Our employee engagement surveys are purposefully short and simple. In fact, they take less than 10 minutes to complete – which means each question we include has to have the potential to get people thinking and deliver real value. One of these open-ended questions is:

What two actions can you take to improve overall engagement (that aren’t dependent on leadership)?

When you ask your employees to come up with ideas – and empower them to run with those ideas – you might think you’re taking a risk. But what we’ve seen is that the companies who trust and empower their employees to take independent action reap the rewards and that the best employee engagement ideas for your organization will come from inside the walls.

Watch Stefan Wissenbach break down why empowering employees works so well:

Examples of Companies with Cultures of Employee Empowerment

Southwest Air

If you’ve flown Southwest Air recently, you’ve probably stepped off the plane feeling really good and possibly still laughing at the last joke told by the captain. They have that effect on people (an accomplishment, considering how unpleasant flying has become). What’s their secret? Southwest seeks out employees with proactive attitudes – some pilots have even ordered pizzas for passengers whose flights have been delayed or diverted. Interestingly, their employee retention rates are incredible, with voluntary turnover rates as low as 2%.

Check out this fascinating Forbes article on how Southwest uses its own version of an Engaged Purpose to align its internal teams!


This company is known for its creative products, but they’re also known for giving their employees free rein to create. Risk-taking is encouraged, and employees set their own goals and determine how to reach them, with managers acting as coaches. And, if an Adobe employee has a really great idea, they can receive a patent and earn an awarded bonus for their creation at the annual banquet.

Whole Foods

A deep connection with its purpose is the first thing that strikes us about Whole Foods. As Whole Foods CEO John Mackey writes, “The highest ideals that humans aspire to should be the same ideals that our organizations also have as their highest purposes.” His top four are: “The Good,” “The True,” “The Beautiful” and “The Heroic.” And his thoughts on empowerment are nothing short of revolutionary: “Empowerment unleashes creativity and innovation and rapidly accelerates the evolution of the organization. Empowered organizations have a tremendous competitive advantage because they have tapped into levels of energy and commitment which their competitors usually have difficulty matching.” He clearly understands and values the significance of employee engagement.

Transferable Insight: In each of these cases – and in so many more – the key to successful empowerment is not to just encourage employees to take positive action, but also to remove the fear of failure (don’t punish them for trying!) and celebrate successes. Celebrating successes is very important. And so is having a Purpose that your entire organization is aligned to. Take a closer look at our approach to employee engagement to learn more about the ingredients for building an engaged organization.