Engineering Principles Put to Work in Employee Engagement

Engineering Principles Put to Work in Employee Engagement
Just how important is building an engaged and cohesive team? If you were to ask Bill Belichick about the importance of a team which pushes in one direction for a common goal, my money is on this being at the top of his priority list. As a lifelong resident of Greater Boston and die-hard Patriots fan, I am a bit biased…but the thought process the Patriots employ for selecting and engaging a group of individuals to push in one direction is not a new one. Companies and teams from the largest institutions to the smallest non-profits want to run like well-oiled machines…and well-oiled machines work in synergy and with purpose.

Sakichi Toyoda gave the world a fresh perspective as he developed the “5 Whys” with Toyota Motor Corporation in the early 1900s. These would later be incorporated into continuous improvement methodology used by the world’s most prolific companies, including processes such as Six Sigma, Lean and Kaizen. In a nutshell, the concept means asking “Why?” five times to address a problem or opportunity, answering these questions successively and pushing closer to the root cause of said problem. Once we are closer to the root cause of a situation, only then can we focus our efforts at fixing or optimizing that situation be the most effective.

Coming from over 11 years of Engineering staffing with The DAVIS Companies, these are terms which were hot buttons on countless calls and discussions with top talent across the country. These techniques apply to any product and any industry including service-based companies like DAVIS. So how do we leverage this knowledge to optimize our own business? How can we get the right people in the right seats, measure their engagement and maximize their value both to themselves and our organization?

In my humble opinion, the first key to considering our organization from an optimization standpoint was to put the onus on communication. We needed to see why people worked here. We discussed what were peoples’ common motivations and the value we bring to the world as an organization.

This is where our “Why” journey started. What we found is not always a problem, but an opportunity in expanding what we do extremely well. We have a strong track record of talent retention in our industry, but why? We have what we feel is a strong training program and associated materials, but why do we train the way we do? What is the root cause of many employees crushing their goals while other new hires may struggle? How do our clients feel about our service and why?

Our “open-door” policy was instilled long ago by our fearless leader Bob Davis back in the late 80’s, and is still going strong through his son Brendon (President), and our COO Ryan Clutterbuck. Ryan has spoken about the critical nature of an open communication culture, and Brendon’s methodology of “hiring the person and not the resume” has helped us to get the right people in the door with the best chance of success…but why have they wanted to stay? Is it the open communication, the support, community involvement events, training, access to senior leadership at any time…or the free lunches and teambuilding get-togethers? This is where Human Resources and the Marketing team came in and got the ball rolling.

Through one-on-one discussions, coupled with surveys and confidential questionnaires, we started the long process of why people work at DAVIS…and “because it’s awesome here” was not an acceptable answer. We do not just drive for “butts in seats”, we aspire to greatness for our employees – people who want to grow individually and bring the company with them through that intense love of life. We found that this translates well to our service to our customers. It’s not a new concept that people who love what they do are people enjoyable to work with. In a highly-competitive industry such as staffing, this is a key differentiation for DAVIS which has served us well for over 30 years. Through a campaign of answers, and a culture okay with opening up for the good of the team, there was a lot learned on where we could use improvement and why people stick around. One key statistic was that people were not here just for the money. That information solidified how important a supportive, fun, and challenging company culture is, and why further investigation would be worthwhile.

The next step was setting up our internal focus groups. Employees were able to sign up to participate in a number of fact-finding and action initiatives both internal and external to DAVIS. These range from Candidate Experience and Customer Experience, to Company Culture and Community Involvement.

I personally joined the Customer Experience group to bring my knowledge on the priorities of our clients to our operational efforts. As we interact with our candidates and clients strictly to better serve them, we gain invaluable insight into why they choose DAVIS, why they would want to continue to work with us, and why they might consider the services of other staffing agencies. Looking to apply the continuous improvement principles like Toyoda’s “5 Whys” to our operations, we are listening internally and externally to our most important advocates and striving to be the most engaged and communicative firm in the staffing industry. Thanks to the engineering teams who developed these techniques, and of course to folks like Bob Davis and Mr. Belichick for driving home the importance of the pack over the wolf.

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