12 finalists made the cut this year. Here’s what they can teach us about winning organizations.
What makes a company a great place to work? It’s about more than benefits packages, flex days and foosball tables, although those are all attractive perks. Great companies have a clear sense of direction and a vision their employees connect to, care about and support, even when nobody’s watching.
It all starts with culture. Successful companies are built on a firm foundation of principles that guide every decision, are communicated through every touchpoint and define every experience both at the corporate level and in the field. Your culture is perhaps your most important point of difference, beyond your products and business opportunity. It’s why people want to work for you as employees or represent you as independent distributors. And it’s why they stay.
Your employee engagement is a direct reflection of your company’s culture, and we know that employee engagement is critical for retention. In fact, companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 percent in earnings per share, according to research conducted by Gallup.
“The organization leadership must invest in people managers and equip them and empower them to take ownership for their team’s engagement.” —Leslie Aument, Human Resources Director, Noonday Collection
Christina Thompson, Marketing Content Specialist for Quantum Workplace, defines employee engagement as “the strength of the mental and emotional connection employees feel toward their places of work. Employee engagement is NOT the same thing as happiness, satisfaction, or well-being.” That’s a key distinction. A satisfied employee will attend your after-work gatherings, show up on time and do her job dependably. However, should a better opportunity come along will she take it? Or will she be so committed to your company that she can’t imagine leaving? That distinction gets to the heart of employee engagement, one of the core components of a great workplace.
Engagement: Not an Elusive Concept
Today we have the data to measure the percentage of employees within our industry who believe they’re able to make a measurable impact at work, who see a path for their future growth and success, and who trust that their employers are not only invested in their success, but also see them as individuals with unique strengths both inside and outside of the office. Knowing our areas of opportunity as a channel gives us a starting point for making meaningful changes that will help us continue to attract and retain talent.
All 12 honorees have one very important quality in common: high rates of employee engagement. Why should you care? After all, the concept of employee engagement may seem nebulous. A company whose leadership is disproportionately focused on meeting numbers may not give it much thought.
The reality, however, is that the presence or absence of employee engagement translates to some hard numbers, including those tied to your bottomline revenues, profitability and retention. Gallup® found that each actively disengaged worker – that is, someone who’s unhappy and unproductive at work, and whose negativity may rub off on coworkers – costs his or her employer $3,400 for every $10,000 of salary, or 34 percent. Engaged employees, according to Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace 2017 report, make it a point to show up to work and do more work.
They care more about the products and services they deliver to customers, and they care about contributing to the company’s performance. They’re more mindful of their surroundings and are therefore more likely to uphold workplace standards of safety. They’re more likely to help their organizations improve customer relationships and, ultimately, generate increased profit.
Articulating your vision and successfully getting your employees on board is incredibly important not just for your productivity and morale inside the building, but out in the field, as well, since your employees are on the front lines every day articulating that message.
For more than a decade, Quantum Workplace has been conducting in-depth surveys with organizations throughout the world, representing nearly every industry sector, in an effort to measure employee engagement. Higher levels of engagement are linked to better employee retention, higher productivity and more profit. Organizations who know where they stand can make an effort to focus more intensively on the drivers and address the detractors of employee engagement.
For the purposes of our 2019 Best Places to Work (BPTW) in Direct Selling survey, Quantum compared our survey results with all other BPTW survey results, then held them up against the top three overall BPTW results. Finally, Quantum compared the results of this year’s direct selling surveys against last year’s. All of those comparisons reveal some interesting findings worth considering.
2018-2019 BPTW Survey: How Our Channel Stacks Up
Here are some top-line takeaways from the direct selling channel survey analysis, courtesy of Dan Harris, Lead Researcher at Quantum Workplace. Harris compared the findings of the 2017-2018 survey with the findings of the 2018-2019 survey:
1. Became more polarized between 2017 and 2018
Moderately Engaged employees, which represents the middle group on the scale of Highly Engaged to Disengaged employees, decreased and was pulled up to Highly Engaged and down to (Barely Engaged and Disengaged). However, between 2018 and 2019, the trend reversed: The proportion of Barely Engaged and Disengaged employees decreased a little, as did Highly Engaged employees; however, the proportion of Moderately Engaged increased.
