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Employee Engagement Ideas: Creating a Magnetic Culture

Employee Engagement Ideas: Creating a Magnetic Culture

What is great company culture? Free food? Extra vacation? Flexible hours?

Employers spend more than $720 million on employee engagement ideas every year, yet only 30 percent of the workforce is actively engaged.

That’s because it takes more than “stuff” to truly engage team members.

PeopleMatter recently partnered with workplace culture guru, Laurie Ruettimann, who is also an HR strategist, writer and published author, for a webinar to talk about what it takes to build and develop a culture that helps you find and keep happy, passionate and loyal people.

Laurie says creating a magnetic culture really boils down to six key employee engagement ideas:

  • Mission-driven organizations are more fun
  • Culture is a choice
  • Straight-talk with team members beats buzzwords and legalese
  • You can learn from the best. Improved engagement and retention are possible
  • Money is part of the equation, but there’s more
  • Loyalty is a two-way street, and it goes a long way

All of that sounds great, but where do you start?

We hand-picked three PeopleMatter clients who are rocking the employee culture game and wanted to share what they’re doing inside (and outside) of their organizations to better engage team members and give themselves a competitive edge.

Client: Texas Roadhouse

Texas Roadhouse

If you think creating a magnetic culture is hard with a handful of locations, try making that happen with more than 400.

But that isn’t stopping Texas Roadhouse.

Their motto is also their commitment: “The Texas Roadhouse story is simple. Legendary Food, Legendary Service – all with lots of Legendary fun!

Their founder and CEO, Kent Taylor, is vocal about always putting team members first and customers second. He says if you do that, you’ll end up taking care of the shareholders.

I think it’s safe to say that kind of sentiment from the CEO makes employees at Texas Roadhouse, affectionately known as “Roadies,” feel incredibly valuable.

Even during tough economic times, the casual dining chain has continued to invest in recognition and celebration events because they understand that if they take care of their people, their people will take care of their guests.

Isn’t that what it’s really all about?

It’s like if you make an investment in your 401k, you’re saving money for the future. You expect a return on that investment. First, you have to put up money to do it. For the life of me, I don’t understand something: if you have people as your biggest asset and you claim they are your biggest asset, then how can you not invest in them but expect a return?

Former CEO, Texas Roadhouse

In an effort to further take care of their people, Texas Roadhouse started Andy’s Outreach Fund – a way for employees to help other employees. Whether a team member is affected by a death in the family, a natural disaster, or other devastating life event, Andy’s Outreach Fund raises money to help their family members (any employee) who might be struggling.

The Texas Roadhouse culture is one by design, not by default.

It’s about giving employees a sense of identity, meaning and belonging … and it’s working.

Client: Tender Greens

Tender Greens

I love the goal of Tender Greens’ founders: “to have all employees look back and say that Tender Greens was the best job they ever had.

I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to work there.

Sure, Tender Greens also wants customers to have access to healthy, delicious food that feeds the belly and the soul, but all of that starts with their team members. Like Texas Roadhouse, Tender Greens understands that if you put your people first, everything else will take care of itself.

Something that really touched me about Tender Greens’ culture is their Sustainable Life Project.

It provides a structured, working and learning environment to youth living in the foster system with the goal of guiding and supporting them through a critical transitional period to help them become empowered, self-sufficient young adults. That means offering paid culinary internships, cooking and nutrition classes and the opportunity to apply for a full-time job at the end of the six-month period.

People like to be a part of an organization that gives back and helps make the world a better place. It makes them feel like they’re a part of something bigger than themselves, and that’s a feeling you can’t replace.

Client: Boloco


One of the things that’s made Boloco successful is the epiphany the company’s co-founder and CEO, John Pepper, had one night.

He was mopping the floor after an employee hadn’t shown up for his shift and realized that “mopping sucks.

That in turn, made him question a few basic things:

  • Who in their right mind would choose to do this work?
  • Who would agree to get paid so little to do it?
  • Where did people ever think this job would lead?

Pepper realized that the company was playing a losing game by focusing on how they could get the most out of their people while paying them as little as possible.

He asked himself, “What kinds of things can we do to give mopping meaning?

From there, Boloco began focusing on people as their main strategy – not just because of all the humanitarian positives that would come with that, but also because he believed it would build a better business.

Boloco started offering employees transportation discounts, comfortable lounge areas and higher-than-average wages to hire and keep the best talent.

Those things alone led to record sales and profits in the years that followed.

Pepper said he learned a few very important lessons in his early years with the company:

  • Make sure your organization has a purpose statement that inspires people. Answer the WHY for the company.
  • Communicate it clearly and often so everyone in the organization get the picture. Use technology to reinforce it.
  • Understand the mission, vision and values of your company and help your employees understand them as well.
  • Work on becoming an authentic, self-aware leader who engages in behaviors that make people feel you believe they matter. Be open, curious and vulnerable with your team.

The Boloco mission is to better the lives and futures of their people, and they use a burrito to do it. Pepper says fast food has traditionally been a terrible place to work, but they’ve been changing that since 1997 – one globally-inspired burrito at a time.

Final Thoughts

Although all three of these organizations are different, they have one thing in common – they’ve created a magnetic culture through one simple employee engagement idea: give their team members meaning and a sense of purpose.

More importantly, they have anchored this in making the team members more important than the customers. By doing that, they are taking care of the people who will then take care of their customers.

Every company has a culture. Why not make it one you – and your team members – love?

Guest Post by Jenny Lewandowski

Jenny serves as the “voice of the employer” for Snagajob. Her number one goal is to provide thought leadership content that helps hourly employers recruit, hire, manage and engage their team members more effectively. When she’s not trying to help employers run their business better, you can find her spending time with her husband and two dogs, cheering on the Georgia Bulldogs or out enjoying the foodie scene, beach and music life that Charleston has to offer.

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