Executives who attended last month’s meeting of The Engagement Institute in Texas heard firsthand about the importance of building a culture of engagement at Vizient, Toyota North America and Southwest Airlines. Here’s what we learned:
- Companies are working to better understand the needs of people at various points in the employee lifecycle. Organizations should take care not to focus so much on new employees that they forget to reskill—and reengage—everyone else.
- Impressive topline engagement scores can sometimes mask underlying problems and pockets where improvement is possible—and needed. By digging deeper, one organization with high overall engagement discovered it was consistently scoring much lower than the average in certain areas like employees’ understanding of career paths.
- Likewise, average engagement scores don’t tell the whole story about a workforce. One company found that its good average score actually reflected one group of very highly engaged employees and another that was worryingly disengaged. With this knowledge, it was able to target efforts toward understanding and reengaging the latter group.
Rita Bailey, former Chief People Officer at Southwest Airlines, provided a perfect capstone for our time in Texas by describing how the search for engaged employees that combine “a ‘Warrior Spirit’ with a servant heart and fun-loving attitude” served the company culture. For Southwest, the results have been clear—it’s the only airline to consistently deliver 45 years of profitability. After sharing stories that serve as touchpoints for Southwest’s history and mission, Rita challenged us to ask how we’re keeping the stories of our own organizational cultures alive.
Finally, I encourage you to take a look at Mercer’s Engaging Today’s Workforce: Insights from 25 Years of Research if you haven’t already. It’s a great overview of the seminal research in employee engagement and highlights some of the work we, together with Deloitte and the Research Fellows at The Engagement Institute, are doing.