“The workshop was in crisis in 2015. None of us felt like working”
Carol Singalot shared this revealing truth with us. She’s the Head of Production at Santa’s Workshop Inc., and witnessed the meltdown in elves’ engagement and productivity last year. Bloomberg and other major news outlets reported on the effect: retail sales closed at their weakest last Christmas since 2009.
“Our annual employee satisfaction survey told us things were fine earlier in the year, right after bonus payouts. The truth was, the elves were just saying what they knew Santa wanted to hear. By November, we had no idea what hit us.”
The Inside Scoop
EngageRocket had the rare opportunity to interview Carol and her team to capture the real story behind their incredible turnaround.
“We had trouble across generations: the Millennial elves had strong points of view which clashed with the older ones. We lost many bright young elves to shoemakers and archery schools that way,” Rich Lovehart, Vice President of ER (Elf Relations), said.
“Management had their eye on deadlines, and didn’t want to get involved. Meanwhile we were hiring lots of elves from other parts of the world, and many had trouble integrating into our culture. There were real problems in communication too – no one knew for sure what they were supposed to do, but were too afraid to ask.”
This year Santa Claus, Chairman and CEO, consulted with Ms Singalot, Mr Lovehart and the rest of the management team. They decided that they needed a better management tool than just an annual survey.
Mr Claus, said “We needed better ER data to tell us where problems were before they surfaced. I wanted our team managers to take ownership of keeping their elves engaged and focused on all the children who were depending on us. Those teddy bears aren’t going to produce themselves!”
Mr Lovehart and his team sprung to work to find the best tool. “It needed to be simple: my managers don’t have a lot of time. They just want to know at one glance how they’re doing, and what they need to do next.
“We wanted to ask our elves for feedback without being tiresome. Of course, it had to be anonymous so they’d be OK with telling us the bad news along with the good. And we wanted to tailor the questions and analytics by location and department – the North Pole may be one place, but concerns are different from factory to factory, department to department”
Feedback To Make A Great Workplace
Like a nimble startup, Santa’s Workshop Inc. immediately sent memos to all 777 elves that things were going to be different this year, and their feedback was going to make the Workshop a great place to work again.
Within a month, things started changing for the better.
A shop-floor elf, who chose to remain anonymous, said, “when I heard the news that we had to do surveys every week, honestly my heart sank. It seemed like just another flavour-of-the-month scheme. But when I gave my honest feedback and my boss started taking action, immediately, and not in some fake offsite months after I’d aired my views, I felt encouraged.
Instantly my mindset changed: I didn’t have to do surveys every week. I got the chance to have my opinion count every week. Best part was, I just needed to make a few taps on my mobile phone – it worked like magic!”
The Regional Manager for North North Pole, Mark Haste, told us what he really liked. “I customised the questions on EngageRocket for each factory to address their specific needs, and from month to month I was able to adapt what I asked based on each location’s unique progress milestones.
“Also, my team leads instantly got their feedback, and I made sure they took regular action. Progress is made is small steps forward, over an enduring period of time. Of course it helped that when they ran out of ideas, they could just click a button and get inspiration right on their personal dashboard!”
Change happened slowly at first, then all at once.
“I noticed that the pantry started getting more crowded over lunch. Elves would still gripe, but at least they were coming together. Then the complaining stopped. By October, we were wondering what to do with all the random acts of dancing!”
“We were racing through the production and packing faster than ever before. Output has tripled year-on-year, defect rates are close to zero, and our teams are finding themselves ahead of schedule. We’ve managed to keep our best elves. Even the reindeer are looking happier: their fur is positively glowing.”
Mr Claus continued, “the elves are saying this is going to be the best Christmas ever, and I believe them. Happy elves lead to happy children, and they keep Santa’s Workshop Inc. in business!
“We’re gonna get even better next year with the help of your team at EngageRocket. Christmas has come early at the Workshop!”
Congratulations Mr Claus. What a turnaround!
Happy holidays from all of us at EngageRocket, reporting from Santa’s Workshop! May 2017 be filled with good cheer for you and your teams!
Author: Chee Tung
CheeTung is the CEO of EngageRocket, an HR tech startup that analyses employee feedback in real-time to advise you on how to build a better culture, one team at a time.