What is Employee Engagement?

What is Employee Engagement from CCRRC on Vimeo.

The first phase of the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council North America NACS project on building a culture of engagement was designed to motivate interest through a series of compelling firsthand experiences with employee engagement. These videos, based on industry analysis, are available on the council website and are a great way to learn from your peers.

The second phase of the work, which is posted this week, is the first of five lessons on “How employee engagement works.” Each segment, narrated by Professor Blake Frank, serves up clear, practical insights that will benefit anyone supervising people in the convenience store business.

These lessons answer the question “What is employee engagement?” Blake Frank takes apart this complicated subject and provides illustrated examples that give managers the ability to quickly figure out when an employee or group is or is not engaged. It’s clear by the end of the lesson why employee engagement can have such a powerful influence on customer experience and overall company performance.

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Research Supports the Benefit of Employee Engagement

Puzzle pieces of faces, couple attached in centre

When the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council North America NACS began to look into building a culture of employee engagement, it was hard to know what was real and what wasn’t. That’s when they asked Dr. Blake Frank, a professor at the University of Dallas, to dig into academic papers on the topic.

Academic papers have the advantage of being peer reviewed; i.e. critiqued by other academics, to ensure that they are well done, make a contribution to learning and are supported with original research and footnotes to earlier sources.

The council asked that he review what had been written on employee engagement across industries and develop a broad-based understanding of how employee engagement helps to improve business strategies. It is not important that the findings come just from convenience retailing; that connection will be established later through a large scale industry study in the third part of this project. These findings can benefit all forms of business growth.

From this work, Professor Frank produced a paper (available on the website) that serves as a reference report. It’s designed for HR professionals in convenience and other types of retailing, as well as academics and consultants who have a deep interest in what makes employee engagement so important in all types of growth strategies for business.

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What’s Your ROI?

Employee Engagement: This is what success looks like.

While employee engagement can generate ROIs, it only happens when there’s an investment of time and energy in your people. This starts with taking a clear-eyed look at the culture in your stores and recognizing that the culture is key to unlocking these returns.

It’s not easy to have a clear-eyed look at culture because you’re part of it. That’s where employee feedback can help, but it takes more than that. Managers must also be willing to react to the feedback, and model and encourage what they want people to do to achieve a longer business life cycle. When you have employees who want to work for you, that’s when you get the ROI.

As you’ll hear in the video from managers who’ve done the work to change the culture in their stores, the results from these efforts were incredible. With no organized focus on driving sales increases, sales were up 20 percent. This was simply the result of more engaged employees.

What’s Your ROI

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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It’s a Partnership

Employee Engagement: This is what success looks like.

Once you have a new employee, there’s an opportunity to build a productive relationship with him or her; i.e. to show them that they’re a valued partner in driving sales and profit of the store. Some people put up barriers, but managers who are good at building employee engagement find ways to break through and communicate with them. Maybe the person is shy or just unsure of themselves. The investment of time and energy in your people is the key to make your business grow.

It starts with listening and finding out what’s important to them on and off the job. In this video you’ll hear what a manager did to turn the company pyramid upside down and to help his employees see they were most important when it came to taking care of customers and aiding business growth.

The idea of turning the company pyramid upside down may feel a little extreme, but you’ll see how it brought a better workplace to life.

It’s a Partnership

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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Even Small Accomplishments Deserve Recognition

Employee Engagement: This is what success looks like.


If you celebrate your employees’ many victories, it builds their engagement and helps grow your business. Your opportunity is to “see them, praise them, and be specific.” It’s amazing how an employee can be energized when one of their accomplishments is recognized. One reason appreciation is powerful is because of the negatives in the workplace. The good news is that it’s possible to neutralize these negatives, and this is something managers can learn.

In this video you’ll hear how a few words of appreciation in a district manager’s newsletter unlocked the energy of people across her district. People wanted to be acknowledged, and after reading the newsletter, many volunteered to work in another store because they wanted to be part of the business growth. You’ll also hear ideas on how to use “real time recognition” to power up your people.

Grow your business, business growth

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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People Want to Be Known

Employee Engagement: This is what success looks like.


Building a culture of employee engagement happens when a manager really gets to know the people who work for them and how that can transform the way employees feel about their boss and the business.

In our third video as part of the “Power Up Employee Engagement” video series, you’ll see a powerful story of how one supervisor decided to not just understand what was important to one of her managers, but to also get involved.

You’ll learn how managers tap into the power of getting to know their people outside, as well as inside of the workplace and how this increases engagement.

