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What You Can Learn About Employee Engagement From 5 Cool Companies

Here are five companies — FullContact, Southwest Airlines, Legal Monkeys, Screwfix and DreamWorks — that excel in employee engagement. PHOTO: Martin Redlin

Some companies seem to have found the secret sauce for keeping employees engaged and passionate about their work. Take these five organizations — FullContact, Southwest Airlines, Legal Monkeys, Screwfix and DreamWorks.

Here are actionable tips from well-liked companies with engaged employees who go the extra mile. See if the strategies and practices that keep them at the top of the employee engagement game would advance engagement in your own organization.

FullContact

Each year, FullContact, a provider of a contact management platform, offers its employees $7,500 to take a “paid paid” vacation. The firm literally pays employees to go on holiday anywhere they like. 

The only rules? You actually have to go somewhere, and can’t do any work or answer work related calls or messages. The company stands by the idea that employees who actually go on vacation without dealing with anything work related return in a better state to work, ready and committed to push towards the company goals and inspired with a fresh outlook. 

These “paid paid” vacations also supposedly eliminate the issue of people thinking they’re the only one who can solve a problem. Once people return from their holiday relaxed and find things running smoothly, they reportedly feel less pressure to handle everything themselves and develop a heightened sense of trust for their co-workers.

If it’s not in your budget to be giving out large amounts of holiday cash, it’s always possible to instead let people take a couple of extra days paid leave or a long weekend once in awhile with the goal of leaving their work responsibilities behind. People will appreciate the recognition for their efforts and the chance to disconnect, even for a short time. 

Southwest Airlines

Southwest Airlines is revered for its employee engagement practices. It’s well recognized as a great place to work. 

With employee engagement levels that have remained high over the years, it has a team full of committed, enthusiastic people who are passionate about the company’s vision and values and willing to advance the company’s success. 

Southwest has set the bar high. Perks include allowing existing employees from various departments to design their own uniforms and giving employees generous autonomy over aspects of their work life. This has propelled Southwest to a leader in customer service due to its collective of happy, committed employees. 

How does the Southwest way work? Take its decision to allow employees to collaborate on new uniform designs. The results really reflect personality and company culture in a way that wouldn’t have been achieved otherwise.

Employees described it as an “unforgettable experience.” 

The company encourages employees to stay inspired to do things differently. The viral video of one flight attendant rapping the safety information goes to show the kind of attitude the company has towards keeping things fun and unique, creating a great experience for customers and employees alike, and giving a great company image. Recognizing those employees who go the extra mile is another key factor of Southwest’s engagement practices: each week the CEO gives a “shout out,” publicly praising employees who have gone above and beyond at work. There’s also a monthly recognition in Southwest’s magazine, featuring an employee who excelled that month. 

This kind of recognition keeps employees aware they’re valued and that their hard work and commitment to the company doesn’t go unnoticed. Providing praise is just as important as constructive feedback: people love to feel appreciated, and motivated to continue going that extra mile. 

As the company founder points out, competitors can’t simply adopt the levels of engagement and commitment found in the company: it takes a special kind of employee and company culture.

“Our esprit de corps is the core of our success. That’s most difficult for a competitor to imitate. They can [buy] all the physical things. The thing you can’t buy is dedication, devotion, loyalty — feeling you are participating in a cause or a crusade.” — Southwest founder Herb Kelleher

Legal Monkeys

Legal Monkeys, a legal record management company, established a simpler, smaller way to show employees that their hard work is valued. Its Appreciation Board is a glass picture frame on which employees can write a note on with a marker and present to someone for whom they want to show appreciation. 

Whoever receives the board is free to keep it on display until the time comes to pass it on to someone else, with each achievement also being posted on the company Facebook page to increase visibility outside of the team.

Ideas like this are simple to implement and build a real-time feedback culture, encouraging people to give positive feedback and show appreciation for their peers and co-workers. 

Screwfix

Screwfix, a UK based hardware company, keeps its employee engagement levels high by keeping an open, honest company culture. 

Every two weeks employees are given the opportunity to provide feedback to their managers without rules or guidelines. They are encouraged to give feedback on everything: how things are going, how they think things are managed, how the company interacts with customers, ideas for improvement. 

One outcome of this was the implementation of a new customer card, which speeds up the in-store process, identifying customers and allowing them to make quicker purchases. Like many other initiatives now in place, this would never have come to fruition had the employees not been asked for their input. 

Having this kind of regular, 360-degree feedback in place means fewer things are overlooked. It also keeps the conversation going and ensures a company culture where people really feel as if they make a difference — that they’re more than their role and really benefit the company as a whole.

“Many of the improvements can come from an engaged staff team who understand the business objective and are given a voice.” — Screwfix CEO Andrew Livingston

DreamWorks

Employees at DreamWorks Animation are provided with perks such as free refreshments, paid opportunities to decorate their workspaces and company parties after big projects are completed. But a practice they really appreciate is that at such parties and events they are encouraged to share their personal work and projects among their co-workers. 

This opens up an appreciation of non-work related projects, boosts creativity and makes employees feel that they are more than just the work they do for the company. 

With other companies like Google also giving employees the time to work on and pitch their own projects, this is a great way to really tell your employees that you not only trust them, but really value their input and creativity, keeping people feeling both in control and passionate about their work.

Lessons for Other Companies

While it may not be feasible for your company to provide  “paid paid” holidays or assign large percentages of time to personal projects, you can take away important lessons by studying companies like these.

These organizations show the value of integrating employee engagement into daily company culture, even in the form of small daily changes.

Implementing great employee engagement practices is a sure-fire way to improve company culture, and have a team full of happy, productive and passionate people. What will you do in 2017 to improve employee engagement?

Steffen Maier is the co-founder of Impraise, a web-based and mobile solution for actionable, timely feedback at work. He is Y Combinator alum and recognized thought leader in Human Resources innovation.


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