Here at Access we're big fans of the continued development of our employees, so we send them out and about to learn new things and mingle within their various industries. HR Director Gina Yoder attended the 2010 Society for Human Resource Managers (SHRM) Annual Conference & Expo in San Diego and returned with these thoughts on employee engagement, and how we roll here at Access.
I recently returned from SHRM 2010, buzzing with energy and pride in the fabulous company for which I lead Human Resources.
More than 150 sessions were offered to over 11,000 human resources professionals who attended from around the globe. From keynote addresses by Al Gore, Steve Forbes, Angela Herrin and Marcus Buckingham, to other top-notch sessions led by HR favorites including Keith Ferrazzi and Kimberly Alyn, the ongoing theme during this year’s Conference centered on employee engagement. The main message was, “You can’t be a great company without employee engagement,” with the second message being “You can’t be good to your customers and business partners without being a great company.”
I certainly think Access Development is a great company, but would any of these esteemed speakers?
Dr. Shirley A. Davis, in her smart presentation “21st Century Leadership for a 21st Century Workforce” summed it up for me. Dr. Davis suggested that employees not engaged at work can be attributed to poor leadership, and that bad leadership results in low trust, which leads to perceived unfairness, which costs U.S. companies an estimated $64 Billion in lost productivity annually.
Dr. Davis’ advice to companies is “Make sure your employees feel included.” Here are some of Dr. Davis’ best practices to accomplish employee engagement:
Provide vision and meaning;
- Align and support strategic goals;
- Make the effort to learn about others;
- Understand what motivates your people;
- Incorporate inclusion in all business practices.
While most of the 4,000+ HR professionals in the room were furiously scribbling notes throughout this presentation, I began to relax. I sat back and smiled to myself, confident that Access Development already, consistently, actively strives for high employee engagement by employing these very techniques.
Access Development’s corporate vision is: “To be the nation’s leading merchant content provider.” That might sound simplistic to those who don’t work at Access, but ask any employee at our company, and he or she likely will tell you our corporate Vision verbatim, and then will explain to you what that means to his or her department, customers and individual job.
Our corporate vision (together with our mission and current WIGs – “Wildly Important Goals”) is reviewed annually at the all-employee Company Kickoff Meeting in February of each year. The Vision/Mission/WIGs Statement is then stylized with the annual theme (this year it’s “Go for Gold” in honor of the recent Olympic games), and distributed to every employee in the company.
Walk through our offices, and you’ll see the corporate Vision/Mission/WIG Statement posted on the walls of many workspaces. Every employee knows and is working toward the same corporate mission, vision and goals, and progress is reviewed often. Every week, each department in the company shares progress toward their departmental WIGs, projects and other items of import and interest on the weekly “Communication Notes” page of the corporate Wiki. Every month, every department submits a formal progress report on departmental WIGs, which are posted on a Dashboard on the corporate Wiki. About every other month, at the Company Birthday Party (another all-employee get-together), various departments will give WIG updates. At the next Company Kickoff Meeting, each department presents to all employees how and why they reached (or failed to reach) their departmental WIGs. These are some ways that Access Development checks off the first two of Dr. Davis’ best practices for achieving consistent employee engagement.
Dr. Davis’ third and fourth best practices are achieved at Access Development through outstanding and ongoing leadership development. Access leaders not only strive for personal growth on their own initiative through internal Leadership Certification programs, they are also offered group leadership training opportunities at least monthly; nearly every one of us takes advantage of every offering. Travis Isaacson, our Director of Organizational Development (yes, Access has a dedicated OD department) is an enthusiastic and dedicated expert in his field, with a passion for developing strong leaders. Travis meets with every leader one-on-one at least once every month, and coaches anybody in the company with the desire to better him or herself. One of every manager’s responsibilities is to help each of his or her team members to set an Independent Development Plan, which includes professional as well as personal goals. The IDP is an excellent tool for managers to get to know (and build upon) the strengths and interests of each member of his or her team.
The last of Dr. Davis’ best practices, “inclusion in all business practices” comes down to communication, transparency, contribution and voice. I believe that each of the employee engagement techniques discussed above contributes to our employees being well informed and valued as individuals and team members.
Because Access Development employs people across four generations, many different methods of communication are used in our ongoing attempt to meet their needs and keep all employees informed in the manner in which they are most comfortable. Each employee has many opportunities to contribute ideas and recommendations, and to be heard within their teams as well as company-wide. Managers and peers have several methods for recognizing any employee’s above-and-beyond efforts, including “Gold Medal Performance” awards, kudos in Communication Notes, and mentions on the Wiki blog, among them. In addition, any employee may be invited or request to be a member of an APE (“Access Process Excellence,” which is Lean Six Sigma) team and to directly contribute to process improvements.
On the airplane ride home from this year’s SHRM Annual Conference and Expo, I asked myself, “What is the common factor linking Access’ successful employee engagement efforts?” It took a nanosecond to recognize that it’s Access’ executive team that makes it all happen. These seven dedicated leaders have steered our company’s focus, day after day, month after month, for the past 26 years and counting! Larry, our CEO; Casey, our President; Jim, our COO; Clint, our CIO/CTO; Sherry our Partner; Mark our CFO; and Chan our VP trust each other and all Access leaders and employees to work together for each others’ and Access Development’s continued success.
Is Access Development perfect? Of course not – no company can be. But the fact that all leaders at our company strive for employee inclusion, engagement, and common goals makes me confident and proud that ours is a great place to work. And I think that Dr. Shirley A. Davis and all of the speakers at the SHRM Annual Conference would agree.
Gina Yoder has been the HR Manager at Access Development since early 2008. She has over 15 years experience in employment law and human resource, previously at an international high technology company, a regional law firm, and running an HR consulting firm. Gina is a longtime member of SHRM National and Salt Lake SHRM, and earned her HR certification at the University of Utah. Follow her on Twitter at @GinaYoder