers, says the CHG Learning & Development team. “All training and development starts with this cultural-building perspective. This means that we create learning and development programs with the primary objective of increasing the satisfaction and engagement of the participants or helping improve culture, followed by skills development.”
CHG believes its leaders set the tone for the culture of a team or division, and, therefore, “we spend significant training time developing new leaders on how to create a team of engaged employees,” the CHG Learning & Development team says. CHG’s Leadership Essentials and Development (LEAD) program, for example, is a six-month training program based almost entirely on training new leaders in people leadership. Curriculum includes engaging employees, coaching, communicating effectively, learning to recognize and appreciate employees, and building a team culture. “Management tools such as budgeting, forecasting, scheduling, and strategy take a back seat in leadership development,” says the CHG Learning & Development team. “Why? Because we know that leaders do not achieve results; employees do.”
As such, twice a year, CHG’s CEO, president, COO, and other executives travel around the country to meet face-to-face with employees in every office to update them on the company’s performance, goals, and initiatives. Employees are invited to submit questions and comments in a variety of ways, including via e-mail and in the CEO’s blog.
The annual CHG Employee Opinion Survey gives employees an opportunity to express their views about the company and what it can do to improve. The survey is e-mailed to all employees and covers a variety of topics, including job satisfaction and growth opportunities, quality of departmental and divisional output, supervision and management, organizational communications, employee relations, and organizational culture. CHG’s executive team evaluates every score and suggestion to determine what areas in the company need attention. Additionally, leaders throughout the company receive customized reports based on the survey data to help them develop action plans for improvements in their respective areas. They are asked to involve their staff in developing these action plans.
In addition, every year, CHG tracks data that show the correlation between employee engagement and business results. Data across CHG show the relationship between leadership 360-degree assessment scores, employee engagement scores, and the variance to budget. The CHG Learning & Development team notes that leaders with high 360s consistently had teams with high employee engagement survey scores and had higher results compared to budgets.
According to Craig Gill, national director, Talent Development, Deloitte Services LP, top talent want three things:
- To work on a broad range of meaningful assignments
- To build knowledge and skills through formal and informal learning
- To engage and connect with each other at all levels
As a result, Deloitte’s Talent Strategy directly focuses on the three most critical wants: challenge and deliver (Resource Managers work with Deloitte staff and business leaders to assign people to projects that, whenever possible, serve their individual development needs), grow and develop (Deloitte delivers regular, career-long learning programs), and engage and connect (employees are highly connected through client assignments; their service lines; their industry specializations; a host of affinity groups; and the partners, who are owners of the firm).
Training primarily supports the three factors through formal development. Deloitte makes a significant commitment in dollars and time toward each employee receiving formal learning each year. That has ranged as high as 164 hours for certain jobs in certain businesses, Gill says.
“Beyond formal training, we believe that the other two focus areas are important aspects of our investment in learning,” Gill adds. “Studies show that the majority of how we learn is not in the classroom (the 70/20/10 model), with something like 70 percent of learning taking place on the job, especially in ‘stretch’ assignments. That is what our ‘challenge and deliver’ focus is all about. We also ask each person annually about their interest in global assignments and carefully manage expatriation and repatriation to build skills and experiences.”
Similarly, 20 percent of learning may occur through relationships and networks. Deloitte fosters connections through many avenues, from an internal Twitter-like application called Yammer, through numerous affinity groups (e.g., Asian-Americans), local office activities, pro bono consulting opportunities, sports, and community outreach.
At the highest level, Deloitte measures engagement through the annual employee survey, both in terms of trends, and against benchmarks for high-performing companies. “We correlate these findings with how Deloitte stacks up in a variety of ‘Best Of’ lists, places to work, places for diversity, etc.,” Gill says. “We also regularly talk with employees—at Deloitte University, in local offices, in project teams. Our CEO conducts town hall meetings with employees to find out what’s on their minds, what’s working, and what we can do better.” Gill notes that Deloitte also taps into alumni and “talks to professors and others who stay close to recent hires to see what the ‘buzz’ about Deloitte is among the workforce.”
It’s all about “our people, our culture, and our passion” at DPR Construction, say Training Coordinator Melissa Bargman and People Practices and Training Leader Cari Williams. “We believe that great teams build great things, and we are home to the smartest, most talented, and fun people in the industry. We take pride in being a learning organization, where you have the opportunity to learn something new every day and further your own personal growth and development. We also have fostered a culture of trust where our people are given the freedom and opportunity to do what is best for our customers and their projects.”
