Employee Engagement Activities Used By Nike, Virgin America, Hyatt & More

What do the world's best companies do to engage and retain their employees? That's exactly what we'll uncover, complete with examples and real employee reviews from Glassdoor.

Employee Engagement Activities

Why Employee Engagement Matters

Employee engagement is a measure of your team’s passion, commitment and involvement with their job and your overall business. While the focus is primarily on the employee, increasing their engagement doesn’t just benefit them alone.

“What you believe about employees comes out in how you treat them. And how you treat them ultimately determines how effectively you engage them.” -Scott Carbonara, “The Leadership Therapist”

For starters, companies with engaged employees outperform those without by up to 202%, according to Gallup.

And companies that increase their number of talented managers and double the rate of engaged employees enjoy 147% higher earnings per share than their competitors.

Those are staggering stats that show you can’t afford not to engage your employees.

Want more proof? Think about this: engaged employees are 59% less likely to look for a new job in the next 12 months, compared to disengaged ones. That keeps you from having to replace employees you’ve invested your time and resources in – because we all know how expensive that is.

While engaging your employees can seem a bit more qualitative than quantitative, that’s really not the case and shouldn’t be confused as being “a warm, fuzzy thing,” as Mike Rickheim, SVP of talent management at Newell Rubbermaid, explains:

“It’s about giving people the tools they need to succeed in their careers, which in turn drives the outcomes that we’re seeking in the marketplace. When you look at it through that lens, when people have the tools they need to succeed, feel good about their personal growth opportunities and receive the appropriate rewards and recognition for their contributions, it’s a win-win proposition.”

The more engaged an employee becomes, the more confidence, direction, productivity, loyalty and passion they will have for their work and your company.

Here are just a few other benefits you’ll experience when you engage your employees:

  • Increases employee retention rates
  • Helps you recruit the top talent
  • Encourages innovation and going above and beyond
  • Results in an increase in revenue per employee
  • Improves the customer experience with your employees and your brand

Also, engaged employees are more likely to leave you glowing, 5-star reviews on sites like Glassdoor.com, which helps with your recruitment efforts too.

Take Bain & Company for example. One of the world’s largest consulting firms, it was named as the No. 1 “Best Places to Work” by Glassdoor in 2017, 2014 and 2012. Plus, the CEO has a 99-percent approval ranking, which is nearly unheard of on the site:

Employee Engagement Activities Bain & Company

Here are some of Bain & Company’s latest reviews from their current employees:

Bain and Company Employee Reviews

Reviews like that are great (and free) marketing tools you can use when it comes to hiring and find new talent. Today, most potential employees will Google your company’s name before applying to an open position. And if they see great ratings on sites like Glassdoor, they’re much more likely to apply to want to come and work for you.

Employee Engagement Activities

You don’t have to be a Bain & Company to have highly engaged employees, but you can take some of their practices and tweak them to work for your company.

Here are some of most popular employee engagement ideas and activities to consider:

  • Be deliberate about creating a company culture and shared values which reflect the kind of company you want to build and the kind of people you want working for you
  • Send regular employee feedback surveys to ask for – and act on – what your employees are thinking and feeling
  • Offer career-advancing courses, training and mentors and help your employees understand what’s required to get a promotion into a more senior role over time
  • Involve your employees in company updates and ask for their feedback on important decisions like which new products to launch and how to improve your customer service

So, how do some of the world’s best companies engage their employees and create amazing work environments? I’m glad you asked! Here’s how 17 of the world’s best companies engage their employees:

Apple

This tech giant is known for products like the iPhone, iPad and Mac computer, which have helped make Apple the world’s most valuable technology company. Another impressive achievement for the company is their employee-retention rate, which has reached 81%.

The vast majority of their employees work in their retail stores, where they interact with customers constantly – making engagement that much more important.

Even with founder Steve Jobs gone, many of his staff engagement ideas and best practices remain in place at the company today, for example, they “clap out” other employees when their shift is over each day, building a sense of camaraderie and accomplishment.

Another one of their engagement strategies is making employees fans and ambassadors of the brand. They do that by giving nice employee discounts (15 to 25%), first dibs on company technology that’s going to be recycled, employee gifts (like iPhones) and handwritten notes from managers congratulating them on any success they experience in their job.

Apple was one of the first big names to really put employee engagement at the top of its agenda – whether it was with their Wall of Fame newsletters or internal giveaways – and then structured its business around that model.

Apple Employee Reviews

Facebook

This social media site knows a thing or two about building relationships and engaging people. It’s kind of what they do 🙂

Landing in the No. 2 spot for Glassdoor’s 2017 Best Places to Work, Facebook has all of the perks you’d expect from a Silicon Valley tech company, including free snacks, a bike shop, gym and even dentist and doctor’s offices!

And it works: 99% of their employees report a high job satisfaction, according to Payscale.

Facebook scored the highest of its peers – including Google, Apple, Amazon and Tesla – and its employees also had the lowest level of stress, coming in right around 44%.

