Only 21% of workers know what their CEO looks like, and 68% don't know how much their company generates in revenue each year, according to a CareerBuilder survey. As the economy improves, spurring voluntary turnover, employees who don't feel connected or loyal to an organization likely will be the first to leave.

According to the PricewaterhouseCoopers Saratoga 2012/2013 U.S. Human Capital Effectiveness Report, the improving economy already is contributing to higher voluntary turnover rates, which increased from 7% in 2010 to 8% in 2011. Further, the high-performer separation rate also is escalating, a reverse trend from the past five years.

By bridging the sometimes fragmented relationship between the C-suite and employee base, employers can better illustrate employees' worth to the company. If an employee feels they directly contribute to the larger success of their company and are not merely a cog in the machine, they will be more productive and loyal to the organization.

"There's an opportunity that companies are missing: They're not factoring into their internal communications strategy or tying those touch points back to their employee population," says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder.

Snagajob, an online job board for hourly employees, seizes the opportunity to connect with employees. The employer shares company and website performance statistics every day with employees. And every week at a company meeting, the CEO shares news about the company. He starts each meeting by sharing an email from a job seeker who successfully found a job through the organization.

"It keeps front-and-center what we do as a company and who we're serving," explains Greg Moyer, chief people officer for Snagajob.

The company's mission, "To put people in the right-fit positions so they can maximize their potential and live more fulfilling lives," feeds strongly into its culture. "We live [our mission statement] every day," says Moyer. "We feel a strong connection to the job-seeker at our company. And everyone at our company knows how their job and what they do every day connects to that mission statement."

Currently, Snagajob has 280 employees working at its Richmond, Va., headquarters and remotely to serve more than 32 million job seekers. Even the CEO works in an open workstation on the main floor. The office has conference rooms for private meetings and calls, but their workspace reflects their culture.

"We are a very open, transparent organization," says Moyer. "There is no sense of hierarchy or importance given to one position over another. I think everybody feels they are valued for what they do and contributes to the mission of the company."

Unfortunately, not all organizations can claim this accomplishment. According to a survey by AMA Enterprise, a division of the American Management Association, 36% of employees don't know "what's really going on" at their company. (See sidebar.)

Snagajob illustrates how each employee advances in the organization with a unique career map. "Instead of career paths or career ladders that you see in other organizations, where there's a person at the top and a person at the bottom of the ladder, we call it 'career line.' It looks like a map of the Washington, D.C. metro system with lines criss-crossing across it," Moyer explains. "There is no sense on that chart of who has a more important position than someone else based on their level in the organization. We designed it that way so there's no sense of hierarchy in the organization."

The organization walks the talk when it comes to exemplifying its three core values: collaboration, accountability and passion.

"Everything we do is designed to make sure we can optimize our performance as a company while at the same time creating a great place to work for the people who are here," says Moyer. As a result, Snagajob had only a 7% voluntary turnover rate in 2011 and 3% involuntary turnover.

"We're a culture that puts a lot of emphasis on working hard, but we also have a lot of fun here. We think the combination of the two makes a huge difference in whether or not people put their whole hearts into what they do," Moyer says.

The whole office, including executives, participates in a social activity every month. Most recently, the company sponsored a week-long Office Olympics, where teams competed in events like chair soccer and curling.

Each summer, senior leadership cooks for all employees at an annual BBQ tailgate party. "We try to do things as an executive team that break the barrier or ensure that there is no barrier in terms of communication between people on the teams and people leading the teams," says Moyer.

 

Matching faces to the mission

While a CEO may not be able to know everyone by name in a larger company, "there are definitely ways - in this era of technology, especially - that you can scale that presence," offers CareerBuilder's Haefner.

Video, for example, is one way to deliver the message and personality of leadership to all employees, no matter where they work.

"Employees want to know that the people at the highest levels of the company who are making the decisions are relatable - that they are people too," Haefner says. "You're seeing more effective use of social media and video as a way to drive that connection and set the tone."

