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North Pole Industries Boosts Toy Production by 25% with Emplify

Nicole Klemp
Nicole Klemp

This year, Emplify’s largest customer North Pole Industries — the world’s largest toy manufacturer and 2nd largest delivery service (behind Amazon) — saw a 25% increase in toy production. How’d they do it? They focused on EEE (elf employee engagement).

Chief People Officer for North Pole, Buddy Elf, reached out to us with some major concerns about his largest employee group — the workshop elves. He said their productivity has declined over the past two years, and his boss, CEO Kris Kringle, had some major concerns about their ability to hit quotas this holiday season.

Buddy said he’d been concerned about engagement among the elves, but needed real data to show Mr. Kringle, to prove disengagement was to blame for the decrease in productivity. (Mr. Kringle too had concerns that something was wrong… he could feel it in his belly, which shakes when he laughs, like a bowl full of jelly.) Unfortunately, elf disengagement is no laughing matter.

After their lowest production quarter in decades, Buddy Elf wanted to get to the bottom of things right away, so he convinced Mr. Kringle and the rest of the North Pole executive team that they needed to call Emplify. The company fills literally billions of orders each year — and when your customers are good little girls and boys, you simply can’t let them down.

Actionable feedback straight from the workshop

Emplify’s Engagement Strategy Team got right to work, measuring employee engagement across North Pole Industries. While analyzing the data, three particular findings from the workshop team stood out:

1. The workshop elves scored lowest in the company on competency, meaning they felt ill-equipped to complete their work tasks and unable to meet their goals.

2. The elves also scored low on professional development, indicating the organization isn’t providing them with adequate training and development opportunities.

3. The elves also scored slightly lower than other departments on purpose, which relates to the connection an employee feels to their work and company mission.

To dig deeper into these issues and get some actionable feedback, Emplify additionally sent dynamic survey questions to individuals in the workshop group, based on their responses.

First, the elves were asked questions around capacity. Here are a few of their responses:

“I’m putting in 20 extra hours a week (on top of my regular 95-hour work week) just to meet my personal goal of 45,000 Monopoly games. I’m exhausted, and an elf can only drink so many eggnog Red Bulls in a day.”

“I feel like our business model could be more efficient. Our customers are literally placing their orders via handwritten letters and sending them through snail mail. C’mon man, it’s 2019.”

The responses around professional development also shed some light on issues the elves were having:

“We aren’t getting enough training to build high-tech toys. Back when I started in 1843, I was making wooden trains and dolls. Now I have to make iPads and hoverboards. I didn’t go to EIT (The Elf Institute of Technology), so no, I don’t know how to build a graphical processing unit.”

“I’ve been on the workshop line for 386 years, and I’d really like to explore another area of the business, like sleigh maintenance. But only the younger elves get to join the sleigh apprenticeship. Elf Boomers like me get overlooked for new opportunities.”

And when asked about the sense of purpose they feel at work:

“I love working for North Pole. We have a lot of good employees who really care about bringing joy to children, and Mr. Kringle is a good man to work for. But being in the workshop, we never get to interact with the end users, so we don’t get to see the joy on their faces. I wish we could hear more stories from the front lines.”

“I get why we do what we do. But I’ve always wondered… where does the money come from? As far as I know, we give 100% of our products away for free.”

The elf management team takes action on feedback

With this new quantitative and qualitative data, the North Pole leadership team now had the insight they needed to take action. In addition, they empowered mid-level managers to take action for their teams, providing all managers (of 5 or more elves) with access to their team’s data and access to Emplify’s manager coaching.

Here are three key action items they implemented:

1. To address capacity issues: Bring in 50 elves to the workshop from the Cookie Quality Assurance department (which was already overstuffed), and pair them each with an experienced elf on the toy line. This will allow them to shadow the toymakers as they provide extra assistance and relieve some of the burden in the workshop.

2. For professional development: The executives will coordinate with the workshop management team to spearhead weekly training seminars in which the elves can learn and get certified in new skills. They will also provide the team with peer mentors from other departments they may be interested in, which can lead to an apprenticeship after one year.

3. To strengthen purpose: North Pole leaders will begin holding an annual company meeting on January 1st. At the meeting, Kringle and the rest of the executive team will share open-book financials along with team wins from the holiday season. The Elf on the Shelf team will also share real success stories straight from customers’ homes (which isn’t creepy at all).

Since kicking off these new initiatives, North Pole has seen immediate results. The workshop team had their best quarter in 178 years, and the employees are loving the new programs. As of Q3, the team’s Emplify Score has improved from 65 to an impressive 82 — taking them from “disengaged” to “highly engaged” and toy production was up 25% quarter-over-quarter.

Today, the workshop elves are as jovial as ever, and the organization is projecting a record-setting holiday.

“Our workshop hasn’t been this efficient or collaborative in 200 years. Emplify helped us get to the root of the issues, so together we could come up with smart, manageable solutions to resolve them. This will be our best season yet!” says Kringle.

Do you want to see results like these? Emplify is here to help you sleigh your employee engagement goals in 2020.

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