For some positions, people go through a boot camp where they learn all about Facebook – from the technical aspects of the work to the company culture. During that time, they also learn more about which opportunities are available working with Facebook, helping to set them up for future success and promotions.

Facebook Employee Reviews

Virgin

The Virgin portfolio covers everything from flights to mobile devices, although their airline, Virgin America, is the main focus here. With an employee-first mindset, Virgin works to empower its team to take initiative – and that builds trust on both sides.

The company realized it needed a unique way to keep their employees engaged, especially since the majority of them weren’t sitting at a desk. So, they worked to create a mobile-first social intranet that gave employees access to company announcements and updates, right from their smart phone.

“Train people well enough so they can leave; treat them well enough so they don’t want to.” -Sir Richard Branson, Virgin founder

Virgin Employee Reviews

Nike

A leader in the athletic footwear, apparel and equipment markets, Nike is known for its “Just Do It” slogan. And that’s the approach they encourage their employees to take, as well.

They help employees get engaged with not only the company, but also with the community by offering excellent volunteering programs. When people give back, they feel better about what they’ve done and the company that helped get them involved in the first place.

Nike also wants their employees to feel connected to the company and brand, which is why they have a marketing staff member whose only job is to tell new employees the original story of how Phil Knight created the company, as told in his great biography, Shoe Dog.

Nike Employee Reviews

Google

The most popular search engine in the world, Google also has products like Chromecast, Google Maps, the Chrome web browser, the Pixel phone and its new voice-activated assistant Google Home.

Like Facebook, Google looks to the future with its services and employees – creating an engaging atmosphere that’s especially attractive to millennials. And get this – they even created an algorithm to spot disengaged employees.

Besides providing a fun work environment which includes free food and on-site laundry services (comically featured on the big screen in “The Internship”), Google uses core values of transparency, inclusion and trust to build engagement.

That includes collecting employee feedback on everything they do – and also sharing that feedback with other team members. It’s a simple practice, but it has a huge impact.

Google Employee Reviews

Zappos

An online shoe and clothing retailer, Zappos was acquired by Amazon.com back in 2009 for $847M.

Zappos created several ways to engage its employees, including Zappos Zollars. Employees can earn the company currency by going above and beyond in their work and the Zollars can be used for branded goodies, charitable donations or in raffles for bigger prizes.

Their employees can also participate in their Grant-a-Wish program, which allows them to suggest and grant wishes for their team members. It’s a great way for employees to express gratitude to other people in the company and give them a fun experience – whether that’s dance lessons, riding in a hot air balloon or taking a mini vacation.

The company’s emphasis on engagement starts from the moment someone is hired. After their initial training, they participate in a scavenger hunt that helps them get to know other employees.

For example, they may be tasked with finding someone wearing a Zappos hat and asking them about their job, so they can get to know them. Simple but mighty effective.

They take employee engagement pretty seriously over at Zappos – some might even say they take it to extreme levels. They actually offer to pay new hires $2,000 to LEAVE the company after about a month to see if they really care about working at the company or not.

Zappos Employee Reviews

Procter & Gamble

This company is responsible for brands like Bounty, Charmin, Crest, Febreze, Olay, Pampers, Tide and Vicks.

In tune with their brands, the company also focuses on helping employees take care of themselves by offering stress and time-management training.

They also offer career-growth courses covering things like effective leadership, effective communication and energy management.

People want to learn and feel like they are improving, and courses like these can help them achieve that goal while also making them feel more connected with the company.

Procter & Gamble Employee Reviews

LinkedIn

LinkedIn, acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26B, helps professionals connect and land new jobs.

One particularly interesting thing LinkedIn does to engage its employees is called “InDays,” where employees get one day a month to work on special projects.

LinkedIn comes up with different themes for the day, such as relationships, giving back, wellness or learning and as long as your special project is related to the theme, you can spend time working on it.

LinkedIn Employee Reviews

Pfizer

Pfizer is one of the world’s largest pharmaceutical corporations. And although it isn’t a tech giant like some of the others on our list, it taps into the power of online tools to engage its employees.

Pfizer created an online community for its employees called “Think Science Now.” It allows Pfizer employees to share ideas that could potentially prevent, treat and cure diseases.

The company also uses social media to share conversations with its employees about volunteer projects for corporate sponsorship. That helps connect all of their employees around good causes, which has been proven to increase engagement.

Pfizer Employee Reviews

Microsoft

Microsoft develops, sells and manufactures computer software, electronics and other services, including Windows, Office 365 and Xbox.

Combining sustainable practices and engagement, Microsoft created its Carbon Fee Program a few years back to hold its business units financially responsible for their carbon emissions.

Employees get involved at a team level to reduce their carbon emissions and the program also helps connect them to the company’s larger environmental goals.

Another program that’s worked for Microsoft is their ES Leads Program, where a mentor asks each employee for ideas on how they could create a better working environment. Knowing someone is asking for employee feedback has helped boost overall engagement at Microsoft.

Microsoft Employee Reviews

Johnson & Johnson

The company focuses on medical devices, consumer packaged goods and pharmaceutical products. Their consumer brands cover baby, beauty, health and healing products.

