Recently, Richard Smallwood, president and CEO of our client, Falken Tires, appeared in a Fast Company article highlighting the most creative people. Since then, we asked him, and our own VP of people and culture, Jill Elliott, to talk more about employee engagement. Richard, who is famous for taking top-performing employees anywhere in the world for dinner as a reward, shared his three top tips for engaging employees. The second part in this series will feature some of Jill’s thoughts on engagement, core values and culture.

When asked to share his strategy on engaging his employees, Richard shared these three tips: 

  1. “Create regular opportunities for your associates to provide unfiltered feedback to senior management.

    One practice I enjoy using to gain insight on how things are working within the company is to take a small group of four or five associates to lunch and ask them for ideas on how to make their jobs more efficient. The reality is that most executives really don’t understand the unnecessary obstacles or distractions that prevent our teams from executing optimally and, more importantly, we generally can’t provide the best solutions. The people doing the jobs know the roadblocks, and they usually have the best and most practical solutions for removing them. From my experience, our teammates have really appreciated playing an active role in the improvement process.

  1. “Regularly remind your associates of the importance of their specific role in the success of the company.

    It always bothers me when I hear one of our associates state that their role is not important to the success of the company. First, it tells me that we as a management team are doing a poor job of communicating to our teams what their roles are and how their performance can impact every other person in the organization. Secondly, it takes away the very important “pride of ownership” from that associate. Every human wants to feel that what they do is valued and appreciated by those around them. This is true with work, home, church and sports teams. How can we, as leaders, expect our associates to make the best contribution possible if they don’t believe that what they do is important?”

  2. “Create a culture where associates want to achieve great results, not just in order to survive, but in order to please those affected.

    This is often a tricky concept for me to explain, but it is a very important one for leaders to understand. In many work environments, the associate is driven to achieve the targeted result by avoiding failing and being fired for poor performance. This is performance driven by the fear of failure and the subsequent punishment. What I want to create in our environment is one in which the associate wants to achieve a great result, not in order to avoid being punished, but out of the desire to please those impacted by the result. A simple, likely politically incorrect, analogy would be that of a child proudly presenting their stick figure drawing to their parents and saying “look what I made for you.” This motivation is quite different.”

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