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How EWI Uses Employee Feedback to Engage a Distributed Workforce

Nicole Klemp
Nicole Klemp

Leading engineering and technology organization, EWI, is on a mission to bring innovative technology solutions to the manufacturing industry. The 35-year-old, Ohio-based company helps their customers and members solve problems and gain a competitive advantage through applied research and manufacturing support, and by delivering solutions in product design, fabrication, and production.

With a growing workforce in a highly competitive labor market, shifts in the industry and the business, and expansion into two new locations in New York and Colorado, EWI’s leadership knew there were some challenges for their team to overcome. Taking the pulse of the business and collecting feedback from employees became more critical than ever.

“Our company was going through a lot of transformation. The changes were stressful for our people, and our people are critical to our business. Recruitment of engineering talent is always difficult and onboarding is costly, so retention is important. I needed a tool to keep the pulse on how our people are doing,” said Mark Matson, Vice President of Human Resources at EWI.

Shifting from annual surveys to quarterly engagement data

For nearly a decade, EWI had used annual surveys as their primary way to collect employee feedback. But with the recent changes to the corporate structure and job roles, the company’s executives knew they needed a more frequent, more scientific way to measure employee engagement.

After evaluating several options, EWI ultimately chose to partner with Emplify. “Emplify stood out on many accounts … I liked that the survey was shorter [to complete], I liked the 14 drivers, the dashboard, and the ability for me to drive the decision-making down into the organization more,” said Matson.

When collecting their first round of feedback, the EWI team focused on good communication with employees and clear messaging around why their feedback is so critical. They ended up with a successful launch and a high response rate.

The initial results confirmed some problems in areas they already had gut feelings about and presented an overall engagement score in need of work. “We found that we had a lot of unhappiness, so the first results were a bit discouraging. It seemed like, where do we begin? That’s where Michael [our Emplify Engagement Strategist] was really helpful, encouraging and helping us with what to focus on, and showing us the heatmap to find the greatest pain points in the organization,” said Matson. The team also followed up with qualitative questions to specific employee groups via Emplify’s SmartPulse polling, to identify specific pain points and areas to focus on.

Taking action on feedback and getting results

Over the next several months, Matson and the EWI leadership team made significant investments in their employee engagement initiatives. They rebooted and clarified their company vision and purpose, worked diligently with middle managers to retool their business approach and upgraded their technology. They also put key leaders through a four-week exercise to work on tactical planning.

“Our weakest points were role clarity and purpose, and the survey comments helped us formulate an action plan on how to address this. I pulled together a team of middle managers and we asked basic questions about what they feel the company is all about, what our mission is, and who we’re here to serve. We emerged with a common understanding of the language we should use and created an EWI DNA brochure that each manager then delivered to their team,” said Matson.

By focusing on the areas that needed improvement and empowering their managers to be the owners of employee engagement, EWI has seen a significant boost in engagement across the organization. They increased the engagement drivers of role clarity and authenticity and improved the purpose driver by an impressive 19 percent. They decreased the number of “highly disengaged” employees from 12 to just seven, and saw engagement scores increase for every manager in the company. “Emplify makes it possible for them to see the impact on their teams. They’re engineers, so they like data,” said Matson.

Looking ahead

The company is continuing to work on engagement and is focusing more on bringing in the kind of talent that aligns with their vision and purpose. Matson and the team are encouraged and positive about the future. “It’s all been a shift in the right direction. We have a lot of work yet to do, but we’re making forward progress.”

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