5 Companies Getting Employee Engagement Right

by Steffen Maier

Improve company culture and have a team full of happy, productive and passionate people.

Some companies are revered for the way they keep employees engaged and passionate about their work. Here, we share with you five of the best organizations with the most engaged staff who go the extra mile, and share the strategies and practices that keep them at the top of the employee engagement game.

1. Full Contact.
Each year, this software firm offers their employees $7,500 to take a “paid paid” vacation. They literally pay them 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. They stand by the idea that employees who actually go on vacation without dealing with anything work related return in a better state to work, fully ready and committed to push towards the company aims. Employees also return with a different, 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 will feel less pressure to handle everything themselves and develop a heightened sense of trust for their coworkers.

If it’s not quite 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, where they can also leave their work responsibilities behind and really get away. People will appreciate their hard work being recognized and be thankful for the chance to disconnect from their responsibilities, even for a short time.

Related: How to Make Employee Engagement a Top Priority

2. Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines is a company revered for their employee engagement practices. With employee engagement levels having remained high over the years, they have a team full of committed, enthusiastic people who are passionate about the company’s vision and values and willing to help the company continue their success. They’ve set the bar high — from allowing existing employees from various departments to design their own uniform and giving them autonomy over aspects of their work life they’d never normally get a say in, to becoming a glowing example of customer service due to their collective of happy, committed employees.

The company allowed employees from any department to apply to collaborate on new uniform designs, with results really reflecting personality and company culture in a way that wouldn’t have been achieved had employees not been given a say. Employees were responsive to this, describing 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 really 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 shined that month.

This kind of recognition keeps employees aware that 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. It’s helps them 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. “They can buy all the physical things. The things you can’t buy are dedication, devotion, loyalty — the feeling that you are participating in a crusade,” — Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines Founder.

Related: Employee Engagement Is More Important Than the Customer

3. Legal Monkeys.
This legal record management company established a simpler, smaller way to show employees that their hard work is valued. Their Appreciation Board is a glass picture frame where employees can write a note and present the board to someone they want to show appreciation to. Whoever receives the board is free to keep it on display on their desk until they are ready to pass it on to someone else. Each achievement also being posted on the company Facebook page to increase visibility outside of the team.

Ideas like this are great. They’re not only simple to implement, and won’t disturb daily workflow, but they build a real-time feedback culture, encouraging people to give positive feedback and show appreciation for their peers and coworkers.

4. Screwfix.
One way this U.K.-based hardware company keeps their employee engagement levels up is by keeping an open, honest company culture. Every two weeks, employees are given the opportunity to provide feedback without rules or guidelines to their managers. They are encouraged to give feedback on everything — how things are going, how they think things are managed, how the company interacts with customers and ideas for improvement. Among other initiatives, one outcome of this is 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 not only means things don’t get overlooked as often, it keeps the conversation going and ensures a company culture where people really feel as if they make a difference; that they’re more than just 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.” — Andrew Livingstone, Chief Executive, Screwfix

Related: Is Better Employee Engagement the Solution to Hiring Woes?

5. Dreamworks.
Although employees at Dreamworks Animation are provided with perks such as free refreshments, paid opportunity to decorate workspaces and company parties after big projects are completed, a practice they really appreciate is that at such parties and events, they are encouraged to share their personal work and projects with their coworkers. 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. This keeps people feeling both in control and passionate about their work.

While it may not be feasible for your company to provide huge amounts of money for “paid paid” holidays or assign large percentages of time to personal projects, these organizations definitely show the value of integrating employee engagement into daily company culture. A lot can be learned from their practices, even in the form of small daily changes that show employees that they are contributing to the company. 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!

Steffen Maier is the co-founder of Impraise (www.impraise.com), a web-based and mobile solution for actionable, timely feedback at work. Today’s workplace still relies on outdated methods for providing feedback. Annual performance reviews are too inefficient and lacking to provide actionable feedback that helps employees improve continuously. Impraise turns performance reviews into an easy process by enabling users to give and receive valuable feedback in real-time and when it’s most helpful.

Reprinted with permission from Entrepreneur Magazien