How Companies Like lululemon Engage Employees to Fuel Incredible Growth
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Employee engagement drives growth, but only when your workers can see how they personally make a difference.
Google will give you more than 224 million results for “employee engagement.” A recent Gallup study found that only 34% of U.S. workers are fully engaged with their work and employers, and that was actually higher than in previous years. What’s worse for companies with low engagement is that the few companies who do have higher employee engagement see a huge advantage in their bottom lines.
“Organizations and teams with higher employee engagement and lower active disengagement perform at higher levels,” says Jim Harter, Gallup’s chief scientist for workplace management and well-being. “For example, organizations that are the best in engaging their employees achieve earnings-per-share growth that is more than four times that of their competitors. Compared with business units in the bottom quartile, those in the top quartile of engagement realize substantially better customer engagement, higher productivity, better retention, fewer accidents, and 21% higher profitability. Engaged workers also report better health outcomes.”
If that’s the advantage companies get from higher employee engagement, how can any business expect to grow if only the average one-third of its employees are engaged?
Moving engagement past a buzzword
The problem with popular problems like employee engagement is that they end up being relegated to “What are we going to do about this?” status. Practically every organization has some level of employee disengagement. Those who don’t are outliers.
If you study what those outliers have done, you discover they didn’t just treat the symptom, they brought a holistic approach to treat the problem.
One of my favorite examples is lululemon. If you don’t know much about this company, you might think they are an athletic apparel retailer. But if you are more familiar with the organization, you know that yoga is at the core of everything they do. Yoga isn’t just a physical act, it’s a mental and spiritual practice at the heart of how lululemon’s culture.
If you’re an employee, it’s likely because you deeply believe in the lululemon manifesto, which isn’t a job description but rather an approach to doing your job at the company — no matter whether you’re in the C-Suite or a sales clerk.
The reason why lululemon has such a massively successful level of employee engagement is that its management understands a key concept that will work for any organization: When you communicate the priority of personal development and elevation over corporate wellbeing, you create the foundation for professional development and elevation.
It’s a simple equation. There’s no resistance to engagement when someone realizes that their personal beliefs are in alignment with those of the company they work for. And in the case of lululemon, those shared beliefs are common sense: “Before speaking, ask yourself: Is it kind. Is it necessary? Is it true?”
Envisioning the change
A philosophy like lululemon’s is not the only way to encourage employee engagement, but sharing your vision and customer goals and how each member of the team personally impacts those outcomes is essential to employee engagement. Transparency and sharing cause and effect allows employees to understand how their actions — or inaction — determines the overall performance of the organization.
We especially see this in Millennial workers. Many say a sense of purpose is why they choose to work for a company. “Your work matters” isn’t enough. Employees want to see the math behind it and the personal effect it has on the people your company helps. Organizations that are willing to quantify and publicize how employee effort contributes to profit and customer satisfaction see their people take ownership of the process. How can you move your team from the role of bystanders to active participants?
Like attracts like
You can create your company, but you alone cannot define its culture. You can only direct its course. It starts by attracting A-players who share your philosophy. They’ll solidify the culture you hope to build and attract peers who deepen the level of participation.
To further develop the culture you want the company to have, challenge your people with projects and assignments that leverage their strengths. Remember that engagement is measured by reciprocity. Ask them to help you choose the rewards for demonstrated achievement. You might be surprised to discover that it’s not always money.
One of the most important contributions to overall growth is ensuring that you remove the obstacles for your most engaged employees. In many cases, these obstacles are disengaged, low-performing C players. Your A-players are the shortest route to higher profitability and growth. They know it, and they expect you to help them help you.
Don’t underestimate the power of casual communication. You might have remote or virtual employees, but there are still ways to facilitate those “water cooler” chats. Consider it an investment in building relationships between you and between coworkers.
“I just work here” is an attitude that contributes nothing towards the specific goals of your company. But perhaps “I just work here” is the only thing an employee can state as a definite fact. That might be an extreme example, but it illustrates a point. You can’t expect an employee to lean in if they’re unable to see a return on the investment.
Watch this video to put even more numbers behind the benefits behind employee engagement, and set up your free coaching session to identify how you can build the kind of culture and team that will let your company reach 10X growth.