This is the second year SHRM has had a “Practitioner Exchange Series” as part of its annual conference. The track is devoted entirely to hearing from Trench HR Professionals on what actually works– as opposed to hearing from consultants or vendors about what should work. It’s so important that SHRM has this track and that the HR community gets exposed to some of their brightest and most successful peers.
Dan Satterthwaite is the Head of HR for Dreamworks Animantion SKG. Here’s all I really need to say about this company: They are close to 2,000 employees – most of who are highly sought after in their respective fields – and they have voluntary turnover of less than 5%. Nuf said. They do a bunch of crazy stuff for their people. Too many crazy things to list. They have a hoola-hoop club, though; that should put it into perspective.
Dan is the first to profess that employee engagement is not a program; it’s an outcome. And if you want the kind of outcome Dreamworks has, then you have to be willing to go far beyond the traditional employment proposition to which most organizations have fallen prey to. You don’t only have to provide challenging, rewarding, and meaningful experiences for your people; you have to allow them to self-actualize. Yep, the pinnacle of Maslow’s hierarchy.
Dreamworks does this in a number of ways. But here are three of them that are so simple that you could do them even if you don’t have a beautiful corporate campus in Southern California.
1) Build Trust through open, transparent, regular, communications; give them a safe haven where great stories are told, information is shared, and conversations bubble. Jeffrey Katzenberg, one of the founders and acting CEO, publishes a blog post to all employees every freaking day…rain or shine.
2) Allow people to fail. Give them permission to approach things iteratively. As Dan says, if you don’t make your employees comfortable with failure, they’ll never really be successful. Love this!
3) Give your people a choice. You don’t have to democratize, but let them have a say in the matter…whatever it is.