Adidas won Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Award for the fourth year in a row last year. Joe Quick, Internal Communications Manager, discusses what makes adidas employee engagement strategy so successful.

Firstly, there is no ‘one-size fits all’ when it comes to employee engagement. As communication professionals, we find ourselves in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world and internally, we have 4 different generations within the workplace, each with their own diverse cultures, backgrounds and expectations. What inspires or engages one employee can potentially alienate and disengage the next. So the challenge is on – how do we create a compelling engagement strategy to meet the high-expectations of the 21st century employee?

Every company has a culture. Culture can change over time and sub-cultures can change overnight but one value that transcends generations, languages and borders for our company is sport.

Sport has been our culture since day one; since Adi Dassler took his first steps to founding adidas in his mother’s wash kitchen, since Jesse Owens won Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics and since one employee last year decided to skip the London underground and run 14 miles to 6 meetings across the capital in 1 day.

Sport is at the very heart of our culture and as a result, it shapes our employee engagement strategy at the adidas Group. If your engagement approach doesn’t champion or conform to your core culture – rip it up and start again. Clearly, not all of our staff would swap the subway for sweating it out on the streets but we believe that sport is more than just the physical entity. Our fundamental belief is that through sport, we have the power to change lives.

This mantra is an integral part of our ‘Creating the New’ 2020 business strategy. Only by speaking to our people on all levels and by bringing them together and engaging them through sport can we win the hearts and minds of our employees and achieve our commercial ambitions. Changing lives through sport is not solely an internal mind-set however.

In 2016, our company donated considerable volumes of product to refugees worldwide, contributed more than €600,000 in refugee aid and 33 refugees were offered an internship at our global headquarters in Germany to help change their lives for the better. Our employees are fundamental to our external efforts and furthermore, each member of staff is given three voluntary days to change lives through causes that are most important to them.

Unsurprisingly, to achieve a high-level of employee engagement, you first need to have the necessities in place and moreover, be consistently brilliant at the basics. Two-way communication should no longer be an option, it should be an obligation. At the adidas Group we encourage bottom-up, open communication through our social intranet ‘a-LIVE’, a state-of-the-art collaboration platform that is our digital home for employee engagement.

In addition to our global intranet, we foster candid dialogue through our ‘Ask the Management’ platform that allows any employee to openly address questions directly to our senior leaders. A-Live has a good mix of functional, job-essential and engaging platforms to ensure that all employees use the digital space regularly.

The mental, social and physical wellbeing of our staff is of the upmost importance for the business and as a result, we were delighted to win Britain’s Healthiest Workplace Award (Vitality) for the fourth time in a row last year. In addition to our world-class on-site sporting facilities in the UK, including basketball courts, a football pitch and a CrossFit Box, we look to support the professional, private and family needs of our employees as much as possible.

In Germany we have a day-care centre and child-care facilities in the US, as well as a cutting-edge work-life integration programme including flexible working arrangements, teleworking, sabbaticals and other family-orientated services.

Our employees are our family, the workplace is their second home and sport is what brings all of the family together under one roof.

Ultimately, no matter how good your company intranet is or how great that blog piece was, you have to ask yourself what is really going to create high-impact engagement? Who, how or what is going to drive employee engagement and bring your employees even closer to your business values, boost productivity and drive commercial results?

Our approach at adidas is to create moments that matter for our people that can only be experienced within our company.

Assets such as footballers, athletes and musicians are invited to the company to support initiatives and campaigns. Projects such as the London Marathon Expo are staffed by employee volunteers instead of agency staff and before the Manchester parade last year, some of the greatest Team GB and ParalympicsGB medallists first stopped by the offices to celebrate Britain’s success with our people. These exclusive opportunities drive employee engagement to another level.

Look at the culture, the assets and the people within your organisation and then take creative, collaborative and confident steps to make moments that matter for your staff.