Last week at the Bersin by Deloitte IMPACT conference, Echo Global Logistics’ CEO Doug Waggoner and SVP of Talent Cheryl Johnson shared their story of creating a strong company culture through treating their employees the same as their valuable customers. Read more about their approach below:
Excellent customer service is a primary factor behind Echo’s success. The company provides technology-enabled transportation and supply chain management services. Echo reported a 39 percent increase in net revenue for 2015 — despite a highly competitive market — and has been recognized by numerous trade publications such as Global Trade, Inbound Logistics and Transport Topics for its business success and service.
A strong partnership between HR and business leaders drove incorporating customer-centric cues into the entire employee experience. Echo identified five customer experience cues including:
- Focusing on building loyalty
- Soliciting and listening to employee feedback
- Nurturing a community
- Giving employees things they value
- Making them happy
Macro-level and Echo-specific business drivers shaping their employee engagement approach
Echo realized that today’s candidates demand prospective employers be invested in sustainability and are socially responsible. The war for talent is also very real, especially for high-demand skill sets and in certain industries. As such, Echo knew it was increasingly important to be mindful of its company brand and give employees experiences they want.
Echo also faced unique business and employee challenges. The organization grew in large part due to acquisitions, with employees spread out across 30+ offices. It became difficult to provide consistent customer and employee experiences. To differentiate its employer brand from others in the marketplace, Echo decided to take a different approach.
The “Echo Way”
Echo considered culture its a key competitive differentiator and one of its four corporate pillars. It took a holistic approach to build a stronger culture and incorporated the following six components into the “Echo Way”:
- Direction and purpose
- Recognition and rewards
- Frequent and transparent communication
- Career and professional development
Echo knew that creating an experience that motivated employees to better serve customers, partners and each other required:
- Intent: Echo was deliberate about defining its culture and employee experience.
- Process: The company integrated its desired culture into everything that impacted and supported it, and worked to eliminate things that detracted from it.
- Heart: Echo made it personal. Pride and purpose gave its employees a sense of ownership and deeper commitment.
Creating a Social Community
To enable this cultural shift, the Echo team created a social community called “Echo Engage” powered by HighGround. It helped mirror the employee experience with Echo’s greater mission, vision and values. Through this platform, employees now:
- Recognize one another for living out Echo’s values
- Share their feedback with the company through surveys
- Create goals that are aligned up to the company goals
- Carry out ongoing, continuous performance development conversations
Echo Engage helps them celebrate successes and offers visibility activity across their 30+ offices. When someone receives a recognition badge for a job well done, other employees can comment and like the badge. This also gives their executive team visibility into what is working and what isn’t. By using the application’s entire suite, Echo’s leaders can analyze data to identify high-performing employees and access greater transparency across the enterprise.
The platform also gathers feedback from individuals outside the organization. Approximately 10 percent of Echo’s feedback is external and includes a wide network of customers and business partners. Not only can Echo identify and resolve potential issues in real time, but leaders have greater visibility into what’s working. They can identify highly rated employees and pinpoint what they are doing differently that benefits the client.
Impact of the Echo Engage program on company culture and employee engagement
The program has proven value and improved the business in the following ways:
- Echo received the #2 Inbound Logistics Company Award voted by customers in 2015
- Improvement in every employee engagement category on their annual employee survey year-over-year from 2014 to 2015
- Employee referral rate continues to increase
- Significant reduction in unwanted turnover
- Consistent experience for employees and customers across all branches
Echo’s advice for other companies looking to shift to this culture model
The first step to drastically shifting culture and engagement is securing leadership alignment and buy-in. Without executive support, the journey is challenging. Employee engagement drives real business outcomes, such as increased productivity and profitability. That should appeal to leadership.
In terms of crafting and executing the program, Echo followed these key steps:
- Step 1: Define values
- Step 2: Enlist culture champions
- Step 3: Build awareness
- Step 4: Develop understanding
- Step 5: Make them applicable
- Step 6: Measure adoption
It can be daunting to consider all the necessary decisions and tactics, so Echo first nailed down Step One before even thinking about moving on to Step Two. They also prioritized projects that would add high value, in terms of both initial momentum and long-term lasting power.
Cheryl said other companies should fall in love with the problem, not the solution (aka, a new shiny object). If the business problem is top of mind, organizations can be more programmatic in their approaches. The little details make all the difference.
To learn more about how Echo uses HighGround to create a culture focused on excellent customer service and to recognize high-performing employees, read the entire case study here.