How Top Organizations Approach Employee Engagement
How Top Organizations Approach Employee Engagement
Date: Wednesday, August 16, 2023
Time: 1:00pm Eastern / 10:00 am Pacific
Tim Ryan, VP of Finance and Corporate Services, NCCPA
Tina Gaither, HR Manager, NCCPA
Joy McFerren, Director of HR, Weidenhammer
Host: Skylar de Jong, Consultant, DecisionWise
In this webinar, we interview leaders from companies with high employee engagement scores. We discuss their secret sauce for driving engagement, the biggest challenges they face, and the advice they have for other organizations.
All right, we have a good contingent of folks here today. Welcome everybody. I’m sure we’ll still have plenty of people trickling in. We’ll get things kind of rolling here. As for today, I’ll talk a little bit about some logistics here shortly. As I mentioned before, you do have access to your microphones. We want this to be interactive. We want some chat to be here. This is a great session where we have some awesome guests we get to highlight.
I’ll cover some logistics up here front. So, first off, for some logistics, we are recording this session. Joy already pointed out it started recording earlier, So, we’ll, we’ll trim it down. We’ll get a link later if you have to leave early. So, check it out, come back, listen to the highlights again, but also check out our other recordings we’ve done.
We have a webinar series where we’re doing webinars every month, usually around the, the second or third week of the month. And different topics from, you know, best practices with diversity, equity, inclusion. We’ve talked about Quiet, quitting was a, you know, session a few months ago. We’ve talked about what to do with, you know, return to work policies, what are some best practices there, trends we’re seeing. So, we’re constantly doing some really great webinars.
We have awesome content, awesome consulting team doing some great things here. So, check out our other, our other sessions. Another great thing, which, you know, draws some of your crowd in. And we’re really grateful to have some HR people here. You do get credit for this session and all the webinars that we do here at, at DecisionWise. So, all those in attendance today, you will receive a follow-up email with a code to, to, to utilize those credits, whether for SHRM or HRCI. Let us know if you’ve got questions on that. But it’s a nice little added benefit of being in attendance today.
That said, we want high engagement from everybody. So, put your questions in the chat. Please use the chat feature throughout. And then we will have a Q&A portion towards the end. I, I’ve, I’ve told Joy and Tim and Tina today that I’ve got some questions I wanna run through. We’ll go bring some highlights, but we, we wanna reserve a good portion of today’s call to your questions. So, I’ve got a whole litany of things too, if nobody’s raising their hands, but I hope that people are really engaged and kind of got some really good things for folks today. You keep it orderly. If you’re gonna come off mute, I don’t want 20 people coming off mute and talking over each other. That’s just not gonna be helpful, but we’ll manage.
Skylar de Jong (2:52)
All right, before I jump in and talk about our agenda, I do want to take a moment and tell everybody here about DecisionWise some of the great things we do. So, at DecisionWise. Well, before I get too much further, just an introduction to myself. I’m Skylar de Jong. I’ve been here for two and a half years as a consultant. I come to DecisionWise with a background in HR, organizational behavior, consulting, and JD/MBA. So, I love diving in, working with clients. I love analyzing data and finding solutions for folks.
And at DecisionWise, although I’ve only been here for two and a half years, we’ve been in business for over 20 years. We’ve spent decades creating, managing employee surveys across thousands of different organizations. I love being here because I get to see lots of data. It’s fascinating to me to say, Hey, where’s the trends? What are we seeing from organizations? And because we’ve got So, much data, in fact, I think over 50 million survey responses over the period, and we’ve got tons of things we can rely on from that.
We actually create benchmarks so you can compare to other organizations. I’ll actually talk about our best-in-class benchmark today. That’s how we actually know that Joy, Tim, and Tina’s organizations are within those best-in-class benchmarks. ’cause we go, Hey, what are our best clients doing? And where do you fit?
But we’ve got all sorts of industry benchmarks and we’ve really crafted a gold standard, fully managed employee engagement surveys. That’s the bread and butter we provide as employee engagement surveys. But we do a lot more than that. And I will say we do a lot of employee listening. So, yes, annual surveys, the majority of organizations do an annual survey.
Skylar de Jong (4:41)
It’s somewhat out of a check-the-box thing. You’ve got to be listening to employees. But if you’re really gonna be maturing your engagement strategy and really leveraging your employees, you want to have a really robust employee listing program where you’ve got some pulse surveys, onboarding, exit surveys, anniversary surveys. So, when people are hitting their five-year mark or 10-year mark, you’re kind of saying, well, what’s your experience been? You know, and we can help put together this together.
I’ll also put a big plug in. We do 360 assessments. Our, our CEO and owner of the organization. He actually wrote his dissertations in college on, on 360 degree feedback. So, we have a deep knowledge here, and it’s something I actually love doing. As a consultant here, I get to do two main things, help executive teams understand their survey data and give some actionable recommendations. And, and we really are here to inform strategy and let organizations be, make tactical decisions based off that strategy.
And then the other one I get to do is with that 360 degree feedback, I do a lot of executive coaching, helping the most pivotal leaders and, and potential leaders at organizations on an individual level. It’s pretty awesome and I, I love it. So, check us out, check out our website, check out our services and, and join us.
Skylar de Jong (6:07)
Now, as for today, the purpose of this webinar is to learn from our, our guests to learn some best practices from our best-in-class clients, as I mentioned. Well, the two main things and outcomes we’re gonna get is I wanna highlight some things that they’re doing, some things we saw from their data, ask some questions around that. But ultimately, I want to create a collaboration network here.
And, and you’ll see again here, I, I’ve kind of labeled this our thought Labor Thought Leader collaboration series. We aim to create more webinars in the future where we have some thought leaders, best-in-class clients, you know, various different other clients we have where we can have some insights from them, and really as an HR community come together and learn some best practices. I am a firm believer that I don’t have the answers. I am, again, I’ve specialized in the data analyst and then, you know, start to say, here’s some trends we’re seeing, but it’s the people and our clients that are doing all the work that really know what’s going on. And they, they have some answers for you. Okay.
