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What Do Costco Hots Dogs Have in Common with the Employee Experience?

on January 7, 2021
Resources All Employee Engagement

Hot dogs and employee experience? Yes, there is a connection! Trust me and read on.

An article I recently read described how Costco hasn’t changed the price of its $1.50 hot dog and soda deal in more than 35 years. Costco’s CEO believes that people would pay $1.75 (or more) for it, but he doubts that earning an extra 25 cents per meal would benefit Costco more than the goodwill and foot traffic generated by a reliable snack that’s stuck to its price point for more than three decades.

“Customers coming in to shop at Costco are amused, satisfied, and fueled by the hot dog meal,” the article says. “If they get it just before leaving the store, they’re left with a lasting impression of being treated well. That’s worth more than keeping up with inflation.”

For most people, the takeaway would have been, “That’s a great philosophy when it comes to customer experience.” But for me, the takeaway was, “What if other leaders and organizations used this approach when thinking about their employee experience?”

The Employee Experience Can Make or Break a Business

During my career, I’ve worked for some great companies. I’ve also worked for some not-so-great companies. The standouts were the ones that focused heavily on the experience their people had. Many factors influence the employee experience: access to development opportunities, mentoring, ability to build trust, and how leaders engage with their employees.

Employee experience encompasses an organization’s culture, its physical space, and technology practices. For me, the culture of the organization plays the biggest role in my employee experience, but if you’re working in a sh!%$# physical space with faulty technology, that will have a huge impact. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in some pleasant environments (although one had an overabundance of “corporate blue.” Can you say, “Too much of a good thing”?).

When all these elements are thoughtfully architected and supported by leaders, organizations should have a plethora of happy, high-performing employees.

Back to the Costco hot dog. If your employees end their workday with the same sense of satisfaction as a Costco shopper leaving the store with their affordable, tasty hot dog, then you’re doing things right. Your people feel they’re being treated well, which means you recognize and value the employee experience you’re delivering to your people.

But if you’re not thinking about the culture, leadership practices, or overall offerings your organization brings to your people that contribute to their employee experience, then you’re likely dealing with many challenges that you probably can’t handle. This is especially true during a worldwide pandemic.

How to Create Your Own Hot Dog Combo: Three Tips to Help Your Business

If you know your organization’s employee experience is struggling, here are three tips to give your people the same feeling they get when they score the $1.50 hot dog deal.

1. Value people above profit.

A business usually exists to make money – money for its leaders, owners, and investors, and for its people to earn a living. But without your people, your business can’t exist. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. But the more your people understand that you value them and the work they do (no matter what their role is in your organization), the better the top line and bottom line will look for everyone.

This means that leaders need to continually demonstrate that people are the heart, lungs, brains, and nervous system of the business. Creating this type of environment doesn’t have to be difficult. It also doesn’t have to entail a full overhaul of your culture. It begins with respect and honesty. It requires transparency and authenticity, and leaders who engage everyone in the big and small details, and create a platform for people to share idea and concerns.

Giving people a voice and a way to share their thoughts, questions, and points of view can help them feel like they’re a vital part of the business. It can’t just be lip service, though. A recent employee experience survey from Qualtrics found that 92% of employees believe it’s important that their company listen to feedback, but only 7% say their company acts on feedback really well.

Improving the way an organization shows it values its people isn’t hard. Start by acknowledging the insights or feedback employees share. You’ll prove that you value their opinions and recognize that they’re making contributions (no matter how small). This will leave them with a wonderful feeling (just like that hot dog) that influences their future behavior.

2. Purposely focus on purpose.

While the data has been around for years, leaders are finally taking this information to heart and acknowledging that being purpose-focused is a revenue driver and difference maker for organizations. You’ve likely seen some of these statistics:

  • Companies that lead with purpose are 202% more likely to be profitable (Source: Keller, V. The Business Case for Purpose. Harvard Business Review, 2015)
  • Purpose-driven companies with humanistic values outperformed the S&P 500 by 14 times over 15 years (Source: Sisodia, R., Jag Sheth, and David B. Wolfe, Firms of Endearment, 2007)

Having a clear purpose – your organization’s impact on people or the world at large and what makes your organization uniquely you – does more than just provide strategic guidance. Your organization’s purpose speaks to the head and the heart – it makes work meaningful for your people. Meaningful work motivates, inspires, and engages your people. It helps create that feeling of accomplishment that everyone desires: “I delivered an important piece of what makes this organization successful. I did great work today. I made a difference in someone’s life.”

The purpose element is a cornerstone of your employee’s experience. If your leaders and your people strongly believe in what your business does and how it impacts the world, it goes a long way in leaving a positive lasting impression – just like a hot dog and soda for $1.50.

3. Employee experience isn’t just an HR “problem.”

Creating the employee experience is everyone’s job – not just HR’s. Yes, the HR leaders play a key role in organizational communication, company benefits, and programs for talent and skill development, but it’s up to leaders and managers outside this department to foster, support, and deliver these messages directly to their teams. Managers are the ones who need to ensure that everyone is “walking the walk” of critical behaviors, following policies, ensuring work-life balance, listening to their teams, and relaying feedback to the appropriate leaders.

Every leader can provide a positive, lasting impression that makes your people excited to come to work every day. It starts at the top, but it needs to be emphasized that everyone plays a role in the employee experience.

Leaders Must Keep Employee Experience Top of Mind – Always

Whether your organization is like the many others that have experienced a rough patch or you’re lucky enough to be enjoying your best performance ever, employee experience must be a mainstay through every peak and valley. It can get your people through difficult times by keeping them engaged, feeling like they belong, and tethering them to your business instead of jumping ship. Employee experience can also carry your organization to even greater heights.

So, ask yourself: What’s your organization’s equivalent to a bargain hot dog and soda combo?

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