Keeping Associates Engaged is Good Business

As a company with offices in cities across the country and with associates working in many different types of roles, helping associates feel connected and part of the same team is an important challenge especially in the midst of a pandemic. Employee engagement is strongly linked with job satisfaction, productivity, and motivation. Engaged associates help Duke Realty meet the needs of our customers and the communities we serve.

As Duke Realty’s chief human resources officer, engagement is my top priority and that of my team, the Human Resources department. Our Duke Realty leadership team considers it essential to the company’s success. That’s why we have invested in creating various touchpoints to stay connected with our associates. The touchpoints include community and volunteer opportunities, leadership development, health and wellbeing activities, diversity and inclusion education and frequent communications from our CEO and executive team.


Something for Everyone

Indianapolis Blood Drive, October 2020

Duke Realty’s robust wellness program helps all of our associates stay engaged, no matter what they do, where they live or where they are in their careers. It’s something that can be done in 20 markets across the country and while working from home. Our online wellness platform, Vitality, makes it easy for associates to engage in their own health, fitness and wellbeing journey. Using Vitality, our associates can track their physical activity or access tools and information that help them with their financial and mental health. Our Wellness Council is always actively and creatively finding ways for our associates to remain engaged in their health and wellness journey. They offer creative health activities for associates to earn points that can be used for additional days off and online gift cards. This kind of positive incentivizing is a big hit with our associates and has proven successful in creating a healthier workplace.

It seems nothing creates company-wide camaraderie like a health and wellness challenge at Duke Realty. We host various contests where individuals and teams can compete against each other to earn Vitality points. We have learned that our associates are rather competitive — challenges are huge motivators. We have created an online, connected community for our associates to get involved in challenges and activities at any fitness level. So, no matter where they are in the fitness and health journey, every associate can participate.

Our community projects are another way we keep associates in all our markets across the country engaged in a common effort. For example, our corporate partnership with the American Red Cross benefits every community we serve and beyond – we are serving people in need around the world. Our associates have participated in blood drives, military kit builds and in the American Red Cross national Sound the Alarm campaigns.


Keeping Things Fresh

Keeping a highly engaged culture is a continual effort. One thing we found important in maintaining engaged associates is to make sure we review our programs and activities and refresh them as needed.

We’ve had our Diversity and Inclusion Council for 20 years. This program paved the way to begin company-wide conversations addressing diversity and inclusion concerns and initiatives. We found that the program is critical to the success of our company and impacts every associate in some way. However, after 20 years, we realized that it needed to evolve to address new race, gender and equity concerns of the current climate. We needed to refresh our program, we needed to add fresh perspectives on the council and we needed a new look.

Looking at diversity and inclusion as education — rather than training — made a big difference. Now, we are focused on offering our associates a different way of thinking about inclusion and offering a new perspective.  Involving associates in a way where they can actively be part of the solution has been beneficial to our workforce. We are pushing ourselves as a company to present diversity, equity and inclusion activities and education in a way that’s more meaningful and more relatable.

Duke Realty’s recent panel discussion on racial inequality is one example. After the George Floyd incident, we had requests from our own associates across the country asking, ‘Can we talk about this? What can we do about this? How can we help? What dialogue can we have?’

In response, we hosted a panel discussion with five of our associates talking about what it was like being Black and growing up Black in America and challenges they may have faced and continue to face. It was dynamic, like nothing that we’ve ever done, and very well received. It was a good example of the importance of listening to associates, learning what they want and want they need, and really responding to them.


Measuring Success

South Florida Associate Appreciation Day, March 2020

All our initiatives have moved the needle on employee engagement. According to our most recent engagement survey, 92% of our employees were highly engaged, and we know that 85% of our associates are participating in our wellness programs. In addition, more than 56% of our Executive Mentoring Program participants have been promoted. These numbers are highly encouraging and speak to the engagement of our associates. Highly engaged employees directly translates into our company’s success.

Each year, organizations face new challenges that impact the engagement of their associates. In 2020, we were faced with a pandemic. We feel a main reason that our associates did so well working from home is because of our strong culture that values our employees. Our committed and engaged associates adapted to the shift of working from home, trusting that we had their best interest and that of their family members in mind. They knew we would implement stringent, rigorous safety measures to make our offices as safe as possible.

To make sure employees stay connected to one another and the company, my team and I made sure every employee received at least three or four touchpoints per week. These touchpoints included emails with tips for working from home effectively to thank-you cards and cookies mailed to their homes. We hosted online cooking lessons, virtual yoga sessions and shared a graduation video honoring family members of associates who celebrated the educational milestone during the pandemic. Duke Realty Chairman and CEO Jim Connor has shared regular video messages, which helped associates feel motivated and appreciated.

This winter will continue to be a challenge due to Covid-19, it will require many more touchpoints with associates to help maintain mental and physical wellbeing. My team along with each leader at Duke Realty know the importance of an engaged workforce.  Until we are back together in the office, it will remain a team effort.  Our associates are worth it.