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How to Create Sustainable Employee Engagement: A Lesson from Costco

Don’t run out of engagement.

Costco Toilet Paper

This lesson in employee engagement is not based on the principles and practices of how Costco treats their employees, rather it is based on a lesson from being a Costco shopper. If you want to understand a bit more of how Costco creates employee engagement, click on this Business Week article.

My wife and I shop at Costco every 2 weeks. We enter the store with just a membership card and a short list and leave the store with one or two shopping carts full of stuff. Stuff we needed. Stuff we never knew we needed. Stuff that caught our eye. Stuff we sampled. And stuff that was just too good a buy to pass up.

There is nothing small about Costco items. You don’t but a container of margarine, you purchase a tub with the depth of a small oil well. You don’t buy a pack of gum, you get enough gum to take a baseball team from spring training to the dog days of August. You don’t buy a roll of toilet paper you buy so many rolls that if you rolled them out end to end you would have a line of toilet paper that stretches from New York to Miami. You don’t buy a small container of Ketchup you buy a twin mega pack that would rival the amount of blood shown in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Now here comes the surprising part and the lesson for employee engagement.

These things run out, they really do, and it always comes as a shock to me.

One day there is no margarine for the toast, there is no toilet paper for you know what, and the hot dog in the bun looks barren without a red line of Ketchup. “How could this be,” I ask myself as I grind me teeth because I am out of gum, “it is impossible. We bought so much.”

Don’t make the same mistake with employee engagement. You don’t just get everyone engaged once with a biannual survey with the hope it will last forever. You don’t hold an Employee Engagement Day (as if employees only needed to be engaged for one day) and hope that will take care of things. Engagement demands day to day attention and monitoring.

We must keep replenishing the supplies of meaning, energy, connection, performance, and results  for work to keep working.

Remember, sustainable engagement is an ongoing process, it is not about going down the aisle once and filling your cart with the naive belief that it will last forever.

speaking of experts2

David Zinger is an expert  global employee engagement speaker and consultant who uses the pyramid of employee engagement to help leaders, managers, and organizations increase engagement every day. He also shops at Costco and just found out that he is out of coffee beans after purchasing a sack of beans that he believed would keep him perking right into the year 2020.


  1. Hi David – Amazing article. Hope you don’t mind if I share it out. There is a book coming out all around the employee engagement and there is a section in the book titled ” Any Monkey can Survey, Start building Relationships with Customers”. I think your right on with all of your points.

  2. Thanks Ashley. Feel free to share and all the best with all of your work.

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