How an employee recognition program has helped Werner Electric Supply drive its company culture

With the skilled labor shortage in overdrive mode, finding new employees is an issue almost every construction business owner is facing right now. But another side of that issue is figuring out best practices for retaining the valuable employees you already have. Because of this, the CBO team is constantly in search of methods and strategies for keeping employees engaged. We recently talked about one such strategy with Hillary Anderson, vice president of human resources at Werner Electric.

Werner Electric Supply provides automation, electrical and data communication products and services to a wide range of industrial, commercial and construction customers. It employs more than 400 people in 11 locations throughout Wisconsin and northern Michigan. The company recently implemented one specific program that has significantly improved overall employee satisfaction. See Anderson's insights below. 

CBO: How has the recent skilled labor shortage affected Werner Electric’s workforce-management strategy?

HA: We have had to get creative to find talent, but we have been developing a great place to work for many years. Werner takes pride in preserving the genuine, family-oriented and friendly culture that we have had since day one. We feel our culture is a desirable attribute that attracts talent. However, the labor shortage has called for us to make some changes despite the presence of what we believe to be an exceptional company culture.

As such, we have placed more emphasis on and put forth greater effort toward developing our employees through leveling programs, talent reviews and individual development (IDP) plans. Further, we have added the use of additional resources in our talent acquisition efforts. Kudos was another tool we found to assist with retaining good talent.

CBO: What exactly is the 'Kudos' program, and what does it entail?

HA: It all started with our annual engagement surveys, as well as our 2017 feedback sessions, in which Scott Teerlinck, Werner Electric’s president, visited every branch and talked to employees at all levels across the organization through a facilitated feedback session. All the feedback was compiled and reviewed to identify trends.

From there, five initiatives were selected to focus on, with recognition being one of them. Project teams were created with employees from all cross functional areas. The Recognition Project team created problem statements and brainstormed ways to address those problems in a way that would create a more robust and effective recognition program at Werner. One problem area we focused on was expressing gratitude and doing so on a timely basis.

We felt a recognition platform would be a useful tool to assist with this. So, we thoroughly researched 12 different platforms and evaluated them based on a set of criteria created by the recognition team. The team then selected a subgroup of platforms to demo and quote.

Kudos was selected for several reasons. First and foremost, it was important that when selecting a tool to contribute to our culture, the company we chose to partner with had a culture that was aligned with our own. It was clear that Kudos wasn’t about recognizing purely from a monetary standpoint—like many other providers we spoke with. Kudos’s values were simple: Make the person feel appreciated personally and professionally by both the company and their manager(s).

Additionally, Kudos had the capabilities to be customizable. Once we selected Kudos, we worked with them and our marketing staff to “Wernernize” the platform and app. The platform and app are built around recognizing Werner Electric’s values. Additionally, we developed a Werner Excellence Award—an annual award program meant to identify individuals who have gone above and beyond in exhibiting Werner Electric’s values.

It is a prestigious award, showcasing the top “Werner Way” contributors. In order to be selected, an employee must be nominated by someone in the company via Kudos and meet certain criteria that support why they are deserving of this award. Implementation, communication and training plans were then developed, and the platform was rolled out in January 2018.

CBO: Can you speak a bit about why the app was necessary and what kind of work went in to building it?

HA: The app feature was one of the criteria the recognition team required when reviewing providers. We felt if the platform was accessible and convenient for all employees to use, our adaption rate and overall participation rate would be more successful, as well as the timeliness in which recognition is given. We have a lot of employees who travel daily are out and about doing customer visits, deliveries, etc. Having a site that could only be available via computer would certainly be a limitation.