What Fluevog Can Teach us All About Being a Great Place to Work

This past summer I was in beautiful Denver, Colorado, and I had the good fortune of receiving my Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation at the National Speakers Association annual convention. Walking on the stage was amazing, it’s true, and frankly, it just made it better receiving it in one of the most amazing cities I’ve ever been to. One of my favourite states for that matter. The warmth, health, progressive policies and passionate people are just some of the reasons I cannot wait to go back. And here’s a perfect example.

On a quick trip into downtown Denver, I took a stroll through Larimer Square (which by the way has the coolest story of a strong savvy female Dana Crawford saving it from the wrecking ball – learn more about that here). I saw (much to my pocketbook’s chagrin) a Fluevog store. If you are a fellow shoe lover like me, you’ll know the name. It’s more than just the original, impeccably crafted and lovingly designed products that attract me though, it’s that every store I’ve been in without exception the staff are among the happiest, most knowledgeable and pleasant people in retail.

This consistency of service and staff engagement is virtually unheard of.

This shopping trip, like no exception, I’m greeted warmly – like they’ve been waiting all day for me to arrive – and cannot wait to talk about the latest designs. They high five each other and offer to help each other get sizes. They don’t bat an eyelash at the customer beside me surrounded by what must have been 30 open boxes of shoes (I kid you not!)

And it gets better. When I went to checkout, the lady, who has been serving me for the last hour (I’m kind of embarrassed to tell you I was in there for an hour), begins to check me out. Her colleague proudly sidles up beside her and says, “do you know how special this lady is?” I share that I do, she’s been amazing, and tell them exactly why I know she is great. He animately agrees and then hands me a brochure saying, “not only that, but she’s also famous.” I look down and sure enough, right there on the latest catalogue is the lady who is checking me out. 

I have to know more! (It’s not everyday staff are the face of the company brand although now that I think about it I cannot imagine why it isn’t!)

This is what she shared with me:

“Every quarterly catalogue always has people from the stores. The male model here is from the Montreal store and I’m from the Denver store. And we met for the first time at the place where they were filming. We had the most incredible experience. Not only do we absolutely love the shoes – I’m wearing a pair for my wedding coming up in three weeks – we also love love love this company. Who else gives their staff a chance to go away to a cool location, learn about the behind-the-scenes world of creating a catalogue, get to pick the shoes from the new line that get included in the catalogue, and then get invited back for the next catalogue to mentor the next models?”

True. Who does that?!

Do you see what I’m saying? On the surface, it seems it’s about being in the catalogue, but if that’s all it was, there might be competition or pettiness between staff. It’s the fact this practice is an extension of the employee experience.

Let’s break this company’s practices down to tease apart the elements that can be replicated to create an amazing employee experience:

1., Trust Your People

Number one, work with your people. Your people have the best ideas. What she told me is that yes, of course, the professional photographers and stylists had a lot to say, but they first said, “How do you like to wear your shoes? What angle? What would you like to put on? What are you feeling the most?” So they really listened to their employees even when there were experts around them. When we listen to each other, we feel more appreciated, valued and sense of meaning and connection at work.

2. Ask for Volunteers

Want the most committed folks to continue to step up? Ask for volunteers. Your most engaged want to get involved, contribute to a healthy culture, and share their talents. Now, you can imagine how many people volunteer to be part of this incredible experience. You want the people who will best represent the project, so it stands to reason you want some criteria to evaluate fit and ensure people are volunteering for aligned reasons. Rather than just appoint people, however, why not put out a call first.

3. Make the Experience Special Enough to Share

The next lesson we can learn is to make work experiences memorable and unique. This is not about playing ping pong all day and taking long lunches. This is about when we get the opportunity – one professional development session a year through to a unique situation like shooting a catalogue – don’t miss out on the opportunity to elevate the specialness of it. Fluevog could put their models up in their Holiday Inn, not invite the previous models back, or pre-plan all the shoes before the models get there. However, that would be missing out on a chance to elevate the employee experience; one where they talk about to their customers for the rest of their careers. An experience that, when people want to retell it, it’s special enough for people to say, “wow I want to work there” or “I need to look them up and buy a pair.” 

I think if I had to bottom line what I felt as a customer when everyone in the store spoke about the catalogue, shoot and what it was like to work at Fluevog, the word I keep coming back to is pride. As the lovely lady with the funky blue hair, warm smile and savvy sense of style shared with me as I was leaving, “You see to me, why I will never go and work for somebody else is because this is the type of company I belonged to. It’s hard to describe, it’s just a feeling. It makes me sad to even think of working anywhere else.” Wow. Now that might just be one of the best ways to describe the employee experience: just thinking of working anywhere else makes me sad and I cannot imagine it. (PS – check out their Random Acts of Fluevog for another great example of what they’re all about as a company.)

What does an employee experience mean to you? How do you practice it? Or what ways could we even dive further into being able to truly make every employee’s experience meaningful? Why don’t you comment below and even share this post? Let’s create an employee engagement revolution!

Want to check out more resources about how you can recognize other’s greatness? Check out these articles:

“There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread.”

– Mother Teresa

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