RESEARCH AND STRATEGY
The new rules of engagement involve stepping back to take in the
broader landscape, but also getting more personal, discovering
more (and more genuine) insights from each employee.
“For us, it’s about fully understanding the employee’s experience
through their journey,” said Fitzgerald. That involves collecting
data but also asking questions in a way that elicits honest answers.
“I think a lot of organizations simply guess as to how things
are going, or they use surveys,” said Fitzgerald. “Surveys are use-ful
but can be kind of a weak proxy.” Habanero incudes workshops
and interviews in their research to better understand employees’
lived experiences, identify gaps that might lead to disengagement
and design next steps to address the challenges. “So our strategy
around employee engagement is more of a strategy around trying
to create the best employee experience we can.”
WHAT MAKES PEOPLE LOVE THEIR JOBS?
ALIGNED WITH STRENGTHS AND INTERESTS
With a talent shortfall in many fields, the onus is on employers to
create a workplace where people want to stay.
That begins, of course, with smart hiring: putting the right peo-ple
in the right role. For example, Great Wolf Lodge in Niagara
Falls, Ont. is a themed resort that appeals to families, so they hire
accordingly. Phone screens for job candidates include the atypical
interview question, “What’s your favourite kids’ movie?”
“If they don’t have one, they shouldn’t be working at Great Wolf
Lodge,” said Anne Marie Malleau, director of human resources.
“Our employees’ focus needs to be 100 per cent on our guests, so
they have to be able to talk to kids and say ‘Have a Great Wolf day’
and really believe in our motto of creating family traditions one
family at a time.”
Other organizations have a bit more fluidity to evolve and adapt.
“At Habanero, we’re a strengths-based organization; we’re not
beholden to defining people’s jobs by strict role descriptions,” said
Fitzgerald. “We want people to continually define what they do
based on their passions and interests, and also looking at where
our needs are.” As those things change over time, so do employ-ees’
FINDING MEANING IN WORK
Whether they’re working entry-level jobs or managing senior
teams, employees want to feel a sense of purpose in what they do.
At GoodLife Fitness, for example, seeing members make prog-ress
with their fitness goals is rewarding for employees and fosters
a feeling of accomplishment. The company attracts and hires
employees who are committed to fitness, so they’re naturally
invested in helping members reach health-related goals.
“If they see someone coming into the club who is slouched over
and has no energy and then after two weeks that same person
has a sparkle in their eye and a spring in their step, that engages
our team,” said Alana Free, vice president, People and Culture at
GoodLife Fitness. That applies to everyone in the company, she
points out, not just employees who directly coach the members.
At Habanero, employees understand the company’s goals as
well as the value of their own work within the bigger picture.
“It’s really clear to our employees the dent we’re trying to make
in the world,” said Fitzgerald. “Being clear about our purpose and
spending a lot of time talking about it is really helpful for people’s
appreciation of their jobs.”
Creating a sense of meaning beyond the organization contrib-utes
to job satisfaction, as well. At Great Wolf Lodge, for example,
the team chooses a cause to support over the course of the year.
“It might be a local cancer centre or a charity like Bikes for
Tykes. It’s always a family focus since we’re a family driven organi-zation,”
said Malleau. “Our employees love that. It helps them feel
more connected to each other, to the company and also to their
Some businesses are seeing the benefit of helping employees
identify their individual passions and drivers.
“We’re starting to work a lot more on personal purpose, about
bringing your whole self to work rather than just coming as an
employee from 9 to 5,” said Fitzgerald. “What we’re trying to do
is help people gain more insight into what really motivates them,
what they’re really great at and how they should be engineering
their career to optimize those things. When people spend time
doing things they care about and are great at, they’re living their
purpose and that’s incredibly fulfilling and engaging.”
EMPOWERMENT AND OWNERSHIP
Having a stake in a business can translate to a more meaningful
employee experience, too. At Great Wolf Lodge, employees are
invited to contribute ideas for uniform redesign every few years.
“That kind of engagement is important because it gives them
a sense of ownership of the business and a sense of belonging,”
The company also extends an invitation to all employees to join
management on a weekly walk around the property. Each worker
is asked to see the lodge through the eyes of a visitor and point out
any opportunities for improvement.
“The tours help employees make really tangible contributions
that are above and beyond their official job descriptions, it helps us
maintain the quality of the lodge and it also identifies for us who’s
interested in growth, so we can be sure to help those people get
where they want to be,” said Malleau.
For those who do contribute that little bit extra, recognition of
effort can go a long way. In fact, a 2017 survey by AON found
rewards and recognition ranked as the single strongest opportu-nity
for improved engagement.
“We as human beings always value and need recognition, from
an early age when we craved it from our parents, teachers and
friends,” said Tolovi Neto. “Our whole lives are really modeled
“NOW, WE THINK ABOUT ENGAGING
THE WHOLE PERSON AND HELPING
THEM LIVE GREAT LIVES, NOT
JUST GREAT WORK LIVES.”
– STEVEN FITZGERALD
18 ❚ MARCH 2018 ❚ HR PROFESSIONAL