Williams and Bargman say DPR’s People Practices group plays an integral role in building great people and culture. “We believe that who we build is as important as what we build, and we create all learning and development programs with this in mind,” they explain. “Our learning and development focuses on what individual skills and abilities people need to be the most successful.”
DPR uses a custom Employee Satisfaction Survey (ESS) to measure employee engagement. The overall company result in 2011 was 91 percent satisfied or highly satisfied. “We drill down into our survey results and review specific questions that relate to areas where we can provide learning and development opportunities,” Williams and Bargman explain. “This is how we began many People Skills courses, including Crucial Conversations: The DPR Way and our Professional Development program.”
Edward Jones is a true partnership, and that means a lot to employees, notes Senior Media Specialist Regina DeLuca-Imral. “Associates have the opportunity to become limited partners, but the ‘partnership’ philosophy goes beyond the financial implications and extends to how we work together and help each other.”
The company also has strong values, such as a belief in the individual and a commitment to treating clients and associates with dignity and respect. “In addition, we place a strong emphasis on mentoring,” DeLuca-Imral says. “Rather than compete with one another, our financial advisors help each other out, so everyone can succeed.”
The firm’s training programs are based on its corporate values and mentoring skills. “Our financial advisors receive training in technology, investment products, and long-term strategies, but the underpinning of this training is a total commitment to helping clients achieve their goals,” DeLuca-Imral says. “And the training we provide to our home-office associates is both specific to the job and broad-based enough to help our workers support each other.”
Detailed engagement questions and the collection of voluminous participant comments enable Edward Jones to perform thorough analyses, resulting in making changes as needed to its training programs, DeLuca-Imral says. “We also regularly employ global associate surveys to measure overall employee engagement.”
Ernst & Young
“Our people tell us that our inclusive work culture (meaning everyone’s voice is heard and valued), our global mindset, and our focus on quality make Ernst & Young a great place to work and build their careers,” says Mike Hamilton, Chief Learning & Development Officer – Americas, Ernst & Young. “We aspire to have a leading people culture everywhere in the world. Creating a culture that attracts and retains outstanding people and helps them thrive leads to better service for our clients.”
Hamilton says E&Y’s approach to development involves offering the learning, experiences, and coaching all its people need to enrich their careers and deliver the best results for clients, as well as offering additional programs for current and future leaders of the organization.
“We want all our people to feel enthused by their work and their colleagues and to be comfortable in an organization that gives them the flexibility to achieve their professional and personal aspirations,” Hamilton says. “We engage our people in countless ways, from selecting the right people to lead major change, to taking an interest in our people as individuals, to being sure to say thank you for a job well done.”
Training is one aspect of E&Y’s approach to development, the other two being experiences and coaching. “Formal classroom training programs often serve as the gateway to one’s development experience within Ernst & Young,” Hamilton says. “Not only do these programs introduce you to the subject being studied, but they also introduce you to others around the organization who can serve as a future resource.”
E&Y measures engagement through its Global People Survey, utilizing items that measure pride in the organization, willingness to advocate for the firm, intent to stay, commitment, and overall satisfaction. The results of these five surveys are averaged into the firm’s Engagement Index. “We benchmark engagement internally and externally to norms gathered by our external survey provider,” Hamilton notes. “The survey item most associated with our Engagement Index is feeling that one has a promising future at the organization. We can measure our effectiveness at improving the belief that there’s a promising future and know that this is likely to also improve engagement overall.
The firm also monitors engagement through its People Advisory Forum (a committee comprising a cross-section of employees that meets regularly with the CEO and other senior executives), local people advisory forums (similar to the People Advisory Forum, but within a specific business unit), listening tours, and town hall meetings.
To show how having a great people culture pays off for the business, E&Y conducts research across its business that shows the association between the Global People Survey results and subsequent business outcomes such as revenue per person, retention rates, and brand favorability. Notes Hamilton, “We have confirmed that our people’s level of engagement is a top driver for brand favorability, retention, and financial performance across E&Y business units.”
General Mills has created a successful culture by combining career-spanning attention to development with the kind of support that does not require employees to lose sight of family and community commitments, according to Chief Learning Officer Kevin Wilde. Three factors he sees as key to making General Mills a great place to work:
- Clear senior leadership alignment of the value of talent to the success of the business strategy.
- Consistent investments in people development—from entry-level employees to the CEO.
