When Woodard Cleaning & Restoration started 75 years ago, it was a simple carpet cleaning company run by Earl and Nancy Woodard. Today, the business achieves $30 million in revenue, has 250 employees, and is in prime position to scale even more. “Everyone in St. Louis loves Woodard,” John Gagnepain, Director of Training and Leadership Development, says of the Missouri-based company. “You don’t have to work here for very long before somebody just sees the logo on your jacket and says, ‘That place is awesome.’”
Maintaining such a positive legacy doesn’t mean the company hasn’t gone through its fair share of change, some more welcome than others. In just the last five years, Woodard has gone through several major transitions including a new President and CEO Justin Woodard (grandson of Earl and Nancy), three major restructurings, a fire that burned down one of its buildings, and, of course, the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout all the changes, the company has looked to Emplify to consistently measure employee engagement and morale.
“Emplify has the best combination of segmenting data into relevant teams, providing actionable information to managers, highlighting key takeaways for director and executive levels, and having consultants who plan and prepare before reviewing our results.”
– Justin Woodard, CEO & President
Since partnering with Emplify in 2018, Woodard’s engagement score has increased by 7%, moving the company from below the 25th percentile to above the 50th percentile among all Emplify customers. Broken down, their score steadily increased by about 2% every year. Employee churn has also decreased a whopping 75% amidst Woodard’s partnership with Emplify, doubly significant considering the amount of change happening at the time.
Solving the annual survey conundrum
Prior to Emplify, Woodard worked with another employee engagement company that conducted annual surveys. However, they soon saw the limitations of that model. “We’d get the results back, do an hour with the management team, and then it’d just go away,” explains Gagnepain. “Emplify’s quarterly surveys enable us to actually focus on something specific for three or four months, and then get timely feedback on the next survey to see if what we are doing is making a difference.”
With all the changes the company has gone through, this type of immediate feedback is crucial for testing what works and what doesn’t. “If we were just trying to take the temperature from a year ago to now,” says Gagnepain, “we wouldn’t be able to see impacts of change like we do with Emplify.” By looking at trends that occur over the course of the year, leadership is able to identify and address issues long before they grow into anything critical. “That’s why you do it four times a year,” says Gagnepain. “You’re able to see how things are going quarter to quarter and then determine where things are going to go next.”
Currently, survey participation is at 95% across the entire organization, a 27% increase since its first survey. “Emplify has won over the vast majority of our leadership team,” says Gagnepain. “They’re all bought in at this point because they know it’s a tool to help their team be more successful.”
From general overview to specific insights
Another major differentiator of the Emplify solution is its ability to drill down to specific pain points and create a realistic action plan through coaching. Every quarter, the Woodard leadership intentionally chooses specific managers to participate in one-on-one coaching sessions with an Emplify people insights coach. There, the employee gets guidance around specific issues related to their team and targeted action items to impact change.
With so many varying needs for each department, it’s no wonder why a one-size-fits-all solution doesn’t work. Emplify’s individual coaching sessions dig deep within the unique makeup of each team to identify issues that may otherwise go unnoticed. “It’s difficult for people to admit when they can’t solve the problems on their own, but that’s why you employ Emplify,” says Gagnepain, “The coaches are a resource to help you become a better leader for your team, and perhaps, in the process, become a better person all around.”
Benefits of an unbiased third party
On top of providing clear actionable takeaways for managers, Emplify’s coaching services also provide a safe space for team members to better give and receive constructive feedback. “It’s nice to talk to somebody who you know has no ulterior motives,” says Gagnepain. “You can then let your guard down a little bit and say what you need to say to someone who’s not judging you and whose whole responsibility is to help you succeed.” For one group at Woodard, this was particularly transformative.
“Without Emplify coaching, we’d be missing that additional layer of validation.”
– John Gagnepain, Director of Training & Leadership Development
Having been severely impacted by COVID-19, this team had every reason to be struggling. There were difficult conversations to be had as well as difficult decisions to be made. However, after attending several coaching sessions, the team began to make some progress. “We started to see decent results in the last couple of surveys,” says Gagnepain. “There’s a lot of business-related things that are working against this team, so the fact that they’re getting positive scores is important to us.”
At one point, their coach picked up on something so crucial that leadership actually shared his message to the director of that department in a 2-minute recording. “Of course we can say, ‘Here are some areas you need to work on,’ but it’s completely different when an Emplify coach says the exact same things,” Gagnepain says. “If we didn’t have that, we’d be solely reliant on whether managers believe us and buy into what we’re saying.”
Leading the way
While the seeds for the multi-generational business were planted early on by Earl and Nancy Woodard, Justin Woodard knows its future success lies largely in the hands of those outside of the family. In order to achieve the type of success that will last long after he’s gone, he views his role as primarily taking care of his employees.
“The vision I have for the future is that Woodard will be known around the country for leaders inside of our company, leaders in our communities, and leaders in the industry,” says Woodard. “That’s why coaching is an obvious thing for us to do—it ties directly into our initiative of creating the leaders of the future.”