To Keep Employees Engaged, Companies are Creating Meaning in the Workplace

To Keep Employees Engaged, Companies are Creating Meaning in the Workplace

Company culture is a key aspect of recruiting and retaining workers.

Minnesota’s unemployment rate has been hovering at near historic lows, meaning employers are facing challenges to secure the right hires. But there are companies like One10 that are deploying strategies to get the people they need.

One10 designs and sells loyalty, engagement, and event programs for corporate clients. It has 660 employees in six offices, its largest located in downtown Minneapolis. Though One10 was formed in 2017, its pedigree is much older. One of its forebears is Carlson Marketing, whose origins are in the famous Gold Bond stamps program. Like just about every business, One10 is looking to recruit and retain talented staffers.

“By and large, people at One10 are very happy, very engaged,” says Richelle Taylor, One10’s vice president of strategic marketing. As a metric, she says that 10 years is the average employee tenure at the company. “Productive people in teams are going to help you drive business results,” Taylor says.

One10 has created several ways to encourage that productivity—and Taylor says those efforts enhance employee satisfaction and support longevity.

Building team morale

One10 provides programs designed to improve business results through increased employee engagement, meetings and events, and incentives, among other services.

What about its own teams? Many of its approaches are similar to those that businesses have used for years to build esprit de corps. Some have arisen more recently because of advances in digital technology.

The Work Your Way program, for example, gives employees flexibility and the connectivity tools to work almost anywhere, including at home, a hotel, or a coffeehouse. “We believe in providing the environment they need to get their work completed effectively and on time,” Taylor says.

Employees still meet from time to time. In some One10 departments, staffers establish regular days they’ll appear in the office for face-to-face meetings. The company also uses video meeting technology. “Our company tracks time spent on projects, so we know how our employees are spending their time,” Taylor says. “We don’t think we’re losing any productivity.” She adds, “Just because someone is sitting in your four walls from 8 to 5 or 6 doesn’t necessarily mean they’re engaged and satisfied.”

One10 has an internal recognition program called OneTeam, a proprietary digital platform that allows employees to post compliments and thanks to their peers who’ve helped them on projects or other company-related work. These examples of above-and-beyond work are shared with all of the company’s offices. This is a “powerful approach,” Taylor says, because “it offers visibility for people in all job functions and all levels across the organization.”

There also is a grassroots aspect to some of the One10 internal-loyalty programs. The Minnesota office, for instance, had an adopt-a-family holiday gift program that other One10 locations have embraced.

One10 also shares its employee loyalty approaches with its clients. Within the company’s business improvement platform, clients can create their own recruitment and retention programs. This could include a peer-to-peer recognition program like OneTeam. Another option is a rewards program that lets managers give gift cards and other forms of recognition to stellar staffers.

Those staffers also can serve as “evangelists” for working at One10, Taylor says. These activities can help get the word out about One10 as a worthy employer and attract fresh talent, she adds.

That evangelism can be essential to attracting millennials, Gen-Xers, and now the Gen-Zs, says Cindy Chandler, who heads the Minneapolis office of Alabama-based executive search firm Wheless Partners. Using online job boards isn’t the only or even the best way to reach this age cohort, she notes.

She recommends that companies and their current employees engage with potential talent through social media. Another strategy is to meet them at places “where they are congregating after work,” Chandler says. These can include networking groups, volunteer activities, and philanthropic organizations that appeal to younger workers, such as Habitat for Humanity.

Tapping hidden pools

Companies also are reaching out to pools of potential employees that often are overlooked. They include immigrants, people of color, and military veterans. These are individuals with the talent and work ethics that companies need, but who often don’t have the resumes that garner lots of attention. In many cases, they don’t even know what kinds of jobs are available to them.

Tapping into these human resources is one of the drivers behind the Center for Workforce Solutions, a wide-ranging program the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce launched in May. The chamber is partnering with state employers and other organizations to improve talent pipelines to address the workforce shortage.

Deb Broberg, executive director of RealTime Talent, a St. Paul-based public-private collaborative that is one of the members of the Center for Workforce Solutions program, identifies many ways employers can deepen their wells of potential hires.