As for the agenda, I kind of talked about, we’ll do some introductions, we’ll talk about some survey highlights. I’ll talk about the end of road where we DecisionWise end and where we kind of pass, pass the baton on to our clients. And then we’ll get to your questions. So, pretty simple, pretty straightforward, and we’ll go from there.
So, let’s, let’s start, let’s, let’s let our panelists talk for a moment, and I can shut up for a bit, but I do wanna first introduce Joy. Joy McFerren from Weidenhammer. She is our HR director there. Tell us a little bit about Weidenhammer Joy and a little bit about yourself too. Oh, you are on mute.
Joy McFerren (8:02)
I see. Yes. Thank you. Weidenhammer is a digital consulting firm. We’re headquartered in Y M S E PA. We have other locations in Pennsylvania and Allentown and Blue Bell. But basically, we are providing our customers with digital solutions. We have four different groups. We have a Hammer Marketing, and that group provides services to organizations such as PayPal. We have Hammer Tech, which provides hosting and hard solutions to our customers. We have application development where we create the programs that people need to be successful. And then we also have our e-commerce division, and then our corporate services group supports all, all four of those.
Skylar de Jong (8:57)
Awesome. And, and how long have you been with Weidenhammer?
Joy McFerren (9:01)
About three and a half years.
Skylar de Jong (9:03)
Three and a half years. Awesome.
Joy McFerren (9:04)
And then it is my first time in, in a, a consulting organization, not as a consultant and in hr. So, you can see from my bio most, most of the time I’m in manufacturing, distribution and yeah. Or pharmaceutical. So, it’s a lot to learn, but I enjoy it and, and it’s, it’s been a great ride.
Skylar de Jong (9:26)
I had two questions for you. Yes. One, I love seeing that you’re an adjunct professor as well. That’s something that personally I am interested in. So, I’m curious how you got into that. You don’t even need to answer that today too if you don’t want to, but I’m curious. Yeah. How’d you get into adjunct professor?
Joy McFerren (9:43)
Well, I, I do have my degree in education. Okay. But I have a, I’ve been speaking in SHRM classes for quite a while, and one of the people that were an instructor always asked me to be a guest speaker and she retired, and she thought she would still teach the SHRM class, but it turned out you can’t retire and work for Penn State on the side. So,
Skylar de Jong (10:10)
Oh, really interesting.
Joy McFerren (10:11)
I, I’d like to say like, I competed against thousands of people and got the job, but really, I got the job just because I was
Skylar de Jong (10:19)
Fell backwards into it. Yes,
Joy McFerren (10:21)
Yes. So, I, I love it. I teach that SHRM class for Penn State and then also for our local SHRM chapter, the Lancaster SHRM, and then I, I teach some other classes for them as well.
Skylar de Jong (10:33)
Love it. I love it. The second question, and I, I don’t know if you saw this, but I am a soccer coach. I’ve been a soccer coach for my kids’ ages for the last six years. And I found that the kids love this question. I figured it’d be a fun one. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Joy McFerren (10:49)
Oh, my favorite is chocolate almond. And I will tell you, I coached for several years, my daughter played the Rhythm One soccer, and my son. Yeah. Yeah.
Skylar de Jong (11:00)
It’s So, fun. I love it. It’s, it’s a good pastime. I’m holding practices every Monday night if you want to come to the park nearby, see me in action, telling kids to listen up. Well, very good to have you, Joy.
Let’s hear from Tim. Tim, Tim Ryan is, wears many, many hats as you can see at NCCPA, doing quite a few things. Few, and I mean, what stood out to me was not his accolades at NCCPA, but I was fascinated that he, you used to fly A-4 Skyhawks. When I saw that, I looked that up and I went, what is an A-4 Skyhawk? I’m not an aviator. And the thing that stood out to me about the A-4 Skyhawk is it just has this little payload at the bottom here. I don’t know, you’re probably just, it looks like a little fanny pack of an arsenal, really, that you’re carrying. Tim, tell us a little bit about you. Tell us a little bit about NCCPA.
Tim Ryan (12:01)
Okay, again, Tim Ryan, I’ve been with NCCPA since 2018. NCCPA is the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants. We are the certifying body in the United States for physician assistants. So, if you’re a PA and you graduate from an accredited PA program, you are going to take the exam that’s created by NCCPA. It’s a unique staff because we, we have a, a robust examination department made of, of Ph.D. psychometricians that create these exams. And I don’t claim to know exactly all the magic that goes into creating these exams, but we put a lot of, a lot of effort into it.
We also recertify the PAs every two years. So, that’s what we do. We have a staff of 100. We’ve been growing. When I started, we had 80 staff members, and now we have 100. A little bit of my background, I, yeah, I’ve had a very serendipitous career. And when I see the A-4 and, and Skylar put that photo up there, I did not. That just makes,
Skylar de Jong (13:10)
I did, I searched for it. I was like, I wanna see what an A-4 Skyhawk is. Yeah.
Tim Ryan (13:15)
It just makes me feel old because that was the jet that John McCain flew. I’m sure y’all know the story of John McCain got shot down in that aircraft. So, that’s, that’s how old it is, and it makes me feel old. But anyhow, yes, I, I kind of serendipitously got into nonprofits, spent after becoming a CPA, a very short time in public accounting. And then spent the remainder of my time. I did a little bit of government accounting in Florida and then, and then been with a, a number of nonprofits as CFO for nonprofits.
And So, now my, you know, really my background has been nonprofit accounting and I’ve really, really enjoyed it. So, I look forward to, to, you know, offering what I can offer today.
Skylar de Jong (14:01)
That’s awesome. I love it. I love that CPA kind of got you into the nonprofits, et cetera. Do you still fly today?
Tim Ryan (14:11)
Not very often, no. I, I’ve, I’ve flown occasionally, but it’s, it’s kind of as my wife would say, the glory days, you know, from the past. So,
Skylar de Jong (14:21)
Glory days, well, you didn’t even have to talk about John McCain or age yourself. I look at that and I still think that’s a super impressive aircraft. So, and then what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?
Tim Ryan (14:35)
Peanut butter and chocolate.