Radio Flyer, makers of the "little red wagon" for children, introduced its Connect the Dots program to employees to show how the 130 workers, split between the Chicago home office and China, help the company succeed.

The program includes an annual two-day session where employees learn about the company's principle and department goals while mapping the direct connection between individual employees' goals and the larger group and company aims.

"We rolled out the Connect the Dots program several years ago because we wanted to be more transparent with our employees and more direct about how every person makes a difference," explains Amy Bastuga, vice-president of HR at Radio Flyer.

During the remainder of the year, leadership reports company results, connecting them to the individual's contribution and rewarding them with profit sharing, recognition or benefits package increases.

"We showed the line of sight in terms of goal alignment from the company goals to each individual's goals and how every individual matters, and we also showed how it was connected to the rewards that people received," Bastuga says.

Radio Flyer ties direct financial rewards to company performance by offering employees a 401(k) and profit sharing programs.

"It doesn't get any more direct than that. Employees help us meet our goals. If we meet our goals and the company is profitable, that will generate return [for employees]," Bastuga says.

The company has also enhanced benefits based on employee input. For example, employees indicated through regular surveys and general feedback that more work-life balance would enhance their satisfaction. Radio Flyer responded by creating a work-life committee that worked with HR to benchmark the company's work-life programs. The diverse committee that included employees across all company segments formed 10 new or revised policies.

As a direct result, the company transitioned to flexible scheduling and enhanced its maternity leave policy. Not only do new mothers now get an additional four weeks of paid time off, they can use an additional four weeks of transition time - a total of 16 weeks.

 

Ask for employee input

Employees also created the company's mission statement and promise six years ago. So, when the company decided to tweak the mission and values, they turned to employees once again. Not only did employees determine the new version that includes sustainability, an employee committee also created a video to roll out the new mission.

The company's mission appears on signs throughout the work facility and the values are printed on the back of employee business cards. The Chief Wagon Officer (aka, CEO) begins every company meeting with an overview of the business mission and values.

Bastuga believes that Radio Flyer lives its values by holding people accountable and celebrating it. They incorporate company values within performance appraisals and acknowledge employees who personify the values with their Little Red Rule award.

Too many company purposes and missions are based on the financial success of the organization, says Mark Detelich, vice president of consulting firm LRN.

"Find out what inspires employees to get out of bed and go to work each day," he recommends. "Employees think about the good [their company's] products and services can do in society and in the marketplace. It's around a higher purpose."

Detelich urges leadership to inspire employees from day one. Usually, employees spend the first days at their new job filling out forms, but he advocates using some of this time to share the history, legacy, mission and culture of company with new hires.

Snagajob, for example, assigns new hires a "sidekick" - basically a guide to introduce them to everyone on the first day and share knowledge about the company while they acclimate to the culture. Employees get to know each other by filling out a questionnaire before they begin working called "Confessions of a New Snagger," which is sent to the entire population. During a new employee's first company meeting, the CEO quizzes the other staff about him based on his questionnaire answers.

"We have a lot of emphasis on camaraderie across the company, so we want people to get to know one another," Moyer says. "If you build trust with your employees, you will have a group of employees who will want to [work hard] for you."

Employees channel Marvin Gaye, asking: 'What's going on?'

Survey results from AMA Enterprise, a division of the American Management Association, show that as many as two-in-five employees feel they hardly ever know what's going on at their organization.

After asking nearly 300 senior managers, executives and employees, "Do employees feel they know 'what's really going on' at your company?" respondents said:

Yes, some of the time (55%).

No, hardly ever (36%).

Yes, most of the time (9%).

No opinion (1%).

Sandi Edwards, SVP at AMA Enterprise says that regardless of mission, transparency is paramount. "For employees to be engaged in their work and be productive it's essential they have a sense of inclusion and a grasp of what's going on," she says, adding that any lack of transparency needs to be a core concern for senior management. "Too often, employees do not feel trusted or involved in decision making, or may not even know what the business strategy is. Everyone has a need to be included, to be part of the process, to feel secure, and to have a sense of their role in making their company successful. Organizations that fall short in terms of transparency will pay a price."

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