Last fall I had the opportunity to go behind the scenes at Hancock Lumber and share some of our “secrets” at the LBM Strategies Conference. As I took the stage to discuss “The Law Of Attraction: How To Make Your Company a ‘Best Place To Work’,” I was so energized that the industry wanted us to share ideas on a topic so ingrained in Hancock Lumber’s culture.
In order for an organization to be a best place to work, it must decide to set employee engagement as a top priority— and stick to it. Employee engagement is a journey, one that takes time, focus, and nurturing. It is intertwined with a company’s culture. Culture exists whether you are working on it or not, so put your energy into creating an environment that reflects who you are. Culture is more than a mission and values statement, just like a brand is more than a logo and marketing is more than just advertising. It’s the sum of every part of your company, good and bad. At Hancock Lumber, we believe that culture makes the difference.
How do you leverage employee engagement and culture as competitive advantages? What are the ingredients to building a culture around employee engagement? What defines culture and where do you even start? Here are a few key ideas to consider:
- Culture = brand. Your brand is the heart and soul of an organization, delivered most powerfully through employees and customer experiences.
- Employees = brand ambassadors. Your employees—the people servicing the customer—are your company’s most valuable assets. Your culture is defined by what employees do individually and collectively.
- Create a culture around employee engagement and a system to measure it. Stick to it.
- Attract the kind of people you want on your team, ones who fit your mission and values.
- Market to your own people. Internal marketing is one of the most powerful tools an organization can leverage.
- An organization’s engagement does not change overnight, nor does your culture. This is a long-term journey.
When you believe that your culture is your brand, you realize the importance of employee engagement and internal marketing. Every person, sign, ad, vehicle, customer, interaction, building—EVERYTHING you do and have—adds up to be your brand experience, your culture. It is the sum of all all things related to your organization; it is everything.
Every person on your team represents the brand. Does every employee know your mission and values? Are all your people a great cultural fit with your organization? Think about the power of all of your employees collectively representing your brand every day, with each transaction and customer interaction. Your story gets told through your people, so make sure you have good ones that help reinforce your brand statement.
We all know that what you measure gets managed. Once employee engagement is defined as a top priority, create a system to measure and track your progress. Hancock Lumber uses a third-party tool to survey all 480 employees annually to get data and feedback on key categories related to employee engagement. The number one reason we take the survey is to get honest employee feedback. Along with the survey, we created a system to get additional feedback throughout the year on important topics that surface in the survey scores. We are disciplined, consistent and structured about asking questions, listening, and repeating the process. When it comes to employee engagement, continuous improvement is the key; perfection is the enemy.
Make sure your organization markets internally to your employees…your brand ambassadors. Marketing is more than just speaking to customers and the external world. Communicate to your employees and make sure everyone is speaking the same language. Are your messages clear? Is your mission clear? I like to say, “Say it, say it again, and say it another way. Then, repeat!” Don’t assume your employees know; communicate consistently and effectively through a variety of channels.
If people are the number one organizational asset, how involved are your employees in hiring? Who at your organization is responsible for hiring? The answer at Hancock Lumber is, we all are. HR, management, marketing, the COO, co-workers, our President… EVERYONE! Hiring should not live on a Human Resources island; there is nothing more important than the people you hire. People want to work with quality employees who make great teammates, so encourage your employees to be a part of the hiring process— and, reward them for referrals! When you attract the kind of people who represent your brand and speak the same language, exciting things happen…momentum builds and potential employees seek you out and come knocking at your door.
Spend your energy on people, creating a culture where employees are respected, trusted, listened to, work hard, and share values. There is no silver bullet for culture, but it exists whether you want it to or not. So, set being a best place to work as a priority and stay focused and disciplined on your goal. This is a journey, a long-term commitment with a lot of moving parts. But, it all starts with fostering a culture of employee engagement and empowering your people. When people are happy and engaged, momentum builds and powerful things happen. Culture makes the difference. How focused are you on yours?
Erin Plummer is Vice President of Marketing and Communications Director at Hancock Lumber Company which was named a Best Place to Work in Maine in 2017 for the fourth consecutive year. Hancock Lumber is serious about continuous improvement and dedicated to its culture, creating an environment where employees respect and listen to each other. To learn more, contact Erin at firstname.lastname@example.org