Skylar de Jong (14:37)
Really. Right. Nice. Mine, by the way, is Rocky Road. And Tina, you already know that that’s question’s coming. Yes. And share a little bit about yourself. You’re an HR manager there, NCCPA, Tim gave us a rundown of what you all do, but yeah, tell us about yourself, Tina.
Tina Gaither (14:58)
Okay, well, Tina Gaither and I am the manager at NCCPA, the manager of Human Resources. I’ve been in the nonprofit sector for probably about 15 years. A lot of my background comes from social services, nonprofit. I transitioned into government for a little while and really craved the nonprofit experience the sector.
So, I transitioned back into nonprofit work at NCCPA about three and a half years ago. So, I’ve been here three and a half years and just really have a passion for helping people fulfill their fullest potential. And a lot of that is done in HR. We see the entire life cycle of an employee, not only as an employer, but you get to experience births, deaths, growths, promotions, you know, moving on to, to fulfill dream careers. So, I think it is a really fulfilling opportunity to, you know, sit in this seat and be a part of people’s lives every day.
Skylar de Jong (16:03)
That’s awesome. Yeah, I, I can totally relate as I, I mean, I mentioned before when we do 360 work, I gotta go meet on one on one with leaders and that, that personal touch, like really getting a, a good connection with people and improving and helping them improve is, is powerful. I mean, I see you’re also a mother of two kids. We mentioned beforehand, they’re already in school, which is crazy to me. We’ve got first day of school here. What ages are they?
Tina Gaither (16:34)
So, Joshua’s 16, and Hannah will be 14 this year. So, middle school and high school.
Skylar de Jong (16:40)
They’re adults. They’re,
Tina Gaither (16:42)
Yeah, they’re basically, I feel that way.
Skylar de Jong (16:45)
And what’s your favorite ice cream?
Tina Gaither (16:48)
Cookies and cream.
Skylar de Jong (16:50)
Cookies and cream? Well, I’m a Rocky Road fan, and so, you can get me Rocky Road anytime.
Well, So, let me, we’ll come back to our, our panelists here in a moment. But I do want to talk about why we invited them in particular, and why I was hounding Joy and Tim and Tina months ago saying, hey, could you come and chat with us? We’re seeing some cool things, but I want to drive home, to everybody here and help understand what we saw. And so, let me first talk about our best-in-class benchmark.
So, every year we’re updated, well, every quarter we’re updating all our industry benchmarks and our global benchmark, which is all the organizations we’ve surveyed. And we look at, you know, all different industries, but we look at different sizes of organizations. We look at all the different demographics we get, whether manager, status, tenure, gender, all these different things we’re creating some data and insights off of, and, and a number of years back, we looked and said, well, let’s look at what are our top 10% of clients doing that are showing the highest engagement score? And, and that’s where we then created our best-in-class benchmark, showing, again, the top 10% of clients in engagement score.
Now, for those of you who don’t know how we create our engagement score, I’ll talk about it, there shortly, but this year’s benchmark, and then I should say one big difference between our best-in-class and our other benchmarks is we look four years back for other, our other benchmarks. A rolling four-year benchmark, but with our best in class, it’s something we’re updating every year. And there’s two reasons why. One, we’re trying to learn, you know, the most relevant things today. But two, we also want to celebrate some clients that we have, you know, each year of what, what we’re seeing.
Skylar de Jong (18:47)
So, there really is, I mean, we’ve got a trophy here, but it’s, it is something that’s impressive and we want to highlight that. Now as I talk about engagement, again, we’re kind of measuring the top 10% in engagement scores. So, for those of you who aren’t familiar with our process, on our surveys, we have what are called our engagement-anchored questions. And these are five, we’ve actually got eight different questions we utilize, you know, we usually try to benchmark and trend to at least four, ideally five of them.
And really what we’re trying to measure is how much are people’s hearts and minds in their work. How devoted are your employees to the work? And, and I, I think for the majority of you, employee engagement, is a no-brainer. But we definitely see it as a win-win situation, right? Engaged employees are more productive, they drive culture, it’s a better experience for the organization.
But engaged employees also are, are benefiting themselves. We know from plenty of studies out there that the work is what we do and it’s who we are. And if we’re engaged in our work, we’re actually leading happier, more fulfilling lives outside of life, outside of work. So, there’s this huge symbiotic relationship of why engagement matters.
When we look at our best-in-class clients, out of the top 17, that top 10%, this is actually the breakdown of engagement. Now, based off those five engagement anchor questions, we categorized employees into these four different groups. Fully engaged, key contributors, opportunity group, fully disengaged. Now if you’re comparing and saying, well, you know, we’ve heard from other organizations that engagement is like a, usually a fourth of a, a third of a population and fourth of employees. Well, that’s usually when we’re looking at fully engaged employees here, DecisionWise, we also say, well, there’s key contributors who are engaged and we wanna recognize key contributors.
Every organization has those people who are showing up every day who you can rely on that get their work done, but they’re not necessarily gonna go above and beyond their own volition. That’s where we kind of categorize the fully engaged and we talk about them. Even amongst our best-in-class clients, you do see, we’ve got some people in the opportunity group and even fully engaged organizations. You’re not going to avoid having fully disengaged employees. Generally speaking, it’s gonna happen.
And it’s just part of the, part of the process as from an organizational perspective, we’re constantly coaching and, and consulting clients and telling them, your job as leadership is to create the right environment that people can come and be engaged. You create the employee experience, employee engagement is the payoff. So, that’s, again, this is the numbers amongst that top 10% of what we see.
Skylar de Jong (21:44)
Again, here’s a couple more stats. Here’s that engagement index we just saw. When we look at overall score averages, we, we look at a favorability scale. So, we, we measure our people’s responses favorable, neutral, or unfavorable. And amongst these top 10% of organizations, 88% of their responses are favorable. Kind of gives you an idea to benchmark of where we’re at on a favorability and then engagement. And we usually see 86% participation from, you know, these top 10% organizations. As I mentioned, there’s 17 clients in that.
