Superior employee engagement is intentional, not accidental.
Few companies apply the time and attention required to create an environment in which the employee experience is consistent throughout the organization. Yet superior employee experience is what drives innovation and productivity, ultimately resulting in a better customer experience.
Coca-Cola has mastered it.
I recently spent two days at Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, where I spoke at an event. What impressed me most was the consistency of the engagement and attentiveness of the employees.
I interacted with employees from many departments and levels, including teams of security personnel, food service staff, the IT expert who immediately connected my balky presentation, help desk ambassadors, executives I met and those I learned about, gift shop staff, a kind shuttle bus driver who recommended I get off at a safer stop, and the facilities worker on her way home who guided me to the train to the airport.
Every one of them exuded an authentic feeling of warmth, pride and commitment to their respective roles in the company. None of that happens by accident.
How, then, does a company achieve superior employee engagement?
They communicate authentically, frequently and with purpose. Coca-Cola has 130,000 employees in 200 countries, and they communicate via a world-class news and information internal portal that is sensitive to the various languages and cultures of their diverse workforce. It is no easy task to make a behemoth organization seem warm, inclusive and fun, yet they continually try to improve and engage across all their brands.
Executives are involved and visible, clearly taking a top-down philosophy to culture. Senior executives engage with employees at internal events, solicit feedback and lead by example—and that is just what I gleaned from my limited observations. Several videos of executives demonstrated their love of the brand, product and relationship with customers.
The leadership demonstrates by example their value of client relationships and service. More than once I heard or saw video of senior leaders explaining that they take their client/partner relationships seriously and work to maintain them at the highest level. Also noteworthy: Even a giant like Coca-Cola values providing outstanding service to its equally large clients and partners.
They create an environment that is a catalyst for ideas and inspiration. They provide everything employees could need on campus, including a credit union, physician, dry cleaner, gym facilities, multiple cafeterias, stores and probably more I did not see. There are alcoves for brainstorming scattered around the campus, as well as inspirational quotes and historical branding accent the facilities.
The facilities team went far beyond the paint-and-carpet refreshing that most companies complete. They designed the space with great intention for the experience and the results it would generate.
It is important to remember that engaged employees are far more than happy or satisfied. They embrace the mission and message of their company and want to be a part of its success. They feel valued.
As a result, they innovate, participate, solve, improve and care—all of which drive a better customer experience, client retention, brand loyalty and image.
Creating a consistently positive employee experience is a challenge in any size company, but if a leading, diverse global company such as Coca-Cola can set the intention and take deliberate steps to succeed at an employee engagement level, we can learn from their example.