Employee Engagement: How 3 Top Companies Increased It

high-fiveHow are companies today keeping their employees engaged?

Read this article to learn how today’s top companies like Southwest Airlines and Google are keeping their employees engaged. Discover how using the right engagement practices can create a more motivated and high-performing organization.

How Zappos Created an Engaged and Productive Organization

Zappos, an online retailer known for their standout customer service and selection of shoes, would not offer great customer service if not for their engaged employees.

The company’s goal evolved from providing the best selection of shoes online, to providing the best possible customer service (internally called their “WOW philosophy”).

Zappos’ great customer service starts with their employees and a culture of trust. When hiring, Zappos pays attention to specific criteria: the employee’s alignment with Zappos’ 10 Core Values and their fit for the culture.

“Our number one priority is company culture. Our whole belief is that if you get the culture right, most of the other stuff like delivering great customer service or building a long-term enduring brand will just happen naturally on its own.” — Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Zappos wants their office to be a place where employees can feel comfortable and be themselves. The company then works to further engage their employees by making relationships a top priority. This helps employees build connections, establish personal and professional relationships. Not only is this great for employees themselves, but it promotes a culture of trust. Zappos believes that building strong relationships make “communication easier, and increases collaboration and productivity.” 

To engage and encourage strong relationships at Zappos, the company has created 6 ways to build relationships and engage employees. Below are just a few of the programs that Zappos uses to engage their employees and increase productivity…

  • Zappos Zollars: The currency of Zappos employees is awarded to those who are recognized when a co-worker or manager feels that they’ve gone above and beyond. Zollars can be spent on Zappos branded goodies, can be donated to a charitable foundation, or be entered in a raffle for bigger prizes.
  • Shadow Sessions: Zappos employees are allowed to “shadow” other employees in different departments for a few hours. This helps employees to understand the ins and outs of other departments and the company while also building relationships across the company.
  • Z’apprentice Program: Zappos encourages growth and learning through their apprenticeship program. This lets employees check out a new career path to see if they’re a good fit for the role. Employees can apply to become a z’apprentice in any area, including one which they may not have any prior knowledge/skill. When an employee is selected, they have a 90-day tenure in the role. After the 90 days, a mutual decision is made to see if the person is right for the position or not. If not, they are able to return to their previous role at Zappos.

Take some of these ideas and run with them in your organization to create a more engaged and productive workforce. Strive to create and build relationships in your organization to create a culture of trust.

Google is another organization that has created a foundation of trust in their engagement culture. Take a look at how they managed to do it…

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How Google Created a Culture of Engagement

Try to picture Google’s offices in your mind. More than likely, you’re picturing their gourmet cafeterias, slides instead of stairs, and nap pods.

These perks may seem unnecessary for the office, but Google knows – and has known – what it is doing to create a culture of engagement.

Before you go ahead and add coffee bars and beach balls to your organization to engage your employees, think twice. Google didn’t add plentiful perks just because they would make work more fun. Google first spent time establishing a “people analytics team” to find out what makes their employees happy now vs. tomorrow.

Prasad Setty, VP of People Analytics and Compensation at Google, manages a team that quantifies the effects of all Google’s perks and benefits. Google relies on these metrics to see what their employees want, need, and how they benefit their work. From there, Google creates programs that align with the needs of their employees to help them thrive.

But there’s more to Google’s engagement culture than their perks. The Internet giant knows that people truly thrive in their jobs – and remain loyal to them – when they feel fully supported and authentically valued. Google invests in their employees because they know that when their employees love their job, that’s when Google will be successful.

“One of the tenets we strongly believe in is if you give people freedom, they will amaze you.” — Setty told FastCompany

So Google balances out its plentiful perks with a culture of transparency, trust, and inclusion. They do this in the following ways…

  • Transparency: Sharing is big at Google. Google founders host a weekly meeting to review news and product launches. A few weeks into every quarter, the Executive Chairman presents to Googlers most of the exact materials presented to their Board of Directors at their last meeting.
    • “We share everything, and trust Googlers to keep the information confidential,”  Laszlo Bock. Google’s SVP of People Operations, writes in his article.

  • Trust: Google solicits feedback and uses it on everything – from how employees prefer to be compensated to the design of their new company bicycles.
  • Inclusion: At the end of every year, Google conducts formal employee surveys. The employees also get to see everyone else’s feedback, though privacy is protected. Every Friday, company leaders conduct employee forums to respond to their top 20 most-asked questions.

Take the foundation of Google’s culture of engagement and see if it works for your organization. Be open with your employees and instill a sense of trust with them.

Like Google, Southwest Airlines keeps things fun and engaging.

How Southwest Airlines Leverages Employee Engagement to Remain Fun and Profitable

Southwest Airlines is known for their happy employees and has been profitable for 40 straight years. Obviously, Southwest must be doing something right. So how do they do it?

Gary Kelly, CEO of Southwest Airlines since 2004, say that it’s all about love:

“Love is part of the fabric at Southwest Airlines. Love Field is our headquarters in Dallas. LUV is our three-letter symbol on the New York Stock Exchange. It’s a word that we’re not embarrassed to use about how we feel about the company, our employees and our customers,” Kelly told the Denver Post in an interview.

It’s a cycle, really: The major airline takes care of its employees who then take care of their customers. Their customers then take care of the company by using their services.

Southwest Airlines show their employees love with…

  • Employee Recognition Programs to recognize their hard-working employees and those who go above and beyond their normal job duties.
  • Biennial employee surveys to gather candid feedback.
  • Celebrating their anniversaries and employees. For their 40th anniversary in 2011, Southwest celebrated the hard work of their employees. They had a special banquet, printed an anniversary edition of LUVLines (Southwest Airlines’ Employee Magazine), and special 40th anniversary merchandise. Talk about a party!

These programs have helped Southwest thrive. The airline is the only major airline who has never filed for bankruptcy and has never laid off, furloughed, or given pay cuts to employees. According to a study done by the Department of Transportation, Southwest had the fewest amount of complaints, 0.14 per 100,000 passengers, in 2012.

By keeping their company culture fun and engaging, Southwest Airlines stays profitable and on top of its game against other major airlines.

Increase Engagement In Your Organization

If you have the right engagement practices in your organization, you can improve your success. It all starts with your employees. Engage and help your employees thrive first and watch how it translates into customer service and your profits.

Take the proven engagement tactics and programs from Google, Zappos, or Southwest Airlines and tailor them to fit your organization.

Understand how you can increase employee engagement with these 5 simple tips.

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Leila Durmaz

Hello, I'm your author, Leila Durmaz. I spend a lot of my time researching the best practices for Employee Suggestion Programs, and writing articles to share them. I hope you find them helpful! I work at Accompa - one of our products is IdeaGlow Employee Suggestion Program Software.

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