UPS is one version of the modern Pony Express: It's got to get the job done reliably, no excuses and stellar performance, day after day after day.
That's one reason the company under CEO Scott Davis has veered strongly toward increasing engagement of its employees in its unceasing mission -- and its endless competition with the likes of FedEx.
"Having a 'good relationship' with employees or a workplace that satisfies them doesn't really help us in today's business market," Joe Finamore, vice president of global employee relations for UPS, told us for the cover story, "The Power of Employee Engagement," for the Fall 2012 issue of our magazine, Looking Inward.
"We're evolving as an organization to an engaged workforce, one that is apt to take what they do to the next level."
Drivers and package sorters who are fully engaged are more likely, for example, to conceive and execute extra work-process innovations that can create crucial increments of higher productivity of the type which is crucial to UPS keeping its edge. By the same token, engaged employees tend to ensure happier customers.
As an example of a greater focus on engagement, Finamore cited how UPS recently changed the name of its "employee-satisfaction" survey to an "employee-engagement" survey and modified about 40 percent of the questions to focus respondents on engagement.
In remarks that aren't in the story, Finamore also shared with us how UPS has noticed that "with every level of employee in the organization, the more we communicate what 'engagement' is, the more people seem to know and understand what we mean and put forth that extra effort they think it requires."
But Finamore stressed that building an engaged culture typically is a deliberate, sometimes long process for companies.
"We still have a way to go to not only communicate aspects of engagement but to better capture the feelings of our employees and then look at what I think is the true essence of engagement: Are employees actually demonstrating particular characteristics that are those of engaged employees?"
At UPS, increasingly, the answer is "yes."