“Number one, be honest about your job qualifications,” Broberg says. Many employers are looking for exactly the right person, and they often create overly lengthy lists of qualifications in their job postings. But there are available and talented people who don’t meet every specific qualification. So what do you really need?

“Number two, actively seek out different types of sources for talent,” Broberg advises. That includes communities that are underrepresented in the workforce. More Minnesota employers “are opening their eyes to the importance of diversity and equity,” she says. “Without that inclusivity, employers of all sizes across our entire state are not going to be able to fill their jobs.”

Another organization that’s working to showcase additional job candidates is the Minneapolis-based Women’s Foundation of Minnesota. This year, in partnership with Gov. Mark Dayton’s office, the foundation launched its Young Women’s Initiative, a seven-year, $9 million program to increase resources for creating new economic opportunities for young women of color.

Foundation vice president Saanii Hernandez notes that while there is high participation of women in the state’s workforce, “there are pockets of young women who, we think, aren’t being utilized like they could be.”

In recent years, Hernandez notes, “We’ve heard that we are No. 1 or No. 2 in high school graduation rates and economic opportunity, and that we have a very low unemployment rate. But when you start to disaggregate the data, particularly by race and gender, then the numbers don’t look like No. 1 or No. 2.”

How can companies incorporate these young women into the labor force? “The on-ramps will have to look different,” Hernandez says. For one thing, these young women often don’t know what types of work are available and where the jobs can be found. “Targeted recruitment is huge,” Hernandez says. That requires reaching out directly to young women of color or to the organizations that connect with them.

“The job isn’t done when you make a hire,” she adds. For many of these young women, “there needs to be some integrated wraparound support services.” These might include helping them earn a GED or assisting them with transportation and access to child care.

The Women’s Foundation wants to help create new programs and boost others already in place. The foundation partners with Minneapolis-based Dunwoody College of Technology, which helps women learn about and enter the building trades. Dunwoody engages in outreach and wraparound assistance that can help young women succeed in the workforce, Hernandez says.

“Dunwoody has done an incredible job,” she says. “They also work with employers to ensure that the cultures of the companies that are hiring them are starting to get ready for more diversity.”

At the corporate level, Hernandez cites Richfield-based Best Buy Co. as a business that’s seeking to engage young girls of color to consider careers related to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). “We know from the research around STEM that there needs to be girl-focused programming with targeted recruitment,” Hernandez says. “This works to make sure that girls come to the table and stay engaged.”

Working with the Women’s Foundation, Best Buy established programs specifically for girls at two nonprofit centers in the Twin Cities. The programs also provide access to mentoring and internships.

What are your values?

It also appears that employees of all kinds and races are looking for similar kinds of support.

“As leaders, we all have a responsibility to be thinking about how we engage our teams,” says Lisa Brezonik, COO of Minneapolis-based Salo LLC, a finance, accounting, and human resources staffing agency. “Simply giving them what we think is meaningful work isn’t going to be enough.”

Salo not only provides short- and long-term skilled employees to companies, it also advises them on employment planning. In her work with clients, Brezonik has seen that many companies haven’t thought out their overall attract-and-retain strategy.

Based on her experience, Brezonik notes some ways that companies can create such a strategy.

One key approach: Give employees a reason to be there. “When people come into the workforce and take on a new role, they want to know that the company will not only help them get from A to B but also from A to C,” Brezonik says. “If we think only about now, we’re not going to have a very long tenure with them.”

Good pay and work-life balance are particularly appealing to workers. However, Brezonik says, “People are getting more attached to having purpose-driven work—work where they can see their impact.”

Businesses need to be clear about what they stand for, she says. “What is your platform for why you do the work that you do and how you do that work? And if you can articulate that, you can attract other people to think the same way,” she says.

The companies that are linking their values with their work are having the most success right now, she says.

In one respect, planning for workforce needs isn’t that complicated. If you need talent, create an attract-and-retain culture for all workers.

“Organizations may not realize the importance of aligning their business efforts with their core values and their core mission as a company,” One10’s Taylor says. When you’re trying to drive business results and attract talent, you need to offer potential and current employees “a sense of who you are and what you’re trying to accomplish,” she adds.

