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Home Ethan Shared Items How Do You Engage Employees?

How Do You Engage Employees?

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reichard110.jpgWhile I was taking a prospective customer on a tour of my company's beverage-can plant in Golden, Colorado, some years ago, I suddenly found that I was talking to myself. I turned around and saw the customer staring at an employee.

The worker was placing paper sleeves over can ends and placing the filled sleeves on a pallet.

I waited a bit, thinking the customer would soon get bored and catch up with me. But he stood there, mesmerized. He motioned to me to come over. He said: "Watch that guy. He lays those sleeves down like eggshells, then steps back to admire his work. Then, if he is happy, he gives the pallet a couple of love taps before he releases it for storage. How do you create employee engagement like that?"

Good question. Intense employee engagement is something that all companies strive for, and sometimes they get it — but in just a few departments, such as R&D, design, or marketing. Not many companies can say their production line employees' enthusiasm is so pronounced it's visible to a visitor.

So after we had stood there for a while, watching the employee delicately push thousands of disc-like can ends into paper sleeves for ease of handling (a process that has recently become automated), I put the question to the plant manager. The answer sounded more like something from a philosopher than a manufacturing exec: "All good people want to change their lives for the better. When people work here, their lives change for the better. When people know we've had a lot to do with changing their lives for the better, they make sure our corporate life changes for the better as well. We add to that by letting the employee know no one is better at sleeving ends than he is. He is the best, and every day he lives up to our expectations. Multiply this by everyone in the plant, and you end up with a superior plant that can sell itself — even better than you can."

Ouch. But I don't mind the comment. The plant does sell itself. In our company, everyone is in sales. The enthusiastic end-sleever who caught the prospect's eye was doing a lot more than fulfilling his job the best way he knew how. He was also selling the plant, and by extension, the workforce, our product line, and our top management. Nothing I say as a salesman has the same persuasive impact as the sight of that end-sleever enjoying his job.

How do you create employee engagement?

Clif Reichard ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ) is a sales consultant in his 55th year selling rigid packaging substrates.


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