Like some of the other brands lists here, they also send out an employee engagement survey regularly. Their survey includes questions like:

  • Do you imagine yourself working at this job 12 months from now?
  • Do you feel proud to say you work at this company?
  • Would you refer a friend to work at this company?

A third-party company then uses the feedback to show the company how it compares to others in their industry. They can then come up with best practices to address the issues found in the feedback and improve their engagement and retention as a result.

For a twist on “Bring Your Child to Work Day,” Johnson & Johnson created a “Bring Your Mother to Work Day” and “Bring Your Teenager to Work Day”. The idea here was to help build relationships between employees, their family members and the company where they work.

Johnson & Johnson Employee Reviews

American Express

Also referred to as Amex, American Express is a finance company known for its credit and charge cards.

They send out annual employee surveys to see how engaged their employees are, by asking about things like leadership and performance. The information from the surveys is then shared with other employees throughout the company.

To keep everyone in the loop, American Express holds quarterly “Town Hall” meetings, which they broadcast live to all of their offices and employees around the world.

They also host luncheons with senior executives and employees which provide networking sessions to help keep everyone connected.

American Express Employee Reviews

Hyatt

This company owns hotels, resorts and vacation properties around the world. And in an industry plagued with high turnover, Hyatt has figured out how to keep and engage its employees – but it’s probably not in ways you’d think.

For Hyatt, it’s more about customer empathy and emotion than actual employee engagement. They say they take a less “scripted” approach (such as following a checklist of tasks to engage people) and focus on having the right people in the right place at the right time.

Building an emotional attachment to their work is key, and this actually leads to employees who are highly engaged. When you think about it, it makes sense – if their employees make customers happy that gives them a great feeling and leads to retention.

Hyatt Employee Reviews

3M

This global-innovation company includes brands like ACE, Scotch and Post-It and covers the automotive, commercial solutions, communications, consumer, design/construction/electronics, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, mining, safety and transportation industries.

They focus on these these key factors for engagement: networking, collaboration, diversity, inclusion and measuring engagement via feedback.

When surveyed, 89% of their employees said they feel like they really belong in the company, so their approach seem to be working.

One of the tools they use to keep employee engagement high is “The Learning Solution”. 3M provides an electronic learning center where employees can enroll, track and report on learning activities.

They also have a company education facility where employees can find courses, webinars and other specialized learning classes focused on leadership, marketing, management and supply-chain learning.

3M Employee Reviews

Southwest Airlines

With nearly 4,000 departures a day during peak travel season, Southwest Airlines offers flights across the United States and seven additional countries.

Ask any frequent flyer what their favorite part about the Southwest experience is (besides getting two free checked bags!) and you’ll probably hear something about their comical employees.

And if you haven’t, you should spend a few minutes watching this video which captures their hilarious crew members trying to make flying a little more fun:

The personalities of their employees (including their pilots – one of which came out to play a harmonica shortly before take off during one of my flights – true story!) are a huge selling point for the company.

“Our people are our single greatest strength and most enduring long-term competitive advantage.” -Gary Kelly, CEO, Southwest Airlines

They make their employees feel valued and engaged with recognition programs that shine the spotlight on their hard work and dedication. These programs include everyone from the pilots to the baggage handlers.

Southwest Employee Reviews

General Electric

Started more than a century ago, General Electric (GE) offers a huge array of products and services, including aircraft engines, oil and gas production equipment, power generation, industrial products and medical imaging.

GE says they invest more than $1 billion annually in employee development worldwide. And that includes providing learning and education on topics such as leadership, personal and professional growth.

“There are only three measures that tell you nearly everything you need to know about your organization’s overall performance: employee engagement, customer satisfaction and cash flow.” -Jack Welch, former CEO General Electric

GE Employee Reviews

Mars

With 29 brands under their umbrella, Mars is best known for M&M’s, Snickers, Skittles, Pedigree and Extra, just to name a few.

Mars works hard to engage their employees. For starters, there are clear, well understood paths for career advancement, which give employees an understand of what’s required to move up the ranks over time.

Here’s something interesting – executives at Mars go through a “reverse internship” where they spend time with – and learn from – the younger employees at the company. Can you imagine teaching the boss something new? It brings an interesting perspective to things.

Mars doesn’t focus on some of the flashier perks you might find at places like Google or Facebook, but they’ve mastered the meat-and-potatoes of engaging employees on a deeper level – and that’s the format that works best for them.

Mars Employee Reviews

We’ve looked at quite a few ways some of the world’s best brands engage their employees. Hopefully you’ve found at least one idea, program or strategy you can take away and implement in your company to create employees who are highly engaged and to improve your culture.

At the end of the day, creating highly engaged employees is all about making sure you provide a work environment focused on learning and continual improvement, while regularly asking your employees for feedback and acting on what they tell you to get better over time.

Wordsmith for Fieldboom. Interviewed by Jay Leno. Award-winning writer. Crime show junky. Animal lover. #SocialMedia guru.