So, where we’ve got two clients on the call, you can see some math. We’ve got 12% of our best-in-class clients on the call. So, we’re glad to have them. So, if you’re wondering, well where did, where did Weidenhammer and NCCPA show up on some of those metrics? You can see here super impressive Weidenhammer’s engagement. They’re 88% engaged and you’ll notice that they have zero fully disengaged employees according to their survey.
And then NCCPA has the same zero fully disengaged employees. It’s something we rarely see. It’s always a highlight to go, wow, okay. And you’ve, you know, only got 12 and 4% respectively that are in that neutral opportunity group that can be won over. So, there’s really high percentage of engagement, both organizations as you look at overall scores.
This is something that stood out to me. Weidenhammer, you’re matching our best-in-class score. I actually had to double and triple-check that. I’m like, did I copy this? What went wrong? No, you had 88% overall and, and NCCPA 94%. Super impressive from both.
Before I go too much further, I guess I’ll actually pause here and just ask a very general question, but any of you can respond, what do you think plays into this, this, what do you think drives some of your engagement? What’s the top one or two things that are driving engagement in your organizations? Joy, you came off mute.
Joy McFerren (23:57)
Okay. I would say it is our culture. I mean, we really foster a, a, a culture of belonging, a culture of, of communication. And also, that we have so many long-term people, which is very unusual for tech. So, yeah, you know, our retainment is, is high, and those happy engaged people help to bring on the new people that we have. So, I, I think that we’re always trying to, to foster that, that culture of, of belonging and, you know, an interest in and a care for the people that we have.
Skylar de Jong (24:37)
Awesome. We’ve definitely seen from other organizations we’ve surveyed is you’ve got a good contingent of, and actually I’m gonna shift to the next slide, but if you’ve got a good contingent of engaged employees and key contributors, that’s infectious. It’s gonna spread and it is also gonna choke out your fully disengaged employees. They won’t feel like they belong. They won’t feel like they’re connected, which is a good thing if you don’t, you don’t really want your fully disengaged employees to feel comfortable. We’re trying to bring the best. And So, that’s, I love to hear that and I love that the culture kind of feeds into that. Tim or Tina, do you have something to add on those two?
Tim Ryan (25:14)
Well, I, I would say, and I know Tina would agree with me, that our CEO is completely bought in to, to monitoring our engagement and taking the steps necessary. So, it does, it does start from the top. It makes a big difference. And I also have to say, you know, our HR involvement in this and the HR leadership provided by Tina is really a, a key driver. I mean, I, I think that in a lot of organizations, they don’t give enough credit to hr. HR is the benefit administrators and I’m not, you know, I, I didn’t come up through the HR ranks, So, this is not self-serving other than to say that I’ve learned that having HR involved in, in employee engagement and having staff in HR that people trust and believe are fair, which, which Tina does that for us. It’s, it makes a big difference.
Skylar de Jong (26:11)
Tina Gaither (26:12)
Thank you. Thank you, Tim., And I agree, I, I think leadership’s involvement and dedication and commitment to engagement is key. As part of our onboarding process. We schedule our new hires to meet with the president and CEO in a one-on-one conversation within that first two weeks as well as the VP leadership team. And we always get feedback like, wow, I’ve never experienced this, I’ve never had a meeting. Some people are overwhelmed, like, wait, why is the president the CEO meeting with me? But once they learn and understand that this is a part of our culture, they appreciate it and they say, you know, they value that 30-minute conversation that a little bit of is, of it is business, but most of it is really getting to know each other in those conversations.
Skylar de Jong (27:00)
I love that. I I love that as a culture aspect too. And by the way, I’ll go back to Joy in the sense that, I mean, I, and you can correct me if I’m wrong here, but John Weidenhammer, the CEO of Weidenhammer very involved in the process. Like I feel like I know him just as well as I know you, you were both very involved in, in the engagement survey process as I presented to your organization. He had some, there’s definitely CEO buy-in there for sure at Weidenhammer too. I feel like there’s a good trend that you’re seeing between both organizations, right?
Joy McFerren (27:31)
Yes. Joy. And, and I have to say that, that John, John really does everything he can to help drive engagement. He’s fully committed. We have regular meeting, you know, we have monthly town halls, we have quarterly team member meetings. Everything we do, he’ll start, he’ll have at least one slide on magic and talking about it in the importance of it. One of the things that he does to help create that positive, welcoming culture is he sends individually made videos to each person before they’re hired, welcoming them, them to the company. He, he talks about the role they’re going to have about Weidenhammer. And when we just, I was looking to do an improvement on our website and when we met with people that welcoming video before they started was mentioned by many, many, many people really in the survey that we did. Yes.
Skylar de Jong (28:35)
Maybe we’ll have you share that welcome video. ’cause I wanna learn what’s, whether, what’s impacting people. But I completely, I mean, you can try to replicate a video, but it’s gonna be the feeling that’s behind it. It’s gonna be the actions that take place there for sure. I you, I did see in the chat we’ve got Gina Dembeck. Thank you for your question. She just asked Tina, do you, does your c e O and VPs participate in new hire orientation? Is that, and how does that look?
Tina Gaither (28:59)
Yeah, So, when we onboard a new hire, we work with the hiring manager to create an agenda, and the president, and the CEO meets with the new hire. And then each of the VPs in each division meets with the new hire probably for about 30 minutes within the first two weeks of them coming on board. And if, if that new hire is in the department or division underneath that VP, it’s usually a longer meeting or there’s a second follow-up meeting. But the meetings are really designed just to get to know each other. You know, we provide resumes and, and you know, they go over the functionality of that department or division, but really, it’s just, you know, welcoming, welcoming them on board and really getting to know them.
Skylar de Jong (29:49)
I love that. Great.
Tim Ryan (29:52)
I I have one other comment. It’s, it’s, yeah, please that I, ’cause I was thinking through this and thinking about our CEO and something that’s a little bit different than what I’ve seen in other organizations. And that is like we, part of the culture, like our, our CEO and the leader and the rest of the leadership team, you know, we, we take it early interventions when there’s inappropriate behavior. And you know, even when there’s, like we, and I have an example and Tina knows what I’m talking about. There was, we had a person who was a high performer, right? A director-level person who often raised their voice and was, was a little bit intimidating to some employees, had a bit of a short temper and all that.