- Innovations to bring value to the workforce, such as flexibility programs with new ways of looking at how and when work gets done.
“There is a strong connection between workforce attraction and engagement with development,” Wilde believes. “In other words, we know if we want the best talent, we have to be a great place to grow. In fact, development is one of the five corporate values set by the CEO and the senior team. L&D is seen as taking the lead in identifying and executing the most critical aspects of development.”
General Mills measures employee engagement formally through annual climate surveys and also tracked with various talent review metrics and systems. “One unique measurement is our finding that employees are highly engaged when they work for a GREAT manager,” Wilde notes. “We have a three-year initiative to create more GREAT managers and have moved the number of GREAT managers from a low of 26 percent to now more than 30 percent.”
“Many factors make up Intel’s workplace: world-class talent; inspiring leaders; industry-leading compensation and development programs; and a culture that reflects our stated values of caring, growth, and good corporate citizenship,” says Learning Benchmarks Program Manager Ron Dickson. “Selecting just a few is tough, but three that stand out are our hiring and welcoming processes; the ways we inspire; and the depth of care demonstrated for our employees, their families, and the communities in which we do business.”
Hiring starts before an offer is extended, and training helps ensure that prospective employees know Intel is a great place to work. “Prospective employees learn about us through career fairs, technical talks, information sessions, seminars, student groups, events and conferences, and internships,” Dickson says. “In addition, we use social media and the Internet to communicate and build relationships with prospective employees.” As part of Intel’s pre-hire educational effort, it recently launched Executives on Campus, a program that brings Intel executives to speak with students at college campuses around the globe.
Once the employee is hired, training takes a prominent role in the integration and welcoming process. Intel volunteer instructors lead the orientations, sharing stories and experiences from their Intel careers, giving new hires networking opportunities with their peers, and providing practical advice on navigating around the company.
Since employees view flexibility as integral to their overall quality of life and a key to their success at work, Dickson says, “Intel has created many programs to support flexibility: time off, child care and elder care support, onsite centers for health and wellness, and more. Training is a strategic component, ensuring that employees understand these benefits, as well as how to access and use them effectively.”
Throughout the year, CEO Paul Otellini and other Intel executives visit Intel sites around the world to talk with employees. These forums are offered live and, in some cases, via Webcast, to allow employees at other sites to join in virtually. A smaller, more informal and freewheeling complement to the live forums are hour-long employee roundtables between top leaders and one to two dozen randomly selected employees. In early 2010, executives from Intel’s human resources and manufacturing areas hosted a week-long Workplace of Choice Conference for a group of manufacturing technicians representing Intel factory sites around the world. As the participants proposed specific changes to their work environment, processes, and systems, the executives responded in real time, deciding on each proposal on the spot.
Intel takes a holistic view of engagement and assesses the average of its annual Org Health Survey (OHS) against the model it created. “Our work is to drive the full survey average forward; we do not select a subset of questions,” Dickson says. “We also recognize that it is not possible to fully measure all aspects of engagement during any given year; the assessment simply would be too long.”
According to the PwC Learning & Development team, the top three factors that make PwC a Best Company to Work For are:
- The PwC U.S. firm provides a comprehensive total awards package designed to reward and recognize its people.
- PwC provides world-class development and career opportunities that allow its people to grow their own way and provide high-quality services to their clients at home and around the globe.
- PwC creates an inspiring and engaging environment to work in by caring for its communities and the environment, and by encouraging a culture of innovation where the ideas of its people shape the future of the firm.
“Our goal is to develop high-performing leaders who have impact on our clients, our people, and our communities,” the team says. “To do this, we take a lifecycle approach to learning and development, providing staff with numerous opportunities to customize their career path so they can meet their personal and professional goals.”
In spring 2011, PwC U.S. enhanced its approach to compensation and development, implementing several programs designed to demonstrate the longer-term value of building a career at PwC. These enhancements included increasing transparency in communications around compensation and Career Milestone Awards. The Manager Milestone Award, for example, provides an additional financial award totaling 25 percent of a manager’s salary in the first year following his or her promotion to manager.
PwC territories around the world participate in the annual Global People Survey (GPS). “The survey has helped us surface those areas in need of attention, and we built a higher degree of trust as our people have seen management act on what they are telling us,” the L&D team says.
As part of its Global People Survey, PwC currently uses the Engagement Index as its primary measure of improvement—the index is composed of the four questions that measure employee pride, advocacy, commitment, and overall satisfaction.
