Plenty of companies invest in their workforce with words of praise and employee-of-the-month awards. But in 2018, the board of WOW! Internet Cable & Phone earmarked funds for employee-focused initiatives like career training and development, improved wages and benefits, and recognition programs to the tune of $25 million.
In other words, serious money.
“At a leadership level, we as a company truly believe that engaged employees—engaged in the sense of committed and want to come to work and be aligned with company values, direction and results—really makes a difference,” says Allyson Crawford, WOW!’s VP of learning and development.
While she wouldn’t disclose a hard-dollar ROI on that investment, Crawford did allow that the increased productivity, personal and organizational growth, as well as real cultural change have been the returns in tangible, measurable ways.
WOW! gets data derived from regular monthly employee surveys administered through Officevibe, a software tool that measures the success and impact of various employee programs, and calculates an employee net promoter score (eNPS). While that summary engagement score hovered near 13 in December 2017, it has since soared to a current high of 32, according to the company.
Officevibe surveying also helps WOW! dig deeper. Each quarter, eNPS asks employees, “How likely are you to recommend WOW! as a place to work?” That score has trended upward as well, Crawford says. “One thing that’s drastically changed in the last 18 months is our voluntary turnover numbers,” she adds, a double-digit percentage she opted not to specify. “Our employee network is becoming more tenured, which increases our workforce’s opportunities and capabilities, plus it builds the organizational capacity.”
The multi-million dollar investment was also used to make compensation more competitive; new benefits include unlimited paid time-off for senior employees, flexible schedules that allow for work from home, as well as weekly deliveries of fresh fruits and vegetables to WOW! offices. Employees are also encouraged to give back to the community and volunteer as part of the WOW! In the Neighborhood (WIN) program.
WOW!’s investment helped rev up service and excellence goals among its high-performing technicians, who’d already racked up 19 JD Powers awards for customer service, according to Rob DiNardo, SVP of field operations. In addition to friendly competition among techs in different markets, there are regular tech-to-tech incentives and feedback opportunities, including surveys of customers after a tech visit.
“For someone interfacing with customers, you want to motivate and incent them so that they’re highly engaged and that positive energy passes on to the customer experience,” DiNardo says. “We’ve seen our customer satisfaction scores from techs go up substantially over that.”
The decision to make an eight-figure investment in employees is widely credited to Teresa Elder, who took over as WOW!’s CEO in early 2018. Part of the management team she built or brought with her focused carefully on employee communications. She leads a livestreamed “town hall” meeting every month to share information, showcase successes and talk with employees at all levels.
“It sounds simple, but it has revitalized how our employees live out values and we can see this through Officevibe statistics,” Crawford says.
– Terry Sweeney