So, it was one of those things where it wasn’t really crossing the line necessarily, but, you know, we just don’t tolerate that ’cause it’s not part of our culture. So, sure it came to HR indirectly, there wasn’t even a direct complaint. So, there was an intervention, and it was, it was very helpful. And the person, you know, really, they changed their behavior and have been, you know, but we kind of, you know, addressed it early on and, and, and it, the message gets out. We don’t, you know, we don’t tolerate, it’s not part of our culture. We don’t want, you know, anybody to feel anything other than being that we’re safe and inclusive.
Skylar de Jong (31:15)
Yeah, that’s fascinating. And there’s, there’s two thoughts I have from that, Tim. I love that. The first is like, and I think this is the point you’re driving home is your, your senior leaders are driving home the culture, this is not acceptable. This is, this is the behavior that’s acceptable. And they’re, they’re the ones going, Hey, we’re gonna cut this off before we get there. And that’s kind of the second thing that stands out to me. And again, I’m gonna come back to the 360 coaching I do. A lot of 360 assessments. We have, have the lowest scoring item regularly is takes timely corrective action to, to fix poor performance. That’s actually the, like, if, if, if you were to ask any of our consultants here, what’s the number one, like lowest scoring item on a 360? That’s it. And there’s some various different reasons.
There’s actually some decent reasons as to why that is. Because sometimes corrective action isn’t viewed and perceived and so, it scores lower. But still, the fact that that, and that’s a story you’re sharing about your organization, that’s one, you know, those stories that you see drive culture and the fact that your leaders are taking timely corrective action or that’s a hard leadership skill to gain, that’s actually stands out as really powerful too. I love that. Thank you for sharing that.
For those in attendance, I wanted to, I, I did move the slides and, and I just wanted to again highlight the thing that I shifted here is we’re comparing to where it’s the best-in-class. And this is actually where our global benchmark is below. So, you can see our, our global engagement index is usually around 78%. So, where Weidenhammer’s at 88%, NCCPA is at 96%. We’re more than 10 percentage points above what our average clients are doing for both these organizations. And even from the global overall score. 77, I mean, you’re 11 and more than 11, I can’t even do the math here, you know, 16 or, or 14%. I can’t even do the math, but you’re really quite a bit higher here. I wanted to, to come back to this because something that stood out in Weidenhammer’s engagement and something as I took over, I, I started working with Weidenhammer this year.
You’ve been doing surveys with us for years, which again, we appreciate your partnership from both of you, but what stood out to me is you compare yourself to the best-in-class survey results. In fact, the majority of our clients are doing, they usually compare to two benchmarks, our global benchmark and then an industry benchmark, right? Whichever industry they’re in, we try to map as close as possible, but one that you use instead of our global benchmark is the best in class. I would love to hear joy, like how did that come about? What was like, ’cause that was in place before I showed up on the scene. I went, oh, this is impressive. What, what, what, where did that come about?
Joy McFerren (34:17)
So, we wanted to be better than just the best in class. So, what, what, and this, this was John Weidenhammer, our, our owner and, and he said what he wants to be is better than the top decile of tech companies. So, we, we just don’t wanna be, you know, better than the average group. We, we wanna excel in technology. So, he asked if we could have that additional benchmark. And that has been very helpful for us. I mean we, we often do, well, you know, with the, the corporate, the regular best in class, but we compare ourselves and say, okay, well we’re kind of falling behind here. These are the things that we need to work at. And we are of course taking people from around the whole US. So, you know, it’s not, you know, just the, the Pennsylvania area that I mentioned, we have employees from 23 states and we’re in 29 states. So, you know, we, we need to kind of get ourselves out there in the name out there that hey, we’re not huge, but we are a player in the business. And so, we wanna be able to attract the people to come to Weidenhammer and make sure we have everything in place that people feel this, you know, is a great place to be.
Skylar de Jong (35:48)
Let me make sure I’m understanding that right. So, you have employees in 29 different states.
Joy McFerren (35:53)
We have employees in 22 different states, and we have customers in 29 different states.
Skylar de Jong (35:58)
Gotcha. Okay. But that’s impressive that you’ve got 22 different states for employees because again, as you can kind of see here, you’ve got 110 employees total. Like that is a pretty spread out population for, you know, an organization that 200 employees that Yeah, that’s impressive.
And, and you’re, you’re talking about John, you’re more or less validating what I kind of already knew because again, I sat in some debriefs with him and something I loved, and I’ll share with this group, when we shared in the executive presentation to your team, you know, we talked about, and I’m playing this role as consultants saying, Hey look, you have really excellent scores. You’re even increasing from last year. Here are some of the biggest strengths. We’re seeing some highlights, you know, you made my job hard to say here’s some recommended opportunities. And, and I remember some of the sentiment was like, whoa, how are we doing?
And, and then John started talking about, well we’re, you know, I, I can’t, I’m gonna butcher his example, but he is like if we’re like a tanker engine on the, the open seas going 21 knots. I do remember him talking about going 21 knots. He’s like, we can turn off the engines and we’re gonna continue going 21 knots for a little while and then it’s gonna peter out. And he’s like, I don’t wanna slow this down. I don’t want to. And I loved seeing that leadership that he was driving towards best in class. And I, I think that again goes back to what you talked about earlier of your culture and that’s definitely like striving for excellence is, is in there.
Joy McFerren (37:33)
And I, I thought I thought about that against the example that Tim gave because you know, they say culture is not what you say, it’s what you allow.
Skylar de Jong (37:41)
Oh, okay. Ooh, interesting.
Joy McFerren (37:42)
And you know, that was a perfect example that Tim gave of that. What do, what do you allow? You can say,
Skylar de Jong (37:51)
Joy McFerren (37:51)
I was just gonna say the one that Tim gave, you can say you wanna be best in class, but if you let people treat other people disrespectfully, then you’re not gonna be,
Skylar de Jong (38:01)
I’m gonna steal that. I’ve never heard that, but I love it. It’s not what you say, it’s what you allow. I hope everybody else is taking notes here. You can see I’m taking some notes of this. This is why I love these collaboration series. Awesome.
