What’s the secret to creating a company that the best talent wants to work for?
Employee engagement is paramount to creating a successful company. Without it, employees feel unconnected to your company goals, and are more likely to seek out other opportunities. Employee engagement is also notoriously difficult to measure and implement. So how can a company, large or small, create a culture that attracts the very best?
Aron Ain is the CEO of Kronos, a company that provides workforce management software. He joined right out of college in 1979, when there were just a few employees. And today, he leads the company, which has over 5,000 employees, does 1.3 billion dollars in revenue. Kronos has been named a best place to work by The Globe and Mail, The Boston Business Journal, the Boston Globe, The Montreal Gazette, and Great Place to Work. He’s personally one of the highest rated CEO’s on Glassdoor, and recently won the Ray Stata Leadership and Innovation Award.
I recently interviewed Ain for the LEADx Leadership Podcast, where we discussed the finer points to engaging employees, the secret to great one-on-one’s, and what Kronos is developing next. (The interview below has been lightly edited for space and clarity.)
Kevin Kruse: How are you getting such high engagement levels in a large organization?
Aron Ain: It starts with communication. It starts with asking our people what’s motivating them, and what’s upsetting them. Then it’s to take that information we get, and do something about it. The reason we have over 90% employee participation in our engagement surveys when we ask employees about it, they say, “It’s because you do something about it. We can tell if we gave you feedback, that my manager sits down and talks to our group about something that came from our area, and then we take action to correct it, and do better going forward.” That’s very motivating for people.
We also clearly understand that to be a great company, we have to have great people who work here. To have great people who work here, we need to be the kind of environment that people want to come to work and stay at. We focus deeply on these areas, and that includes trust, and collaboration, and transparency, and communication. It also includes being successful and making good decisions.
Truth and honesty is a big important part of what we do, and perhaps most importantly, I believe people join companies because they hear about the company, but they leave companies because they’re not happy with who they work for. We have a high premium on our manager effectiveness. In fact, we survey that on a regular basis. We hold our managers accountable to that, we reward the ones who do really well. We focus on all these dimensions that Kronos being a great place to work, and all the things that make that possible.
Kruse: What are your thoughts on manager one-on-one meetings?
Ain: I think communication is critical, and how you choose to communicate with the people who are on your team can be done in different ways. I tell people at work that silence is not an effective form of communication. You need to communicate, have conversations. For me personally, even though I have very senior people who work for me, I have scheduled one on one’s every week with my direct reports, no agenda. We just come in and catch up with each other.
In addition, I have a scheduled group meeting of my executive leadership team once a week, where we sit around the table. Again, no agenda, catch up with each other. It’s a form of communicating, so we make sure that we’re aligned with what’s going on, so there’s no surprises. It’s very informal, but from my perspective, very effective.
Kruse: When it comes to Kronos, what are you most excited about these days?
Ain: We’re always thinking about what the future looks like, and I think in particular right now, with Workforce Dimensions, our new Flagship Enterprise Product that we’ve spent three years, 600 people, 150 million dollars developing, whose intent is to revolutionize the workforce management business. I’m particularly motivated, and really excited about what this product will represent not just for our company, but for the workforce management business. This product that we’ve built is future ready, as I describe it. It’s built for a modern Cloud, that uses things that haven’t typically been seen in applications like artificial intelligence, machine learning, responsive development design, and all these other areas.
Ain has moved from janitor to CEO, and grown a massive company, by keeping a close eye on the pulse of the organization. From company-wide surveys to weekly no-agenda chats, constant feedback is key.