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How Leaders at California Closets are Hanging Their Hat on Employee Engagement

Nicole Klemp
Nicole Klemp

California Closets is an industry leader in premium and luxury space management, helping people transform their spaces with custom products and services for over 30 years. Today, the company has 120 showrooms and 700+ designers across North America and expects to more than double those numbers over the next five years, through a combination of company stores and franchises.

While customer needs have always been their top priority, the leadership team at California Closets of Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Central Illinois decided it was time to take the employee experience just as seriously. By prioritizing employee engagement, the company is putting itself in a better position to scale, while still providing the high level of service their customers have come to know and expect.

“Client experience has been our main focus; now we want to apply that same rigor to employee experience,” said Marcus Hall, Partner & Vice President of Sales and Marketing.

Finding the most impactful areas of focus

Hall and the leadership team decided to partner with Emplify to measure employee engagement and pinpoint the key areas where they can make the biggest impact. The initial feedback they collected helped them get a baseline understanding of what has been working well for employees and which areas needed work. Their Emplify Engagement Strategist helped them identify specific opportunities for improvement—broken down by department, role type, and region—so they could tackle specific areas for improvement in the most effective way possible.

The three key areas of focus that Emplify’s analysis helped them identify were: role clarity, competency, and capacity. To drill down further into these areas, they followed up with Emplify SmartPulse™, which helped them collect actionable feedback directly from employees.

One of their findings was that non-customer-facing employees (i.e., manufacturing, programming, and office staff) weren’t getting the level of recognition they needed, and employees in the sales division felt their skills weren’t being utilized to their full potential. They also identified a need to better address meaning in the organization—in other words, a way to help employees connect what they do every day to the overall mission and purpose of the company.

Increasing leadership communication and transparency

To better connect employees with how their work impacts the overall organization, Hall and team took a cue from former ExactTarget executive and co-founder Scott Dorsey with a “Friday Note” to all employees. This weekly note provides employees with insight into what’s going on in the business and also highlights a different employee each week with some personal and professional information about them, including their hobbies and the favorite thing about their job.

The leadership team has also created more ways for non-client facing employees to see the written feedback and raving fans created every week during their installations, through the use of Slack and physical employee news boards in their manufacturing facility. Lastly, the leadership team has refocused a significant portion of their monthly team meetings around their CREDO, helping to drive home the significance around meaning and their “why.”

Transparency has now become an important part of the company’s culture. Leaders share key metrics with employees and correlate how individual employee effort impacts the overall success of those KPIs. They also allocate time during company meetings for team leaders to highlight each team and share important milestones they’ve reached across each department.

“The work we’re doing with Emplify this year shows how much we are prioritizing this component of our business,” said Hall. We’ve always received client feedback; now we can do the same on the employee side. This is a way for us to be transparent and for leadership to be held accountable to provide a great employee experience. We know that we cannot continue to elevate our client experience if we aren’t focused on the internal experience.”

To improve role clarity, leaders are currently working to create and ensure they have a comprehensive “accountability chart” for each role in the company. The chart includes the core areas of focus for each role along with the most critical KPI. This helps employees know exactly where to focus their efforts and clarifies how their performance will be evaluated. It also makes it easier for managers and team leaders to set expectations with their teams.

To address gaps in competency and capacity, the organization is focusing more heavily on training and support. In addition to their current monthly team meetings, they’re layering in field support and ride-alongs for their respective teams. Cross training remains an ongoing event in their business as well—it not only provides context across departments but also highlights opportunities to better collaborate on every project.

Small changes lead to big results

By implementing these few small changes, the California Closets team has made significant progress in a short amount of time. They’ve increased their overall employee engagement (Emplify Score) and gotten great feedback from managers and individual contributors alike.

“Departments we were most concerned about have turned a corner and we’ve improved our communication with employees on the areas we’ve been working on. Emplify helped us to reframe how we approach employee experience. We really feel like we are just scratching the surface and are excited about the future of what this will mean to our employees and our clients.” said Hall.

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