So, so, with NCCPA, this was, you know, this is pretty much your summary slide. And with your organization, I did something different with you. I’ve done it like once or twice before. But you had such impressive results that I said, let’s not present to your all hands. You talked about you were gonna present to your whole organization. I, I suggested, I said maybe we should, ’cause it seems almost self-serving for the executive team to be like, look, we’re doing great. And I was grateful you took me up on the offer. I was able to share this, hopefully, that presentation worked out for your team.
But one thing that stood out to me that was really interesting, again, less than a hundred employees, what’s very common for me to see is smaller organizations, less than, you know, less than 500 employees, growth opportunities is always a pain point, right? There’s just a lack of growth opportunities and advancement and training. But that was something that you were double digits above both benchmarks. Do you have, I, I’m, I’m curious, do you have an explanation? What do you think? Where were your numbers on that topic? Where did those come from?
Tina Gaither (39:28)
I was gonna say.
Tim Ryan (39:29)
Tina address that.
Skylar de Jong (39:31)
Why don’t you go and then we’ll have Tim go as well.
Tina Gaither (39:35)
So, what we, you know, what I think and what I, what I tell people when I’m talking to candidates is that NCCPA has a great training and development program. You’re right, in smaller organizations there’s only So, much growth, right? We we’re not gonna have 40 managers in, you know, or the opportunity to, you know, promote into 40 different po manager positions. So, I shared this with Tim earlier. I think one of our strengths is that we have a dedicated line item in our budget for training and development.
You know, I’ve worked in nonprofits, I came from the social services side. And what training and development has always looked like in my organizations was, you know, whatever was free or whatever money we had left over at the end of the year, right? If we had some extra money in the budget, then that’s where staffing training and development came from because it was really about the participants that we served.
You know, that’s where the bulk of the funding went. So, there wasn’t an emphasis on growth and development. It was really a struggle. But NCCPA has a dedicated line item. Tim can share that we over budget and we end up, you know, over, we over budget with the intention on everybody using those dollars. And we, we end up with excess dollars in that budget line item sometimes.
But yeah, it is definitely part of the culture that we encourage from the time you are onboarding, for you to start thinking about what growth looks like for you. ’cause it may not be, you wanna promote into another position. You may wanna pick up new skill sets, or you may wanna attend a conference that you haven’t attended before or get a certification. That is huge because we are a certifying body, a lot of our employees are certified in their craft. So, I think, you know, that’s where they see the value in that growth aspect for NCCPA.
Skylar de Jong (41:36)
Love that. I love that. So, Tim, anything to add on that? And I have a thought too, Tina, but I, I’d loved it.
Tim Ryan (41:44)
One other thing that we’ve done and, and we recognize this, you know, some years back that because we were getting feedback, you know, like, where am I gonna go? It’s a small organization, how am I gonna get promoted?
So, we started creating levels that weren’t there before and creating, I mean, quite frankly, creating titles that didn’t exist. And, and not that we don’t, you know, we put some meaning behind it, but we made sure that we squeezed out, for example, you know, we have a, if somebody’s a manager, they can then become a senior manager after a period of time. And same thing with a director. We can, we, we make people a, a senior director. We have that title, we have team leads, you know, we keep adding for individual contributors. We had, you know, we keep, when I started, we had like, you know, staff accountant, that was it. Now we have staff accountant, you know, 1, 2, 3. Now we just created for a person who’s an independent, you know, who’s an individual contributor, wants to remain that for next year we’re, we created a, a senior accountant because the, the person’s been around so long, we felt like it was worthy to do that.
So, people know we do that. So, and we, and then we, you know, they, they, they feel like they can get promoted even, even in an organization our size. So, that’s really made a difference for us, I believe.
Skylar de Jong (43:03)
I love that. And I think that that’s something that goes undervalued at smaller organizations. At larger organizations, sometimes it’s harder just to create a, a title, right? You usually have a pretty systematic process where you, you have like, what’s the next rung of the ladder if you’re climbing that. But a smaller organization, you can say, let’s add a senior to this title. We’re giving you more duties. We should be giving you a title that belongs with those duties. Right? And, and I like how you emphasize like, well, we’re adding meaning to it too. It’s not just a fluffy like title increase to keep, like you’re, you’re adding some value to it. To Tina’s point, one thing you made me think was another client we’ve worked with where you talked about like the line item of the budget is some training and development.
We worked with a, it was actually a, an auto dealer and, and they had like a college fund like thing that people could pay to go to trade school. They could get funding to go to trade school. And they similarly like, had very high growth and professional development scores on their survey.
And what we found was there’s a high correlation with their intent to stay. People were intending to stick around with the organization long term. And similar to what you mentioned too, Tina, this is what actually queued me in, is they, they complained and they asked some specific questions on the survey because they’re like, do people even know about this? Nobody uses this fund. What was interesting is everybody knew about the fund, but yeah, only like a third of the people even planned on using it. But it was like that, it’s still like a cultural thing of we’re invested in our people.
And people felt that even if they weren’t gonna use those funds, and even if they were gonna get set by the side, but they were constantly, it was important that they included the questions on the survey. Like, do you know about this? We want you to know about it, we want you to leverage it. And that drove through their, throughout their survey too. And, and again, I think of that sounds similar to what’s going on there.
Skylar de Jong (45:07)
Well, I wanna make sure we’re saving some time for our attendees. I I just have a couple slides that I’m really gonna pass through. The ultimate thing I want include these slides to say is, you know, these are, this is one of the slides we share with organizations as far as next steps where we talk about here’s the data we’ve provided, we’ve done a survey with you.
We’re providing you with the insights you need to communicate the results to yout, your team and then do some action planning. I really look at this often and I share this in our agenda slides all the time. We’re the survey experts and that’s why we’re bringing Joy and Tim and Tina today. They’re the ones that are experts on the business context, the cultural intuition. We’re just here to inform as far as, you know, insights we’ve, we see from the data, or the trends are we seeing in certain populations that are struggling more than others. And what can we make sure to help with.
