How Winning Workplaces Turn Employees into Superfans, Supertribes and Superheroes

December 7, 2017 | Matt Roddan | ORC International
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Look around your organization and the most engaged employees are easy to spot. They love their company and their job, and they are not afraid to say it. They are strongly committed to helping the company achieve its goals. And they are motivated to do their best work because the company creates the right environment to help them succeed.

But our research shows that many organizations still struggle to create a truly engaging culture.

With a view of identifying what winning workplaces do differently, we surveyed 8,800 employees from across the globe to understand how they feel about their employee experience and what really engages them. In particular, we looked at what these companies do to create the most engaged employees – the Superfans, Supertribes and Superheroes.


1. Find your Superfans, and help them share the love

Superfans are those who firmly believe in your company. They’re your true brand ambassadors -- the ones who won’t just wear their branded hoodies around the office – they’ll wear them to brunch.

They are the super-engaged few that represent less than 30 percent of the workforce today. With the continuing growth of communication methods and social media, they are a vitally important population. Superfans will not just advocate for your company as a place to work, they’ll advocate your products and services, and when empowered in the right way, they’ll help you attract new talent and customers.

Companies with a higher proportion of superfans have a few things in common:

  • They communicate in an honest, open, and compelling way.
  • They have effective senior leadership.
  • They recognize and celebrate success.
  • They work in an environment that prioritizes health and wellbeing.
  • They are encouraged to be innovative – and have a culture and structures to support it.

Your starting point for growing your base of advocates is to find your existing superfans, listen to what they have to say, and give them the platforms (and the permission) to share the love. They’re more likely to be the natural leaders, high performers, and influencers within their teams -– regardless of their level within the organization -- and they’re likely already using their own channels of communication to spread the word about your company.

Give them the opportunities and tools to spread the word, both internally and externally, and you’ll be richly rewarded. And the great news is, this doesn’t have to be a costly or time-consuming exercise: all it requires is a bit of listening and some creativity. Get your superfans to co-create advocacy programs with you and let them show you how it’s done.

Your superfans are your secret weapon.

2. Forget loyalty, think Supertribes

I don’t think I need to tell any of you that the age of ladder-climbing, gold-watch-earning loyalty is over. Welcome to the age of the portfolio career – for today’s top talent, your company is just a chapter in the evolution of its resume. As much as a third of employees – and almost two thirds of recent hires – expect to stay with their current employer for less than two years. But this isn’t something to lament; it’s something to embrace.

The best portfolio career builders are go-getters: they want every paragraph on their resume to be impressive, which means they’ll deliver results for your company. And every role they take leaves them with more connections – potential hires for you down the road.

Supertribes are the people in your team right now. They won’t stick around forever but they will deliver great value if you engage them in the right way. Forget the past and don’t worry too much about the future. Give your people something to commit to now and support them on that journey.

So how do you rethink retention in the age of the supertribe? The secret is to engage them quickly so they can start performing sooner, and give your company a return on the investment you made in recruiting them.

If you engage these supertribes in the right way, they might leave as superfans, and help bring more great talent into your organization from their tribe – even months or years after leaving you.

Here are three ways to turn your teams into supertribes:

  1. Have a vision, and make it personal. Clearly outline the company goals and the role your new hire will play in achieving them. Deliver your vision in a way that creates excitement, and reinforce it regularly. Employees who feel that their company’s communications are exciting and inspiring are seven times more likely to be committed.
  2. Keep your promises. Employees are five times less likely to be committed to their organization’s goals if they don’t think the company has kept its promises. Ensure that the experience you are selling in your recruitment process is authentic to the real experience of working in your company.
  3. Invest in onboarding. You invested a lot in recruiting this person – don’t stop there. The first 30 days are a unique opportunity to bring someone into your supertribe by creating an experience that is educational, special and fun, and makes them feel like they’ve made the right choice. Why does this matter? Because employees who feel valued are six times more committed to their organization’s goals than those who don’t. And when they’re committed, they’ll perform.

3. Give your Superheroes a purpose

Superheroes are your company’s most valuable asset. They are your ultra-high performers, setting the pace for the organization with both what they do and how they do it. They go above and beyond, invest more of their energy in their work, and get results.

But many companies don’t do enough to inspire these superpowers. Our research shows that that four in ten employees do not feel their organization motivates them to contribute more than is required, and a third don’t feel that working at their company makes them want to do their best. Your superheroes may be intrinsically motivated, naturally more inclined to give their work their all – and, if they are, lucky you. But it’s more likely that your superheroes are driven by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic motivation. Winning workplaces create that extrinsic motivation by consistently aringm their superheroes with a clear sense of purpose – and in doing so, they reap the rewards. We see superheroes thrive in workplaces where:

- Leaders connect with people on an emotional level by praising, recognizing, and valuing them.

  • Why superheroes love this: They love to accomplish things and need feedback to ensure they’re on a path to growth.

- People are involved and encouraged to come together to share ideas and contribute to the bigger picture.

  • Why Superheroes love this: They want to be involved in the future of the company, and believe they have something to contribute.

- There are clear, accessible career paths for high performers.

  • Why Superheroes love this: They’re ambitious, and will unleash their ambition somewhere else if they can’t see a path at their current company.


We know that companies with higher numbers of superfans, supertribes and superheroes outperform their peers in attracting talent and achieving high performance from their teams. All three groups are likely to be highly engaged: with your company, with their career path, with achieving results.

So where do you start? You start by finding them, and listening to what they have to say.

To hear more insights from our global employee research, join us for our webcast on demand to hear more.

And if you need help creating your own winning workplace, we’d love to hear from you!