5 Ways We Build Employee Engagement


Since we kicked off 2022, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking at an AWMI Industry Dinner in California and participated in a recent MSCI CEO Huddle webinar; two important organizational relationships that I try to personally strengthen as much as possible. We recently hosted some of our first, post-pandemic visitors from the NRW Global Business of Düsseldorf, Nordrhein-Westfalen, and I enjoyed providing insights into the current state of steel in our US and Mexico territories. We’ve also joined our holding company in setting some aggressive sustainability targets that’ll help us transform our business into one that significantly reduces our carbon footprint to set a new standard for the entire industry. If you haven’t heard about our Green Steel initiatives, check out the discovery page.

No matter how much I value those relationships and conversations, my first commitment is to my Kloeckner Teammates. I believe that to be an effective CEO, I must approach each day with fresh eyes and say, “what am I doing to foster positive employee engagement today?” What I’ve learned is that there’s always more to be done, but here are five ways I stay involved.

1. Establish Trust and Build Connection

First and foremost, I realize that we’re nothing without the hard-working folks who support all our operations on the front lines. I’ve mentioned the benefits of our veteran workforce before and we’re leaning on their knowledge and skills more than ever, as we try to attract and retain the next generation of Kloeckner talent. In my almost five years of being CEO, one thing I aim to do every day is to create a place where we can trust each other. Whether someone is seasoned or brand new, I hope they feel supported under my watch. I’m proud to say that the rest of our leadership feels just as strongly as I do about building those connections through mutual trust. It’s how our safety programs continue to thrive and it’s the only way to garner honest feedback from everyone under our roof. There is no substitute for the presence of trust.

2. Frequently Ask for Feedback

Once you establish the kind of trust we’ve been cultivating, organic improvements work themselves out through continuous conversation. We use company-wide surveys & companies like Energage to conduct annual employee satisfaction surveys, but that’s not what sustains us. It’s nice to be voted a national Top Workplace several years running, but it’s the feedback we get from the survey that truly helps shape our conversations about what our people actually want out of their careers. We are also analyzing the details of digital employee reviews (Glassdoor, Facebook, Google) and have started distributing shorter internal surveys that are intended to be more granular by role. All of this supports connection and understanding, but my goal is to create an environment where anyone can feel free to email me directly if they feel a concern was overlooked.

3. Champion Collaboration and Respect

When one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing, you’ve got trouble. Therefore, we encourage cross-functional communication. One example of the success we’ve enjoyed through this measure is the sharing of knowledge and ideas between our Digital Innovation team and our Salespeople. We’re also ramping up a global business transformation that further leverages technology and global collaboration in pursuit of a truly differentiated “Kloeckner Experience” for both our customers and employees. We’ve witnessed these collaborative efforts greatly impact customer satisfaction and streamline our processes. Another big push we’re making this year is to usher in more diversity, equity, and inclusion; not only at Kloeckner, but we believe it’s time to give new voices a platform to be heard in the metals industry. It’s not enough to offer different people a seat at the table because there’s more than one, and we hope to inspire individuals with unique backgrounds and experiences to freely exchange ideas across any of those tables.

4. Host Purposeful Meetings

This is a big one for me because 60% of our workforce has their hands on the metal in their day-to-day functions. The “one band, one sound” essence must be shouldered by the person conducting the orchestra, and as the conductor, my message must be direct and transparent. With this in mind, I host a quarterly, company-wide Town Hall meeting to ensure everyone stays apprised of small changes and big initiatives alike. We also use Town Hall as another opportunity to proactively collect questions and feedback that I address while everyone is tuned in. I like to think these meetings support the other objectives I’ve just laid out.

5. Create Balance and Time for Self-Reflection

I think about Kloeckner as a family. I’ve learned that balancing being a great husband and father alongside my work family, means giving myself time to digest the work and enjoy the wins. Disconnecting to decompress with my wife and sons reinvigorates my ability to lead with passion. When I begin preparation for another week, I use those moments of routine to mentally prepare for the next play. Dedicating time to reflect on all the roles I serve and manifest the path forward with self-check-ins, presents me with fresh perspectives to help me embody that spirit of unity. We must take care of ourselves to take care of one another, and that’s something I try to model by example.

There are probably a million variations on these five points, but they haven’t let me down yet. If you’re a leader or are committed to becoming one, I’m interested in hearing yours in the comments on my LinkedIn post. Tell me what your employee engagement efforts look like.

John Ganem
John Ganem is the CEO of Kloeckner Metals. He brings seasoned insights in long-term strategic planning, networking capital management, supplier relationships, and the development of supply chain efficiencies through digital innovation. John has served on the Kloeckner Metals Corporation Board of Directors since 2014 and was appointed to the Management Board of parent company Klöckner & Co in 2019. He is a graduate of Brown University and holds degrees in both Business Economics and Organizational Behavior and Management.
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