2. Favorability decreased for items related to the theme of team dynamics
Whereas the direct selling industry decreased the most in favorability around a theme of trust in leadership from 2017 to 2018, this time around (2018 to 2019), the survey found lower favorability toward goals and accountabilities being clear to everyone on a team, having the information needed to do one’s job well, and employees knowing that they could depend on other team members. So, while the results of the 2017 to 2018 survey suggested a “leadership crisis” of sorts in the industry, the crisis has shifted to more team-based interactions or even a “manager crisis” in the making. “I suggest managers because team goals and accountabilities, providing information to team members, and coaching team members to be dependable are all tasks that fall largely on a manager’s shoulders,” Harris says.
“Employee engagement is NOT the same thing as happiness, satisfaction, or well‑being.” — Christina Thompson, Marketing Content Specialist , Quantum Workplace
3. Lower in favorability around goals and accountabilities being clear to everyone on a team
For example, employees knowing they’ll be recognized if they contribute to the organization’s success, and seeing professional growth and career development opportunities for themselves in the organization. Those three items all point to management: communicating goals and accountabilities, recognizing team members for a job well done, and coaching team members about their futures through one-on-one performance conversations.
Quantum’s 2018 Employee Engagement Trends Report aggregated employee survey responses from more than 600,000 employees at more than 8,000 organizations throughout the United States in 2017, including direct selling companies. The report revealed the following:
- Employee engagement across all industries rose slightly, increasing .50 percent from 2016 to 2017.
- The number of disengaged employees remained steady at 2.7 percent between 2016 and 2017.
Employee sentiment increased slightly in all but one area: retention, which declined .03 percent and was measured by the statement “It would take a lot to get me to leave this organization.”
2019 BPTW High Engagement Contributors
Among this year’s Best Places to Work in Direct Selling, we can identify beyond culture several common contributors to high employee engagement, including:
Personal and Professional Development.
Companies who invest in their employees’ personal and professional development signal an interest in their employees beyond merely what they can do for the bottom line. Several of this years’ Best Places to Work–like NuSkin and Team National, for example–offer in-house training for employees. Total Life Changes (TLC) offers its entire staff free online mental wellness classes in topics ranging from financial wellness and nutrition to anger management, substance abuse and stress management. Youngevity takes a unique approach to personal development through its Be The Change Foundation, a grassroots, action-oriented nonprofit charitable organization with a mission to promote employees’ personal growth through service to the community. LifeVantage has hosted six homebuilding trips to Mexico for employees during the holiday season.
Companywide recognition programs can be highly effective if leaders give careful consideration to what truly motivates employees. Jeunesse, for example, has invested significant resources in employee recognition. Last year, the company launched its Family Circle website, where management and employees can highlight and give kudos to other employees around the globe. The company also rewards an all-expenses-paid trip to a global Jeunesse or other event to randomly selected employees who qualify through its Employee of the Month program.
We’ve all heard the saying that “Employees don’t quit jobs; they quit managers.” If that’s true, then the task of engaging employees should fall to the managers rather than be dictated from the executive suite. Managers must make an effort to understand what motivates their team members and know how each of them wants to be recognized. “Each individual in an organization is motivated and engaged by different things, so it can be challenging to have an organizationwide approach to professional growth, recognition, and even communication,” says Leslie Aument, Director of Human Resources for Noonday Collection. “Equipping the people managers in the organization to take ownership for the individuals on their team can go a long way with increasing engagement in these areas. It’s much more scalable for people managers to work with their individual team members on their professional (and personal!) growth, rewarding and recognizing success in ways that match their personal preferences, and ensuring that everyone on their team is clear about WHY the organization is making changes. This means that the organization leadership must invest in people managers and equip them and empower them to take ownership for their team’s engagement.”
Employee engagement is impossible for leaders who don’t earn the trust of the teams they serve. At MONAT, leadership by walking around has strengthened ties with employees and encouraged
them to share their honest feedback. “Our President, CEO and Senior Vice President visit employees in their offices constantly. They might be busy, but they will find the time to sit and discuss all sort of issues with the employees,” says Human Resources Director Loretta Pardo.
We strive to validate a new distributor’s decision to start a business by paving the way for quick wins and early momentum, so she gets up to speed as soon as possible. Savvy direct selling companies are employing the same philosophy at home with an onboarding process designed to orient new employees to all aspects of the business and forge relationships. Plexus developed a formal new employee orientation program after growing its employee base by 25 percent in 2017. The company just launched a cohort program that begins a few months after the completion
of orientation. Cohort members appoint a captain and create a team name. The idea is to create a sense of community among colleagues, says Human Resources Officer Mary Beth Reisinger, and while the concept is still evolving, her hope is to facilitate volunteer opportunities for cohorts and even encourage some fun competition among groups for service participation.
