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How This CEO Puts Employee Happiness First (In an Industry With High Turnover)

Do you work in an industry with an unusually high rate of turnover? If so, the answer to getting things right might very well have to do with making employee happiness a priority.

Are your employees happy?

If not, what are you doing to make them happy? That’s a challenge just about every business faces. It’s an issue that’s launched thousands of projects and employed some of our brightest minds, trying to figure out just how to make people happy.

Because unhappy employees are a problem — they’re worse at their job, they leave eventually, and they cause extra costs for any business. And beyond that, what’s the point of a company if it’s not helping people?

Steve Grau knows a thing or two about keeping employees happy. He’s currently rated one of the top small- to medium-sized business CEOs of 2019 on Glassdoor, which is voted on solely by employees. Furthermore, his company, Royal Ambulance, boasts one of the lower turnover rates in its industry and is well-regarded among people who work as paramedics and EMTs.

In fact, it ranked #38 in a Modern Healthcare survey of the entire healthcare industry. I recently had the opportunity to interview him and find out a little about what sets Royal Ambulance apart — here’s what I found:

Emphasis On Career Growth

When you look at what Royal Ambulance does, one thing that stands out is that they’re committed to the continual growth of their employees — whether or not those employees stay employed by Royal.

“We know the turnover rate for our industry,” says Grau.

“Everyone knows it. EMTs and paramedics can burn out. The work is hard, unforgiving and emotionally draining, but also extremely rewarding, so we want to give people the support they need to be the best they can be. And if they want to leave Royal — or even leave the industry altogether — we want to support them there too.”

Creating a company that cares is something everyone says they want to do. But not everybody follows through on it — Royal has. One of the biggest things that sets them apart is their alumni group, largely based on LinkedIn.

Royal Ambulance maintains that group to help younger or less-experienced paramedics and employees find mentorship opportunities, networking opportunities, and even job possibilities. The close-knit nature of the group helps employees build their career and forge connections that can take them to the next level.

“We don’t see ourselves as a stepping stone, but more of a building block,” notes Grau.

“That’s something you leave behind. When you walk forward you don’t go back. Instead, we’re trying to be a foundation. We want to help our employees build for the future and be a strong base that they can come back to, even if and when they leave the company.”

Recognition of Accomplishments

“One of the things we try to do is recognize the best that people have to offer,” advises Grau. 

“Not just in an ‘attaboy, pat on the back’ kind of way, but publicly and frequently. We’ve used several different methods to do that, but I like the fact that we’ve been able to use Facebook Workplace to build it up. Any time we can harness technology to build human connections, we will.”

Facebook Workplace allows Royal Ambulance employees to stay connected while on the job. And one of the things Royal uses it for is to recognize employees. It encourages posting shout outs from one EMT to another when that person’s done something really well. There’s a sort of positive peer pressure that it creates.

“Every week we’re seeing probably four or so new shout outs on Facebook Workplace,” says Grau. “That’s not something we’re doing from the top. It’s organic. It comes from having an energized, interested workforce that cares about each other. We’re just giving them the tools and encouraging them.”

Even in exit interviews, Royal has one unique aspect: they ask outgoing employees to recognize other team members who’ve been doing a great job. That also helps keep even outgoing employees connected to the company, and helps others get the recognition they deserve.

When Hiring, Focus Fully On People

As with any business, finding the right people is one of the most crucial factors in success. Royal Ambulance’s strong company culture doesn’t just come from above — it comes from the employees who work for the company, too.

“We don’t rely so much on a skill-based assessment,” comments Grau. “We ask things that indicate how much care factor that person has. Our interviewers look for a certain level of trust that they can have in the person — that trust is tested when you sit in an ambulance with them for ten hours. We also ask for specific examples from interviewees, like how they’ve shown compassion to someone they don’t like or how they’ve reacted to stress.”

Those questions are key to finding out whether these candidates match Royal’s beliefs and values. The result is a workforce that’s cohesive, compassionate and dedicated. And that leads to happiness.

“Our business comes down to people at the end of the day,” notes Grau. “If our people are happy, they’re doing their job better. That makes it a better experience for the patients in the ambulance, who might be having the worst day of their life. If you can’t make the world at least a little better for one person each day, why get up in the morning?”

Royal’s setting a standard for its industry.

With its emphasis on team culture, growth, and happiness, it’s a model for companies inside its field and out. Are your employees happy? If not, try applying some of these tips. Because what worked (and continues to work) for Royal Ambulance will probably work for you, too.

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