4 Innovative and Meaningful Employee Engagement Activities That Work! (and why)

by Melany Gallant | Posted | Engagement

4 Innovative and Meaningful Employee Engagement Activities That Work! (and why)

Looking for innovative ideas to drive employee engagement?

If you've already addressed all your employees' basic engagment needs - clear goals, a context for their work, opportunities to develop and progress, recognition and rewards, ongoing feedback and coaching on their performance, and opportunity to do their best - it's time to get creative.

Since employee engagement is critical to organizational success, getting creative in how you build it isn't a bad idea. Need some inspiration?

Here are some excellent examples of companies that are taking innovative actions to make their employee engagement activities meaningful and successful.

1. ABC Supply: "Sign my yearbook?"

Ken Hendricks, the late CEO of the largest roofing distribution company in the U.S., believed that "by putting your people first, your people will put the customer first." With 350 locations spread across 45 states, fostering and maintaining an engaged workforce was about creating "a people business built on relationships."

In all the relationship-building activities that Hendricks took on to bolster employee engagement, the key was to treat employees as equals, as peers and as friends. From taking an hour out of every day to talk directly to managers, to inviting hundreds of his employees to weekly parties at his summer home, Hendricks created a culture where people felt supported, appreciated, listened to and respected.

He even had yearbooks printed for ABC Supply employees in all 350 locations, complete with photos, employee lists, and each office's goals for the upcoming year.

Why it works: ABC Supply has continued to thrive, living by its mission "to increase customer engagement through increased employee engagement." The little details have made all the difference. The yearbooks, as well as management's commitment to strengthening inter/outer-office relationships, have proved to be powerful employee engagement activities that keep employees committed to the organization and to each other.

2. Zappos: "The offer"

Zappos online shoe store regularly shows up on Best Places to Work lists. The secret to its hyper engaged workforce? A commitment to company culture. Receiving over 55 000 employment applications a year, Zappos is scrupulous about hiring the right people and more importantly, keeping them.

Candidates who pass the lengthy interview process that includes numerous phone and in-person interviews are asked to attend lunch and happy hour events to see if they're a good fit with the Zappos "family" and culture.

After four weeks of onboarding training, new hires are made an uncommon offer: a $3000 payout to leave. According to Zappos, 2-3 percent of trainees have taken the offer since the initiative was rolled out.

Why it works: Engagement and culture are synonymous at Zappos. The company is clear about what their culture is and what they need to do to maintain it. They've defined their core company values and focus on retaining the people who share and uphold those values. It may take long for Zappos to hire a new employee, but they're quick to let go people who don't fit the profile.

3. Reebok: "CrossFit Box"

Reebok was looking to reinforce its new mission "to get consumers moving." They figured the best way to do that was to first get their employees in motion. In an effort to align their people with their vision, the athletic apparel brand converted one of their warehouses into a CrossFit workout center, exclusively for Reebok employees.

Participants collectively lost over 4000 pounds during 2011. Globally, 1000 Reebok employees are now CrossFitters.

Why it works: This initiative helped build engagement on many levels. Reebok didn't just sell a lifestyle, it lived it. To deliver the full customer experience, they promoted a culture of health and wellness within their organization, making employees stakeholders in the company's vision and mission.

4. FullContact: "Paid, paid vacation"

FullContact, a contact management API development firm, offers a creative environment with tons of exciting benefits and programs. The one that stood out most for us is the "paid paid vacation" incentive: once a year, each employee is given $7500 to go on vacation.

The catch? Yes there are some rules, but we think most people would be happy to oblige:

1) You actually have to take a vacation to get the money.

2) You have to disconnect from work - meaning no calls, emails, social media updates.

3) You can't work while on vacation.

Why it works: The company's CEO, Bart Lorang, emphasizes that time to disconnect is absolutely necessary to the health of employees and the company. Here's a snippet from his blog post talking about why the company offers "paid paid vacations":

"If people know they will be disconnecting and going off the grid for an extended period of time, they might actually keep that in mind as they help build the company. For example:

  • They might empower direct reports to make more decisions.
  • They might be less likely to create a special script that isn't checked into GitHub and only lives on their machine.
  • They might document their code a bit better.
  • They might contribute to the Company Wiki and share knowledge."

Employee engagement activities that get employees to say "I do"

Employee engagement is a strategic tool that can add real value to top-line growth and bottom-line performance. But when your attempts to engage employees are haphazard, and devoid of real meaning or value, they negate good intentions.

From the examples we've read here today, it's clear that if your organization wants to promote an engaged, productive workforce it has to first determine key aspects of itself:

  • Does your company have a clear mission, vision and values?
  • Does your organization live by these values?
  • Are these values being actively promoted in your organization?
  • Does your company align its vision, people and processes?
  • How does your company measure and sustain the culture to support organizational performance?

Employee engagement has to be approached as a process. A process that begins with identifying the right performance metrics, clearly communicating expectations, giving context and purpose for these expectations, providing the tools and training to achieve objectives, and finally, development opportunities for every employee, manager, and leader, that will help them achieve their goals and strive for mastery.

Learn more about how to engage your employees: read Who's on first? Apply the five Ws to employee engagement.

Your Turn: What creative things have you tried to drive up employee engagement?

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