“Sometimes companies take that for granted,” Taylor says. “At the end of the day, you are much more powerful working together as one—when you can get everyone swimming in the same direction.”

Gene Rebeck is TCB’s northern Minnesota correspondent, who often writes about Minnesota business trends.

nVent: Interior Design Supports Company Culture

Collaborative spaces, copper lighting fixtures, and bright colors reflect the energy and innovation that define the company’s culture.

By Liz Fedor

When you walk through many corporate headquarters, you’ll see plenty of standard issue conference rooms and top executives occupying huge offices with spectacular views.

Betsy Vohs turned that architectural precedent on its head after her Minneapolis-based firm, Studio BV, was hired to create a corporate headquarters for nVent.

The electrical company—spun off from Pentair in late April—occupies two floors of a St. Louis Park office building. “I joke we are a new start-up with $2 billion worth of great brands,” says Beth Wozniak, a former Pentair executive who is now nVent’s CEO.

“This is a new company, and it will have a different culture,” Vohs says. “Beth knew the power of what space could do.”

At the outset, Vohs could tell she was working with an unconventional CEO on this design project. Vohs recalls Wozniak saying, “The best spaces, the best views, should be for everybody and not for executives.”

On the sixth and seventh floors, there are huge glass windows that overlook beautiful wooded areas and the downtown Minneapolis skyline. A company café was built on the sixth floor, and a mobility hub—equipped with a coffee bar—is located on the seventh floor. Employees are encouraged to work where they want, and they can easily take their laptops and work by themselves or in small groups in these common spaces.

“We wanted to have an environment that allowed everyone to do their very best work,” Wozniak says, and that included offering spaces that support “our values of respect and teamwork, positive energy, and innovation.”

The color scheme you’ll find in nVent’s headquarters also is novel. You’ll see lots of orange, red, and gold mixed in with gray and black. Everybody who works at nVent has an adjustable desk, so they can decide when they want to sit or stand. Eight conference rooms on each of the floors have different sizes, configurations, and furniture. Some have couches. An inspirational quote—from famous electrical inventors—appears on a wall in each conference room. There is a treadmill on each floor.

“It is an environment for attracting millennial talent,” Wozniak says. “They see a workplace that is very modern.”

Chief human resources officer Lynnette Heath says, “It plays a big role in our recruitment and retention efforts.” When job candidates visit nVent, Heath adds, “They can feel the vibe.” About 160 employees work at the headquarters, and seven employees provided input on how nVent’s personal workspaces and common areas should be designed.

Those committee members shared their opinions on how they do their work, tested chairs for the office, and weighed in on other aspects of their new offices. “We wanted to make sure the design space met their needs,” Wozniak says. It resulted in everyone getting their own workspaces, but nVent has an open office design that makes it easy for employees to work in teams.

Instead of having traditional department names and signs, various business functions are grouped into neighborhoods. For example, marketing, technology, and communications are among the employees who work in the “growth” neighborhood. “When you think of neighborhoods, it’s a friendlier office,” Wozniak says. “You walk from one to another.”

Vohs says that nVent’s distinct culture also is represented in the use of copper lighting fixtures throughout the two floors. Copper is a good metal for electrical conductivity, so the ample use of copper in the design represents what the company does as well as the desire for the business to quickly seize business opportunities. A copper mesh wall is a defining feature in the nVent lobby.

Wozniak’s commitment to cooperation is represented in the huge table that dominates the boardroom. “It’s an oval table as opposed to a rectangle,” Vohs says. “She didn’t believe in a head of the table because everybody has a voice in what they are doing.”

The oval table that seats 25 people is made of light hickory wood, instead of a traditional dark walnut that’s been used in many corporations.

The new company also has a new type of dress code that’s called “Dress for Your Day.” If an employee is meeting with customers, the person will dress up for that kind of interaction. If people are working with other employees on projects, you’ll frequently find them in casual attire.

“The design of this space was not motivated by hierarchy and the past,” Vohs says. “It is optimistic; it is collaborative. It is almost democratic and universal. That is absolutely Beth’s leadership approach.”

Liz Fedor is the Trending editor of Twin Cities Business.