If you look after your staff, they’ll look after your customers. It’s that simple. —Richard Branson
The serial entrepreneur and the CEO of Virgin knows a thing or two about employee engagement. Richard Branson is an outspoken advocate for the happiness of his employees and is even on the record saying that his customers don’t come first, his employees do. (Shareholders come in at Number 3.) Some bold statements, but is he on to something?
Successful business owners know that their companies won’t work without the full-on buy-in of the people working for them.
As a result of Branson’s business strategy, Virgin’s staff turnover is low, employee satisfaction is high, and the brand is one that is globally known and trusted.
How To Achieve True Employee Engagement
Employee engagement – essentially the relationship built between an employee and their boss or place of work – is achieved in a variety of ways. Fostering an environment of trust, proper acknowledgement of good work, mutual respect, and adequate compensation and benefits all go a long way toward the satisfaction of workers. But behind these criteria should be a method. It will probably come as no surprise that, at ECHO, we think storytelling is one of the most effective ways of developing a positive, loyal, and lasting relationship with your staff.
Rather than simply informing employees of the work or project at hand and expecting stellar results, successful bosses find ways to motivate their staff to understand why they’re working toward a desired outcome. Roy Spence suggests in his book It’s Not What You Sell, It’s What You Stand For, that companies whose employees are motivated by stock prices foster an atmosphere of peer competition that, while occasionally productive, most often leads to in-fighting, secrecy, and burn-out. However, if employees are working with a clear purpose in mind, as articulated by the company story, then employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity tend to be high.
At ECHO, we believe that storytelling is one of the most effective ways of developing a positive, loyal, and lasting relationship with your staff.
Openness and Vulnerability at 1-800-Got-Junk
Brian Scudamore of 1-800-GOT-JUNK is another proponent of employee engagement through storytelling. The high-school-dropout-turned-CEO has never been shy about his journey to success and includes in it his many mistakes and failings. One of his cornerstone philosophies is abbreviated as WTF – Willing To Fail. This story – one of openness and vulnerability – shows his extremely loyal staff that not only is innovation encouraged, but whether successful or not, it’s the path to learning and improvement.
By fostering this kind of lab for bluesky thinking, he’s managed to keep his company consistently at the top of “Best Places to Work” lists for years. Not to mention create a multi-million-dollar brand.
Burton Hears–And Values–Its Employees
Jumping over to the world of snowboarding, a typically male-oriented sport and business, there’s trailblazer Donna Carpenter, the Vermont-based CEO of the hugely popular gear brand Burton. The story she has carved out for her company is one of equality in the workplace, empowering women to be leaders (her senior team is fifty-fifty male and female), and ensuring a family-friendly atmosphere that, long-term, benefits all employees.
When the Women’s March on Washington was organized, she offered to subsidize her employees’ flights to DC plus hotel accommodation for two nights. By consistently putting her money where her mouth is, Carpenter shows her staff that they are part of a team that recognizes, encourages, and embodies gender parity in the Burton workplace and, ideally, in life. As such, those employees feel valued and heard.
If employees are working with a clear purpose in mind, as articulated by the company story, then employee retention, satisfaction, and productivity tend to be high.
Patagonia, BC Hydro, Mountain Equipment Co-op — all these companies lead their staff through storytelling. Whether the theme of the story is conservation, safety and security at work, or inspiring and living an active lifestyle, these businesses thrive because of the values they represent and instill in their employees. By engaging their staff in this way, they’re ensuring the possibility of strong recruits, long-term retention, and ultimately a team dedicated to working their hardest for the good of the company.
The team at ECHO certainly feels this way about our work. And we’d be happy to share our story and storytelling expertise with you. Drop us a line and we’ll chat.