How Patagonia Creates an Impact Environment to Foster Employee Engagement

Do You Leave Work Each Day Feeling Like You Accomplished Something Worthwhile?

Impact is one of the five keys of employee engagement.  We experience impact when we see positive and worthwhile outcomes and results of our work. It’s incremental progress toward a goal, and small wins that lead to big outcomes. We all need to see that the work we do is contributing to our own goals, the success of our team, those whom we serve, and the organization we are a part of. It’s the difference between simply showing up for work and knowing that we’re an integral part of the day’s operations.


Our employee engagement survey research shows that managers consistently fail to recognize employees for their contributions. This same research tells us that many employees don’t see that the work they do translates into results. They spend a significant part of the day spinning their wheels, not going very far. However, when leaders define goals and set clear expectations, measure and acknowledge progress, and help employees see progress, employees are far more likely to engage in their work and contribute to the organization’s success.


How Patagonia Creates an Impact Environment to Foster Employee Engagement



Since its founding in 1973, clothing company Patagonia has demonstrated an unshakeable commitment to environmental stewardship as well as a deep, family-oriented corporate culture. In 2011, the company did something extraordinary that really let its people see the impact of its environmental beliefs: the Buy Less campaign. Patagonia took out a full-page ad in the New York Times exhorting people not to buy as much of its outdoor apparel in order to reduce the industry’s environmental footprint. The company also created an online marketplace on where its customers could buy and sell used clothing items. Apart from burnishing its public image, the online initiative also gave employees an easy way to go online and watch their employer put its money where its mouth is on resource conservation.


By the way, Patagonia’s famously intimate and engaged workforce helped sales grow by 33 percent in 2012, a year when overall U.S. apparel retail sales grew by just 2.9 percent!


A manager can set the tone for the environment in which an employee can choose to be engaged. The boss can set clear targets, and measure progress against these targets. This allows the employee and the organization to gauge progress, one of the key components of impact. The manager can regularly provide feedback, and recognize and reward performance, but it’s the employee who must choose to be engaged.


Patagonia is an example of a company that created meaning and impact for their employees. Organizations that close the distance between work and impact have higher levels of employee engagement.


Want to learn more about how other companies create an engaged culture?

Read “MAGIC: Five Keys to Unlock the Power of Employee Engagement” now available in bookstores and online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.