Ace Employee Engagement With These Tips From Rackspace

April 10, 2014

Not too long ago, there were no job boards, no social networks, and not a lot of choices when it came to career options. It used to be that professionals took a job to get a paycheck and that was that.

But now, the world is their oyster. Social media has made it possible (no, easy) for people to access career opportunities and learn about what it’s like to work somewhere, long before they sign an offer letter. And once they’re on board, they expect the reality to measure up to the promises delivered when they were on the outside. In other words, for those of you promoting your talent brand, you should bear in mind that it’s a core factor in driving employee engagement once the new hire starts work.

But the tough question is – what should a company do to build and maintain employee engagement?

Rackspace seems to have the answer. The company has become a staple on award lists around the world recognizing employee engagement from FORTUNE’s 100 Best Companies, to The Sunday Times 100 Best Companies and Glassdoor’s Employee’s Choice Awards.

Employee engagement at Rackspace -- Life

To save you reinventing the wheel, here are some pointers from a company that’s doing it right:

1. Rally your employees around a solid, meaningful foundation.

The Rackspace mission statement is “To be recognized as one of the world’s greatest service companies.”  This statement, along with their six core values, drives each and every decision made at Rackspace. Therefore when Graham Weston, Chairman and CEO, says, “What we all want is to be valued members of a winning team on an inspiring mission,” the team has a shared roadmap to get there.

Rackspace core values

Within the first month of starting, each Racker attends three days of Rookie-O (Rookie Orientation). During that pivotal training, leaders from across the business including the CEO, President, and some of the original founders drive home the importance of the company mission and explain how it is driving current business strategy.

Additionally, Rackspace uses new manager training to make sure its employees understand the individual roles they play in delivering the company mission. As the primary keepers of engagement, every new manager (whether promoted or hired from the outside) attends a multi-day Manager Detox course that provides them the skills to be successful people leaders and company mission advocates.

2. Make open and transparent communication the norm.

Rackspace lives by the mantra, “The more you know, the more you can do” and whether you’re the CEO or an intern, Rackers learn about the business as a family—together. Here are a few examples:

Despite being a publicly traded company, Rackspace has decided to be fully transparent with Rackers  in discussing the business. This typically happens monthly during their globally streamed OpenBook meetings—a unique feature of the culture and a necessity to ensure all Rackers are aligned in providing “Fanatical” outcomes for their customers.

Another opportunity for the company to align is during All Hands meetings held by the individual business units.  Further refinements continue down through weekly team meetings and individual 1+1 meeting between manager and Racker.

3. Recruit the right cultural fit, and then place each individual in the right environment for success.

  • Finding the right people:  at Rackspace, qualified candidates are interviewed by cross-functional panels made up of potential team members, business partners from other departments and often at least one senior leader.  The cross-functional input is critical: recruiters have already done their part delivering candidates with the right skills, but now it’s time for those who will work alongside the candidate to evaluate their ability to succeed in the role.
  •  rackspace-slideEmployees’ strengths = company success:  All Rackers receive a strengths assessment upon being hired. This not only helps the Racker identify their unique abilities, but allows their well-trained managers to adapt the approach and allocation of work assignments to leverage the natural abilities of each Racker.
  • Staying true to start-up roots: Innovation, rapid creativity and freedom are the basics for any successful start-up. When you grow, don’t forget to keep these concepts sacred. At Rackspace, the HR team works hard to not impose undue policies or procedures upon Rackers, keeping them agile and autonomous to innovate.
  • Dedication to OPEN: Surrounded by wall-to-wall whiteboards, open floor plans, informal meeting spaces and flags hung from the ceilings, Rackspace offices are built to foster constant collaboration and creativity. Rackers are encouraged to have open minds and are not judged for their tattoos, accents, colored hair, or their love of t-shirts, but for their intellect. And a commitment to open technologies (starting with founding OpenStack) reminds every Racker that their work has a widespread impact.

4. Help employees learn and grow.

Rackspace leadership recognizes that when Rackers don’t grow, neither does Rackspace. Hence the company makes a significant financial investment into development through the internal Rackspace University, industry-leading cloud technology trainers and relationship experts. Managers carve out time for their Rackers’ personal development and have regular conversations to understand what’s next in their direct reports’ career paths.

Rackspace diversity

So don’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to employee engagement… try some of these ideas and pay it forward to your own teams. I have a feeling you’ll quickly see how happy, engaged employees can impact your bottom line – and the world we live in.

Special thanks to Jason Hopkins, Global Talent Brand Manager at Rackspace, for collaborating with us on this post.

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