7 Keys to Successful Employee Engagement: Lessons from Stryker

© Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com
© Yuri Arcurs - Fotolia.com

Gallup recently issued a brilliant case study of Stryker, a global medical devices company.

Focusing on just one unit in New Jersey, the case study (titled Boosting Engagement at Stryker: How a New Jersey plant changed its culture in less than a year) highlights several key tenets of success for an employee engagement or strategic employee recognition program.

1. Be committed

“Stryker believes that employee engagement is part of its success — the company has been deeply committed to employee engagement, strengths development, and leadership development for years.”

Commitment to increasing engagement requires commitment to creating a workplace environment in which employees choose to engage. And this is not done by one person. It must be seen as a priority by the entire organization as a whole.

2. Secure executive support

“The first [advantage] was the support of the plant’s leadership, particularly that of John Haller, vice president of global operations for implants at Stryker; the human resources staff; and [Fred] Lorestani, [vice president of North American Implement Operations] himself.”

But it does take clear and highly visible executive support to show employees that actions taken and promises made will be followed through. Without that, many employees won’t feel the initiative is worth their time.

3. Don’t survey unless you plan to follow up

“They did the survey, but nothing happened afterwards. That’s a problem. Gallup has found that one of the fastest ways to damage morale is to ask employees for their opinions, then ignore their replies.”

Surveying without follow up action on the results only further disengages employees. Would you keep giving your honest opinion if you didn’t think anything would come of it?

4. Engagement is the responsibility of management and employees alike

“It’s not always top down; you [individual employees] also own and you are responsible for your own engagement.”

All employees at every level have a responsibility for engagement. I’ve gone into greater depth on precisely what those responsibilities are for executives, managers and employees in this post.

5. Engagement doesn’t come naturally – you must train managers

“Stryker had been investing in manager development through Gallup’s Great Manager Program for some time, and Krummel-Mihajlovic found it so helpful that she insisted each of the managers on the operations side attend. She also insisted that the executives above them receive Gallup leadership training.”

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Don’t assume just because a manager fails at engagement today that they don’t care about the engagement of their employees. Instead, work to train those managers on both the importance of engagement and what specific actions they can take to improve engagement.

6. Find local champions

“Engagement is individual, and the best advocates for it – and perpetuators of it – are employees. And that voice had to be a loud one.”

This is a key tenet I speak to in my training sessions and Stryker got it right. Krummel-Mihajlovic asked who the outspoken people were and who was the go-to person for help. Never assume this is always a person in a management. It’s just as likely to be the receptionist, line leader or any other person in the organization who cares about their colleagues and getting the job done. Stryker ultimately found 20 champions in this one plant alone.

7. Choose ambassadors to bring good ideas forward

Ambassadors play a different role. They carry the messages forward up the chain and then across all employees. These must be people who are both respected as well as passionate and excited about moving your engagement and recognition project forward.

Have you undertaken an engagement or recognition initiative in your organization? Did you follow these steps? What others did I miss?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.


2 Comments on “7 Keys to Successful Employee Engagement: Lessons from Stryker

  1. This list looks like the key ingredients to having any corporate initiated, company wide project take shape and become embedded (not just engagement).

    In a recent implementation that I was involved in, #5 was a game changer for initial adoption rates for this voluntary program and is backed by data from our pilot to our enterprise launch. You have to sell the managers and have their buy-in if you want the IC’s. The next phase of the implementation focuses on creating local champions and ambassadors which is probably the second most important step after securing the managers.

    The best part is, if you can successfully execute each of these “steps”, the program really becomes self-sustaining and takes a lot of day to day pressure off the program manager, allowing he/she to focus on innovative improvements as opposed to handling transactional fires that might come up.

  2. Managers are key, but it all comes down from the top.  Two of the key contributors to engagement are: 1) do I believe the company is going in the right direction and what I do is connected to its success and 2) Do I think I have a career beyond my current role… #1 can be affected by leadership and managers, #2 can only be affected by HR and managers caring about their employees and intentionally encouraging and enabling employees to pursue their dreams

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