People Want to Be Known

This all boils down to the fact that employees, just like everyone else, want to be known as the unique person they are. It also shows that managers who make a genuine effort to do this can take a big step forward in building a new culture of engagement in their business. You’ll see that this doesn’t take a lot of time and can produce some amazing results that improve sales and profit, empowering you to grow your business.

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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Perception is Reality

Employee Engagement: This is what success looks like.


It’s not always easy to hear what people really think of you. After all, as a manager, you know what needs to be done, so you hope your employees will understand and follow your direction.

The problem is that this approach rarely works. Employees are people too, and how they feel about their manager affects the quality of their work.

The first step in building a culture of employee engagement is understanding how your employees react to your actions. You need to be aware of how they see you because their perception is reality and has a major impact on your business growth.

In our second video as part of the “Power Up Employee Engagement” video series, you’ll hear what these managers did when they learned how their teams saw them. The most common (and surprising) piece of feedback? They needed to listen.

CCRRC Perception is reality

While the managers thought they were on the right track, their employees did not agree. Many team members commented that their managers arrived with their own agenda and seldom asked employees for their ideas or opinions. When they did get a chance to speak with their managers, the teams said they were distracted by their phones the whole time. That said to them that they weren’t important to the manager or the business.

These managers used the feedback to change how they interacted with their direct reports, but it didn’t stop there. In this clip, you’ll see the different ways they engaged with their employees on a more personal level.

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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The Effect of Employee Engagement

Employee Engagement: Acknowledging opportunities for improvement.


Though the council’s decision on which topic to study was close, it came down to just two topics: understanding the impact of technology and building a culture of employee engagement.

When the votes were counted, employee engagement prevailed because it has proven effective as a marketing strategy for the business. Here’s why:

  • As competition for good talent intensifies, ensuring employees feel valued is an important, affordable way to achieve a good reputation in the workplace.
  • Workforce expectations are changing and how people treat each other at work is increasingly vital, particularly to younger employees.
  • When you treat your employees well, they’ll treat the customers well.

Studies across various fields consistently show that positive workplace culture leads to both increased sales and improved profitability, helping grow your business. When your employees know and are reminded of their worth, they perform better. They represent the store more effectively, deliver improved service and bring more of their own ideas and energy to the job.

Sellers assistant team

We have developed a series of videos that will take you through the steps for improving employee engagement in your convenience store. The series is called “Power Up Employee Engagement: A Flash of Light.” In the first video, you’ll see what happened when various district and regional managers from convenience stores across North America learned their actions were hindering employee engagement. You’ll also witness their decision to commit to change.

Read more about employee engagement in our ongoing study, Power Up Your People.

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Marketing from the Stars (and Dwarf Planets)

When the New Horizons spacecraft went zipping by the dwarf planet Pluto this month, the stunning photos beamed back to earth weren’t just a product of incredible engineering. Social media played a role too.

NASA officials told Wired magazine that social media is a key part of their plan to keep sharing photos with us interested earthlings and, in fact, many of the first photos actually showed up on Instagram.

Down on earth, that type of planning is worthy of consideration. Today’s array of social media sites afford your company the opportunity to build relationships, share ideas and even post wonderful photos—albeit of food rather than heavenly objects. But like NASA you need a strategy to find your best path.

Insights on how to build and employ your social media strategy can be found in the recent multi-part Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) report called Untangling the Social Web.

It’s available for free downloads at: http://bit.ly/1RqXmv8

Michael Sansolo

Research Direction

Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council of North America

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Next NACS/CCRRC Study Will Focus on Engaging Store-Level Employees

Want to learn how to increase engagement with your store-level associates? The NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council is doing a study to help convenience retailers, small and large, create a culture that increases the engagement of their people working in the stores.

There’s a lot of interest in this topic, as retailers are looking for ways to recruit and keep talent such as investing in improving supervisor’s communication skills. Strong employee engagement is now needed for survival in food retailing.

The study will guide convenience retailers that are just beginning to focus on employee engagement, as well as those who’ve made progress but don’t want to miss any good ideas.

It will cover:

  1. Getting the basics right – Understanding what motivates employees in convenience retail and translating these practices into useful tools.
  2. Pushing the envelope – Looking beyond the basics to identify best practices used by companies outside of convenience retail.
  3. Changing the game – Evaluating advanced ideas like employee stock ownership plans and profit sharing.

If this is important to your business, you can follow conversations about this study on our blog or LinkedIn group, and post your questions and concerns to help inform the study. Your experience, good or bad, will provide the Council with a better foundation for the study.  To get engaged, email me at bill.bishop@brickmeetsclick.com to tell me about your experience or set up a call if you’d like to talk about it.

Bill Bishop

Research Director

NACS/Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council

Founder, Willard Bishop LLC and Chief Architect BrickMeetsClick


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