I do want to actually take some time. We’ll open it up to questions. Again, you can put those in the chat, you can raise your hand and, and if I’ll, I’ll give a, I’ll pause for a moment and if we get nothing, I actually have a couple I still want to ask of you, but I want to give first right refusal to our attendees.
Well, again, you can put these in the chat, maybe some people are typing in right now. But one of the questions that came to my mind and a, a concern I had with inviting you all who are, are experiencing some quite good success in your organizations, at least again, according to survey data, maybe there’s not quite the utopia I have in my mind there, but a lot of our clients might not be in the same boat.
We definitely have some organizations that are scoring quite lower, they’re having some issues. There might be mergers and acquisitions that are happening, some layoffs that have happened, hardships that have hit. So, there’s sometimes things outside of like your control within the organization. The first part of it is, have your organizations faced things like that? How have they weathered it? And then what advice would you give to, to other organizations that might not be where you’re at?
Joy McFerren (47:31)
I can talk to that a little bit. Sure. I mean, one of the reasons and a way that Weidenhammer’s grown is through acquisitions, but we’ve also had divestitures, which are not always easy to go through. So, I, I, I agree. And, and 2021 we sold our education division, and it was a very big deal because, you know, most of the, our team members knew other team members within that organization. So, you know, we had a company-wide meeting, we explained what was going on. But I think what was really important in addition to the communication is some of the things that we did to help make that transition successful. We left the employees on our health insurance for a month So, they would be able to transition the, the company that that bought them, we had them keep everybody, but their insurance started the first of the month.
And so, we kept our people on for a month. We paid out all vacation, which we don’t do for everybody. We do it if the state requires it. The bulk of the people were in Colorado, and it does require you to pay it out. But we paid it out including the people that were in Pennsylvania or other states. So, we paid it out for everybody in that organization.
So, you know, the one thing to keep in mind is when you go through those bad times, you know, if you treat people well, that gets out as well as when you don’t treat people as well. So, you know, we tried to do that very humanely and, and keep the communications up and then we continued to support them in HR as long as they need it. And even this week somebody called me and said, Joy, I, I’ve left them, and I would, can you give me my 360 results So, I can take it to my new place? I was like, oh, okay. So, you know, I can find it and give it to ’em. That’s awesome. Yeah.
Skylar de Jong (49:34)
That’s so great. That’s so great. I’m seeing, we actually are getting some questions in the chat. I love it. Let’s actually jump to one, the first one, Sally asks, how often do you recommend surveying your employees?
I have a very biased response. I always will recommend my show, my biases. Of course, we’re an employee listening, So, we’ll say you should be doing annual surveys and I shared that slide be before where you can then also do pulse surveys on, on various different things and life cycle, et cetera. So, we, we, we would recommend a, a pretty robust listening campaign depends on your size of organization. But I want to hear from our guests, Tim, Tina, Joy, what, what you say? Like how often are you listening to employee feedback, et cetera?
Tim Ryan (50:21)
I, I will say we, in addition to DecisionWise, we also do have done other internal surveys. Just, you know, using the basic tools of SurveyMonkey, which you know Sure. And there was some concern for a while about survey fatigue because it seemed like, and, and you know, we were surveying our employees a lot and I forgot about the other ones is we, we did, we were, we, our employees were surveyed for best places to work. We just recently got the AJC the Atlanta Journal Constitutional, the newspaper. We got one of their awards for Best Places to Work. But that involves another survey.
So, you know, Tina and I talked about it ’cause we were getting feedback and at one of our all-staff meetings, we made it a point of communicating to staff, you know, why we’re doing this and, and, and reassuring them that hey, this is how it helps us. It helps us in recruiting, it helps us, you know, and, and with retention and, and kind of, you know, trying to give the people the why. Not just, we’re just not trying to like, you know, give ourself another plaque on the wall or something. So, we did address that, but there is a fine line where people do give you feedback that’s like, you know, oh, here comes another survey. You know?
Skylar de Jong (51:33)
Yeah, I agree with that fully of you’ve gotta communicate the why. I we’re, we’ve all, I mean, I think everybody here, we’ve experienced survey fatigue from either taking too many surveys or a survey. You’re like, how many questions have I answered? This is like a hundred questions now. That’s just something we’re regularly thinking about, and we even have some advice around, you know, what’s the best practices there. But I, Joy, what, how often do you recommend surveying employees? What’s your, your take on that?
Joy McFerren (52:01)
Well, I think the important consideration besides timing is what did you do with the last survey. So, if you did a survey and you didn’t, you didn’t respond to it or you don’t have everything completed that you wanted to do, I would put it off a little bit because then people would say, why bother? Why should I take it? It didn’t matter the last time. So, I liked the annual and we have, I think we skipped one year during covid. I, and we have tended to do it annually, but I have worked other places where I’ve advised, let’s, let’s wait. ’cause we don’t have near done what we, you know, we had some groups that people were right on it.
And then we had other departments where, you know, they failed to complete the mission. So, I would wait till it’s done. So, and I, I think the other key point about behind that is to be continually communicating what are you doing, right? So, people know you are really doing, you know, you care about the results, and you really are doing something to increase it. We have a hand it looks like.
Skylar de Jong (53:07)
Yeah, I was gonna say, Debbie, let’s, you can come off mute, Debbie, we’d love to hear your question and we’ve got some more in the chat. We’ll hopefully get to some more.
Okay. Thank you for taking this. Can you hear me?
Skylar de Jong (53:19)
Yes, we can.
Excellent. I am asking about, I, I’m very excited to hear what is happening with these two companies. I only wish we could get somewhere near there, but I have some, a different kind of an issue. And that is getting management on board with employee engagement.
They, I work for family company, they love their employees, but the employees don’t know that. And it’s really hard to get them to get on board with surveys or opportunities for the employees to be together to do projects together. Status quo has worked for 80 years and it’s hard to get them to think in a new way. I’m just wondering if you have any insights.
