The "Rocket" Science of Happy Employees
A 2017 Baldrige Award Winner with a Strong Workforce Focus
by Christine Schafer, NIST Blogrige
Want to improve workforce engagement in your organization? Consider what you can learn from one of the nation’s identified role models for high performance. For example, in the business sector, you might study Stellar Solutions, a 2017 Baldrige Award-winning small business based in Palo Alto, California, that provides professional engineering services in the aerospace field.
Stellar Solutions has been repeatedly designated a “Great Place to Work” by Fortune magazine in recent years (from 2014 to 2017). 2017 employee survey results show that 99 percent of respondents agree that “taking everything in to account, Stellar is a great place to work.” For the same four consecutive years, survey data show that 100 percent of its customers would recommend the company to others.
How does Stellar Solutions engage its rocket scientists (among other employees) to achieve such enviable results? From its inception in 1995, the woman-owned business has set a vision of aligning “employees’ dream jobs” with its customers’ critical needs.
To meet its objectives of having (1) engaged, satisfied employees, (2) employees’ “dream jobs” matched with customers’ critical needs, and (3) “low to no attrition,” Stellar has created a system of workforce-focused processes (in alignment with category 5 of the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence) that include the following practices:
- Conducting monthly face-to-face employee visits/meetings
- Creating employee incentive bonus plans and review these with employees
- Completing annual updates to each employee’s “Dream Job Worksheet” and review progress quarterly
- Providing annual required training
- Providing professional development training
- Providing recognition through bonuses
Measures and Results
Key metrics used by Stellar to measure its approaches for developing and retaining employees include completion of annual bonus plans, quarterly dream job assessments (i.e., reviewing progress on each employee’s Dream Job Worksheet), employee participation in training, bonuses paid, employee survey ratings, and attrition.
In addition, Stellar measures its progress in relation to its identified top three drivers of employee engagement: (1) feeling empowered and trusted to do what’s best for the customer, (2) feeling encouraged to balance one’s work life and personal life, and (3) feeling that one’s work has special meaning rather than being “just a job.”
For the company’s 2017 employee survey, 100 percent of respondents agreed with the statement “I am empowered and trusted to do what is best for my customer.” In addition, 98 percent agreed with the statement “I am encouraged to balance my work life and my personal life,” and 97 percent agreed that “My work has special meaning: this is not ‘just a job.’”
At the end of a presentation of its workforce-focused practices for the Baldrige community in April, Stellar shared these two key points:
- “Our employees are our greatest resource.” Stellar Solutions keeps employees engaged by “helping them work toward their dream jobs and empowering them to identify and solve our customers’ most critical needs.”
- “It is important for us to encourage and offer multiple outlets for collaboration and communication among our workforce to share knowledge across various locations and projects.”
Courtesy of NIST Blogrige, www.nist.gov/blogs/blogrige