A 2015 survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that the top engagement condition for 79 percent of respondents was their relationship with co-workers. Martin Seligman, founder of positive psychology, named healthy relationships among the most important determinants to happiness. Best Places to Work encourage and provide opportunities for employees to form friendships. Xyngular, for example, created several Slack channels where employees can chat and compare notes on a variety of topics, not all of them work-related. “We spend a lot of time finding out what people are interested in, both personally and professionally, and find ways to get them in contact with other employees who have similar interests,” says Cyndel Stirland, Xyngular HR Generalist.
“When you’re a fastgrowing, entrepreneurial-minded organization, you sometimes forget to talk about the why,” Reisinger says–and that’s the philosophy behind “Why’s on first,” which encourages Plexus employees to speak up if they don’t understand the “why” behind any change. At Isagenix, employee feedback led to the institution of a year-round casual dress code, extra vacation time, and new parental paid leave policies, and a pet bereavement policy. Employees should also be encouraged to provide feedback to managers. Zurvita’s employee-run website is a place for colleagues to recognize their peers, exchange ideas and present and discuss suggestions. Each month, the company holds an “all-hands” meeting to update staff and listen to employees’ thoughts and ideas; and the following month, the company updates employees on the acceptance and implementation of some of their ideas.
Employee Engagement Profiles
Quantum Workplace classifies employees in four different categories based on their respective levels of engagement:
Highly Engaged: These employees are your company ambassadors. They preach organization love, go the extra mile and plan to stay. The more highly engaged employees you have, the better.
Moderately Engaged: While they’re moderately connected to your workplace, something is holding them back. The good news is that you still have the chance to pull these employees back in by finding out what motivates them.
Barely Engaged: With one foot out the door, these employees are a turnover risk. They’re barely connected to the workplace, with an indifferent attitude and low motivation.
Disengaged: It’s time to cut these employees loose. They’re completely disconnected from the workplace, and the longer they stay, the more their negative attitude rubs off on their colleagues and hinders productivity.
Opportunities for Improvement
LET’S RETURN NOW TO THE KEY AREAS OF OPPORTUNITY for the direct selling industry: managing team dynamics, communicating goals and responsibilities, recognizing team members for
a job well done, and coaching team members about their futures through one-on-one performance conversations. Here are a few suggestions from Quantum Workplace for making improvements in those areas:
- Ask employees for their ideas.In one-on-one sessions, ask employees what they like best and least about their jobs, what opportunities they’d be interested in, and what skills they want to grow. Try to accommodate those needs when assigning work.
- Conduct skip-level meetings regularly. Meeting with employees several levels above or below you will open your eyes to a wealth of new information.
- Ask employees to write their own job descriptions, including the positions they currently hold and the ones they’d like in the future. This helps highlight what each employee enjoys, what she feels
her strengths are, and illustrates how the manager can be her champion.
- Provide multiple mechanisms for internal communication. It’s important to provide multiple waysfor employees to speak up. Duringperiods of upheaval, get inputfrom employees all throughout the change.
Quantum Workplace Methodology
This is the fourth consecutive year that Direct Selling News has partnered with Quantum Workplace to measure, analyze and, ultimately, honor the channel’s best places to work. We opened nominations August 2018, began surveying Oct. 26 and closed the survey Dec 20. Twelve outstanding companies made the cut for our 2019 honorees.
Since 2010, Quantum has surveyed more than 8,000 organizations annually representing numerous industry sectors through the Best Places to Work Program. This year marks the third year that Quantum has surveyed the direct selling industry. The Best Places to Work Program survey utilizes the same 30 questions across six categories for all participants, regardless of industry. No
single question is weighted more heavily than the others, although certain topics may be covered more frequently than others.
Six of the 30 questions on the survey are designed to quantify discretionary effort, intent to stay and advocacy for company. The other 24 questions measure workplace culture, identifying, for example, the kind of conditions under which employees are more likely to advocate for their employers. The questions may be standard, but the results are highly individual. They shed light on what each company can do to retain their valued employees. And, as we examine the direct selling channel, those results suggest some patterns within our broader industry that merit discussion.