Shortly after Bruce Nelson became Chairman and CEO of Office Depot in 2000, the company began a process designed to transform it into the most “Compelling Place to Work, Shop and Invest.” By the beginning of 2002, substantial progress toward that goal was evident. Office Depot had redefined its vision and core values, strengthened its commitment to strong leadership and employee engagement, and grown from an underperforming company to one that nearly tripled its stock value.
As a logical next step in the process of becoming one of the best places to work in the world, Office Depot decided to apply for recognition as one of Fortune Magazine’s “Top 100 Places to Work.” The Company identified the need for a communications campaign to support the application process by helping to create a climate of positive attitudes and enthusiasm in the workplace, leading to the conclusion that Office Depot is a “Great Place to Work.”
The goal of the Great Place to Work Campaign was not to dictate how employees should think or tell them what to say. Rather, its primary objective was to create a positive and supportive environment that would help employees recognize the benefits and advantages of working for Office Depot. The desire of the Company was to engender such feelings from the bottom up, not to impose them from the top down.
The Great Place to Work communications campaign was designed to reach Office Depot’s 45,000 employees worldwide, with a primary focus on the United States and Canada. Audience segments included approximately 2,600 employees at the Company’s corporate headquarters in Delray Beach, FL, as well as its more than 850 retail stores in North America—each of which has approximately 40 employees. The Company also has thousands of workers in warehouses and distribution centers, call centers and other corporate locations.
The fundamental message of the Great Place to Work Campaign is that Office Depot already is a good company; if it succeeds in realizing its goal of becoming the most Compelling Place to Work, then it will by definition be a great company. Office Depot supported this message through the use of multiple communications channels, including e-mail and the Company Intranet, faxes and printed memos (to locations where employees generally do not have e-mail access), the company magazine, brochures, posters and videos.
The campaign not only disseminated messages throughout the Company, but also included opportunities for employees to make their feelings known through response mechanisms that included fax, e-mail and dedicated websites.
Plans for the campaign were developed by Office Depot’s Director of Community Relations, Mary Wong, and her team and were implemented with the creative support, design, printing and fulfillment expertise of The JKG Group. All strategies and tactics were designed to be uncomplicated, cost-effective and impactful.
An initial brochure in early 2002 asked, “What’s the Difference Between a Good Place to Work and a Great Place to Work?” It briefly traced the Company’s history, restated its core values and suggested that employees themselves would make the difference in the realization of its goals. A second brochure in mid-summer 2002 focused on the concept of pride. Prominently featured were quotes that had been gathered from employees in response to the question, “If asked to name one thing at Office Depot that makes you most proud, what would that be?” (Hundreds of employees answered the question by fax and e-mail.) The piece thanked employees for their commitment to fairness, respect, teamwork and other essential qualities.
The brochures were accompanied by posters that reinforced the same messages. Feedback also was sought through these posters, one of which simply stated the “What’s the difference …” question noted above and provided plenty of white space where employees could write down their thoughts and ideas.
In conjunction with the second brochure, the Company produced a fast-paced, high-spirited video that was filled with images of employees from throughout the Company. It, too, ended with a message thanking employees for their commitment.
The employee magazine, WYN2K, regularly included stories about the Company’s ongoing transformation process and the status of its application for recognition by Fortune Magazine.
Office Depot submitted its application to the Great Places to Work Institute in July 2002. Subsequently, the Institute surveyed a random sample of Office Depot employees to gauge their opinions about the Company. Although Office Depot ultimately was not ranked among the Top 100 Places to Work by Fortune Magazine for 2002, the process of seeking the award enabled the Company to make great strides in building employee morale and developing a sense of community among its highly diverse workforce.
Evidence of this progress made can be found in the response to the Company’s second annual Employee Engagement Survey, which was conducted in late summer 2002. More than 30,000 people responded to the survey—approximately 81 percent of the total employee population. To cite one example, positive response to the statement, “I believe this company has an outstanding future,” rose from 66 percent one year earlier to 88 percent. Also reflecting success is the fact that Office Depot’s employee retention rate has increased into double digits.