Despite the copious amount of ink spilled about the allure of staff perks (especially in the tech sector) the way to boost employee engagement isn’t with a basket of puppies and a weekly keg party. As Christopher W. Cabrera, founder, president & CEO of Xactly Corporation points out, “There’s always going to be a company who can one-up you with free helicopter rides to work or five star chefs on staff.
“Instead,” Cabrera tells Mid-Market Pulse, “it means fostering an engaged, motivated workforce.” In the mid-market sector this is mission critical.
With between 100 and 1000 employees, the U.S. middle market encompasses some 200,000 businesses that expect to continue to hire this year. According to the National Center for the Middle Market, in the second quarter more than 40 percent of mid-sized companies report increased employment compared to one year ago. Hiring and hoping staff will snuggle in to their new workplace isn’t enough. They need to be engaged in order to keep the company growing. Indeed the Gallup Organization found that disgruntled employees disengage and cost the American economy up to $350 billion a year in lost productivity.
How to make this happen? We took a look at the companies who placed on the list and teased out their best strategies for boosting employee engagement.
Put Values First
At Xactly which was listed at number 25 of the Great Places to Work rankings, Cabrera believes the answer should be baked into the culture. “Create a set of strong values that each employee not only knows, but lives each day,” he says, “If your workforce believes in what the company is doing, people aren’t going to want to leave.”
Employees at Advantage Answering Plus (#12), for example, get daily updates on how everyone is measuring up to the company’s core values, which include: Spread Goodwill, Bring Your Best, and Embrace Teamwork.
At Austin-based Cirrus-Logic (#9), new staff get schooled on values in a creative way. Its “School of Cirrus Logic Rocks!” pairs employees with professional musicians to create and perform stories that blend personal experiences with the company’s core values.
Create Feedback Loops
Instead of waiting for the dreaded annual review, mid-market companies topping the charts of Great Places to Work encourage feedback all year long. Denver accounting firm EKS&H (#14) makes sure that each employee has the chance to get feedback at the end of a project or at least quarterly. They are also encouraged to offer “upward feedback” to their direct supervisor.
Staff at Lincoln Industries (#22), manufacturers of the shiny chrome on Harleys and John Deere machinery, polish their feedback skills with monthly roundtable discussions with managers as well as role-reversal sessions where reports critique their supervisors.
Recognize that Good Ideas Come from Anywhere
One of the advantages of a staff that spans several generations is that there is a lot to learn and share. Recognizing that a great idea can just as easily come from an admin as from a member of the top brass goes a long way to bolstering morale.
At Engeo (#6), an annual “idea think session” is held to discuss ways of improving operations. The buck doesn’t stop there. The company commits about 90% of the ideas generated into action.
At financial planning firm Sage Rutty & Co. (#11) four teams of employees are tasked with improving shared goals around health, education, community involvement, and professional development — one of which dispatched a bike team for the Tour de Cure to benefit diabetes research.