Last year, the topics of “work-life/flexibility” and “compensation” accounted for 40 percent of the total comments received from the GPS. To respond to concerns about flexibility, PwC U.S. kicked off a firm-wide program focused on integrating everyday flexibility into the lives of its people, and encouraged its leaders to create flexibility plans for their teams. “We have seen evidence that our focus on work-life flexibility is starting to pay off,” the L&D team says, “from teams that create team calendars where individuals can take turns leaving early or working from home, to ‘stress ’o meters’ that help drive awareness among team members around the level of stress that their counterparts are feeling due to a large workload.”
At Quicken Loans, “we put a lot of emphasis on empowering team members,” says the Quicken Loans Learning & Development team. “We encourage everyone who works at the company to be curious, look for ways to improve our processes, then take the next step and make the changes a reality.”
In addition to empowerment, Quicken Loans focuses heavily on honest, open communication. “Each month, our CEO sits down with a group of team members for a three-hour, no-question-barred meeting to discuss any topic that is on their mind,” the team reveals.
The final factor is fun. “From attending concerts and sporting events to playing Nintendo Wii and ping-pong in the office, we like to both work hard and play hard,” the L&D team admits.
Training starts day one with a two-day orientation intended to assimilate new team members into the culture and to challenge them to rethink the ways in which things are normally done. During orientation, “founder and Chairman Dan Gilbert and CEO Bill Emerson spend an eight-hour day focusing on the ways in which the little things make us different and the company’s ISMS, a series of 18 tenets that guide everything we do,” the team notes.
Quicken Loans also encourages each team leader to meet with a member of their team for monthly one-on-ones to provide two-way communication and promote the free flow of ideas, areas of improvement, and feedback.
Each year, Quicken Loans participates in several third-party workplace surveys that allow team members to provide feedback in areas in which the company is doing well and areas that need improvement. The company also sends out internal team member surveys on topics ranging from improvements in the working environment to wellness programs. “In the last year, we listened to what team members had to say and implemented several incentives, including wellness programs, paid time off to volunteer, and a 401(k) match,” the L&D team says.
Scottrade offers stability, opportunities for growth, and a culture based on teamwork, says Mike Jacobs, director of Training & Development. “Scottrade has never experienced a layoff since we began in 1980 and has never missed a quarterly bonus since the inception of our bonus program more than 20 years ago. Scottrade has more than doubled (117 percent) its workforce during the last five years. As a company growing to meet the ever-changing needs of investors, Scottrade has many opportunities for career advancement, as well as the training to help associates receive promotions or move into new positions to support new initiatives. Scottrade has a culture of open communication and teamwork that encourages the sharing of ideas and always focuses on customer service, whether for our clients or associates.”
Scottrade’s Training department offers the resources to help associates take an active role in their career development and the firm continue its tradition of dedicated customer service. Associates can choose to take classes at a university through tuition reimbursement and/or join an organization that represents their field. Internally, they can take more than 400 courses, focused on business skills and industry knowledge, in both in-person and online formats.
Founder and CEO Rodger Riney meets monthly with new associates to tell them about the company’s history and its intention to remain private to ensure a stable future. The firm’s Intranet features several executive and team blogs, while town hall meetings allow anyone to ask questions openly or anonymously.
To determine employee engagement, Scottrade administers surveys for associate feedback after training courses and the onboarding program. “We also measure the participation in wellness programs and work-related events, such as the firm’s annual meeting or Day of Caring, in which associates have the opportunity to receive a paid day off to volunteer for a charity in their community,” Jacobs says.
Scottrade attributes low turnover rates and a high number of promotions to its employee engagement initiatives. For example, Jacobs says, “in 2010 and 2011, at least 58 percent of our job openings were filled internally.”
Linking Training and Engagement
American Fidelity: Top 125 Rank: 94; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 47
Baptist Health Care: Top 125 Rank: 25; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 42
Booz Allen Hamilton: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 84
Capital One Financial Corp.: Top 125 Rank: 31; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 98
CarMax: Top 125 Rank: 28; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 91
CHG Healthcare Services: Top 125 Rank: 21; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 9
Deloitte LP: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 67
DPR Construction: Top 125 Rank: 85; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 13
Edward Jones: Top 125 Rank: 15; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 5
Ernst & Young: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 59
General Mills: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 63
Intel: Top 125 Rank: 34; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 46
InterContinental Hotels Group: Top 125 Rank: 91; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 100
KPMG: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 94
Microsoft: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 76
Navy Federal Credit Union: Top 125 Rank: 54; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 95
PwC: Top 125 Rank: Hall of Fame; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 48
Quicken Loans: Top 125 Rank: 53; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 10
Scottrade: Top 125 Rank: 57; Best Cos. To Work For Rank: 3
ENGAGEMENT QUICK TIPS
- Establish a firm foundation of what you want to accomplish, then define your culture and who you are as a company, and, finally, execute on the plan consistently. Give team members the tools to innovate and create an atmosphere where innovation is strongly encouraged. Make employees feel they have a true stake in their company’s success.
