The ART Of Business

The Benefits of Employee Engagement

“Employee engagement” has emerged in the past decade as a viable strategy for dealing with the unavoidable change and upheaval companies face.

Gallup Organization’s “Q12” survey has become the foundation for seemingly any firm looking to find out the degree of engagement- or lack thereof- that its employees possess. Many of you are probably familiar with it.

While the idea of getting employees to be more engaged is a sound one, the implementation of the notion oftentimes comes up short; as the company’s culture is simply not ready. Kind of the round peg in the square hole, if you will…

I recently spoke with Evan Smith, Vice President and General Manager of Hypertherm, a New Hampshire-based designer and manufacturer of advanced metal cutting products, about how his company keeps employees engaged. Hypertherm is consistently selected as one of the best companies in America to work for.

Founded in 1968 in a two-car garage, the company has its roots in building long-term relationships with its 1000+ “associates”. While 32% of the firm is employee-owned through an ESOP; and, profit sharing has averaged more than 20% each year over the past decade , Mr. Smith attributes the strong level of highly engaged employees to a culture which goes beyond compensation.

Throughout its four-plus decades, the company has never had a lay-off. While peaks and troughs have inevitably occurred, Hypertherm has consciously pursued the strategy of reorienting its existing associates to new opportunities.

In the Spring of 2009, when the company, like so many others, was experiencing a massive slowdown – almost 50% from the peak just a year before- Hypertherm ramped up its R&D spending and dedicated substantially more resources to workforce development.

In short, Hypertherm has aligned employee engagement with its longstanding corporate culture.

It appears for companies looking to have employees who are more involved, curious, and contributing, the glue that holds it all together is culture, as in life itself.

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