Tim Ryan (54:12)
I, I would love to address that because, because I was one of those people that was, didn’t really understand engagement. And I was just fortunate years ago I worked for Boys and Girls Clubs in central Florida. I had a really great opportunity to get, we had a board member who worked for, was a VP at Disney. And so, I got to go, there used to be a thing called the Disney Institute, and Disney did this training. It was very expensive. You know, Boys and Girls Club was never gonna pay for that, but we got it for free. So, I went and all of a sudden, my eyes were opened. ’cause Disney has that little magic, you know, that they sprinkle on their, on their cast members, right? Yes. And they’re a really deep culture. I’ve had family members work for them.
But so, so, I think it comes down to somehow understanding and getting folks to understand the value that’s in there, including like return on investment if you’re a finance person, once you realize that engaged staff is going to affect your bottom line, you know, there’s, there’s plenty of data out there to show that.
So, I don’t know exactly how you get, you know, get that across. But I think it’s about, about showing the difference that, that engagement makes. And it and it’s not just like, oh, it’s a feel-good thing. It’s, I mean it’s, it’s something that will impact operations. It’ll impact your bottom line. And, and it also, it’s just it, you know, and it’s good for the people, right? It’s just good for everybody. So, somehow conveying that is, is really what you have to do.
Awesome. Okay. That’s great. Then I’ll keep doing, I’m plugging along that course, So, I’ll just continue and hopefully, they’ll get it.
Tim Ryan (55:51)
Well, good luck. You’ll get it.
Yeah. Thank you.
Skylar de Jong (55:53)
Yeah, good luck, Debbie. Good luck in that,
Layla, I see in the chat you ask how do you measure employee engagement?
I shared a bit of a slide earlier. We have a whole process around that and whole science to it. I don’t want to spend today’s session talking too much about that. You can get me talking, but feel free to reach out to us at DecisionWise. We can talk to you about how we measure it, what we do, how we do some correlate analysis to see what drives engagement. Not just how you’re engaged, but yeah, we can answer that separately. But I love that question.
I do wanna get to Heidi’s question, what actions are taken to establish strong organizational values as they seem to have a strong positive effect on engagement? Yeah. What are the, what’s the sentiment? Joy? Tim, Tina? Not in that order.
Joy McFerren (56:42)
Well, okay, I’ll, we, we really put, we do a couple different things with the values. So, I I, one of the things that we do before people even start, we mail to them and of course, we’re sending them, most of them are remote. So, we’re sending, you know, that’s a challenge in of itself to keep this high level when everybody, you know, most people are remote, but one of the things that we do to start, we send people a backpack that says Weidenhammer, it has a Yeti that says their division notebook pens, but included in that is a, a mouse pad that has all our values, a whole bunch of tchotchkes on each of the values that we have. And so, a lot of these things are right, right in your face.
And of course, when we do, you know, when we’re talking to people in, in hiring and in orientation, we’re telling people, okay, you know, these are their values. This is how this is what we expect and how we expect you to behave. But then they’re also half of our evaluation. So, when we do our annual evaluations, you know, we’re looking at your goals, did you meet the goals? And then we have a whole section on how did you meet ’em. And we literally rate everybody on the values on, we list them and, you know, are you meeting them, exceeding them below. And so, we, we do put a lot of focus on that, on a, on a regular basis from start to finish.
Tina Gaither (58:13)
And I would say the same, oh, go ahead Tim.
Tim Ryan (58:16)
No, go ahead Tina. You, please.
Tina Gaither (58:17)
I was gonna say, I would say the same. We, we incorporate our values from the very start, from the moment you engage with the recruiter all the way into your onboarding throughout the lifecycle of your employment. So, it’s really, again, it goes back to fostering the culture from the top down. You know, HR is lucky to be supported by leadership that really gets it. I know I have HR professionals out there that struggle with moving the needle on some of the, the leadership, the buy-in part. But we are, we are lucky that we have buy-in from leadership and we have another perk of being in a small organization.
We have the flexibility to kind of incorporate new things as we go. Covid changed the dynamic for NCCPA, like it did a lot of people. So, we pivoted from being a hundred percent on-site to being remote to being a hybrid work environment. And we have learned to incorporate little touch points along the way that, you know, you tie back to our values and making sure that, you know, we are getting that point across to everyone who we come in contact with.
Skylar de Jong (59:30)
I love that.
Tim Ryan (59:32)
And one of the things that we do, just a practical thing that we do is we have a quarterly all-staff meetings and kind of like a town hall thing, but we incorporate, we call it valuing our values and throughout the quarter people can submit to HR, you know, and select somebody and say, Hey, I wanna recognize somebody. And then, and then during our all-staff meeting, we’ll read the citation, if you will, and, and we give the person like a $25 gift card and, and recognized them in public and also, recognize the person that, that, you know, that initiated the value in our values. So, it works both ways and, and it’s well received.
Skylar de Jong (1:00:10)
Awesome. Well, thank you again to our panelists today to Joy. Tim. Tina, I really appreciate you sharing your time. They did not need to do this. We’re not giving them any benefits. They really are just volunteering their time to share some best practices and highlight some of the great things going on there. I mean, I, I took some notes.
I definitely saw senior leadership, CEO buy-in, some really good trends that I think, yeah, I, that’s tracks with what I’ve seen as well from organizations and then yeah, leadership involvement, but the culture is driven too from that aspect. And those things really play out.
Hopefully everybody else has found this really rewarding. Like I said, we’re hoping to turn this into some more of a series and do some of this regularly. So, those of you in attendance today, feel free to reach out if you’d be interested in sharing some of your best practices or things that you’re seeing some as well.
Skylar de Jong (1:01:03)
And lastly, I just wanna think DecisionWise for, for letting us be able to share this with, with the HR community and doing some of our, our advertising. When I say DecisionWise, we’ve got Kaley and we’ve got Erik on the line from our marketing team who really helped in making sure to market this. So, let us know what questions you have about DecisionWise. Feel free to, to connect with us on, on LinkedIn. And I’m sure you could also look up Tim, Tina, and Joy and, and shout out their praises too. So, thanks everybody for joining. We’ll, we’ll cut it off here. Have a good one.