- Manage employee engagement as a critical business process. In every business, there are at least some segments of the employee population—critical talent segments—that have a disproportionate impact on business success. Applying marketing and talent management disciplines to those segments can yield actionable information about decision-drivers that can be tailored to increase engagement, retention, and business impacts.
- Create a culture that recognizes, appreciates, and embraces each person’s unique skills and talents. These principles should be supported by a learning and development platform that empowers them to build relationships and grow their career their own way.
- Think holistically about engagement and employee development. All the training in the world won’t help if employees don’t have opportunities to apply what they learn.
- Tell employees why things are happening and how it affects them. Share success stories and failures to help employees connect the dots between what they do every day to something that has meaning for them personally.
- Remember that employee engagement starts with senior and executive leadership and a true shift in mindset to put people first. Leadership must believe, adopt, and live the principles. This shift will not happen overnight—it will happen incrementally, probably over at least three to five years.
- Have leaders and employees decide what they want your culture of engagement to look like within your company. Training must work with leaders and employees to put together those ideas and then become a key driver in continually supporting the culture and driving the alignment of the culture and the business outcomes. It’s also crucial to measure people’s view of your progress in building an engaged workforce.
- Guide and inspire your line managers. Making more great managers makes everything else better…especially employee engagement.
O.C. Tanner and HealthStream’s 10-year study of 220,000 people revealed the No. 1 factor driving employee engagement is a sense of opportunity and well-being. This research, combined with a Towers Watson global study on recognition, showed that appreciating employees through recognition accelerates this factor.
“When employees are valued, trust deepens,” says Kevin Ames, director of Speaking and Training for recognition expert O.C. Tanner’s Learning Group. “Workers not only feel valued, but empowered. They deliver the kind of work that aligns with the brand values of their organization.”
As leaders continue to reinforce that behavior, workers not only feel good about their jobs, but about their companies, Ames notes. “These timeless principles are all part of an important cycle,” he explains. “Each one drives another, and they are more important now than ever before because not only are companies doing more with less, workers also are doing more with less. Employees are taking on a lot more—more tasks, more responsibility, more time in the office—and that means there’s more of an opportunity for companies to say ‘thank you’ for all of that ‘more.’”
At O.C. Tanner, Ames says, “we help our clients build solid, sustainable recognition programs through three key strategies: noticing effort, rewarding results, and celebrating careers.”
The president of one of O.C. Tanner’s clients, a Texas-based hospital, wanted to create a “best-in-class” health-care organization. After the Learning Group delivered a keynote address to hospital leaders, those executives realized employees could create great experiences for patients if they made work a great experience for employees. The
hospital executed on the idea by:
- Starting all nursing team meetings with a “shout-out”—a moment of recognition to show appreciation for an employee who has made a difference.
- Providing departments with a “traveling trophy”—an award departments honor each other with once every month to build camaraderie and solidarity.
- Empowering leaders to take an hour out of each day to talk with team members about how things are going, find out if they are experiencing any challenges, and discussing what managers can do to help.
Results? An industry measurement organization ranks the hospital higher than the average for hospitals in Texas and hospitals nationwide. And in 2011, the organization was re-designated with a magnet recognition certification for nursing.
Ames offers a few tips for companies looking to create a recognition program:
Make sure a recognition program is adopted at the executive level. “Adoption encompasses both buy-in and execution,” he says. “Company leaders must be actively involved in launching and growing a recognition program. They have the power to define desired outcomes and then help recognition strategists craft a program that fulfills those goals.”
Solid training bolsters this concept. It shows leaders how to use recognition effectively. “Training empowers leaders with clarity, the right vision, voice, and values to help a recognition solution take flight,” Ames explains. “And it helps employees understand how recognition works—from top to bottom. They understand their role in the equation, and realize if they live their company’s brand values, they will create great work; they will be recognized for it; and customers will feel the difference.”