How Acushnet is developing outstanding employee experience?

By: May 5, 2021

Last year I saw so many employee experience development initiatives at Acushnet UK. I really like them. For this reason, I thought to interview Matthew Johnson, the general manager of Acushnet UK.

Acushnet UK GM Matthew Johnson

How do you define what is employee experience?

Employee engagement is complex and hard to describe or measure because it is not a tangible thing. My personal view on employee engagement is how connected employees are to the business.

This includes elements such as our culture, strategies, values, collaboration across teams, buying into what we do no matter how difficult the situation is, having teams that make decisions or recommendations because they are the pulse and the heartbeat of the company.

Ultimately our people willingly doing what they need to, for us to be successful without having to be told or forced to do it because they are engaged or at one with the business.

Whilst some would disagree, I also think it is a measure of how happy they are at work; for example, they do not look at what they do as just a job but as an important part of their lives, taking real pride, enjoyment, and responsibility in their roles.

Acushnet Awards with the winners

What does Acushnet‘s employee experience strategy consist of?

There are three things that our company has been built upon since the first Titleist golf ball was launched in 1935; great products, which can only be made by having the best processes and neither of these things happen without great people.

This outlook resulted in Titleist being the #1 Ball at the 1949 US Open, something we have achieved every year since alongside becoming the #1 Ball in Golf. That would not have happened without Acushnet being a people company.

It is essential that our teams know who we are and what we are trying to achieve. It applies to FootJoy as well as Titleist, to Gloves, Shoes, and Clubs, as well as Balls.

How we do this has to come from our people, so having clear values and behaviours is pivotal. In our UK business, we have had great buy-in to our values and they were especially useful to us when managing our business through the pandemic. We know this as it is something that we monitor through pulse surveys.

Other important elements include a focus on clear communication through our business, even the simplest updates were incredibly important to our people over the last year, and our openness and ability to share was really appreciated whilst many things around them outside of work were so uncertain.

Acushnet gym renovated

We focus on providing employees with more than a wage or salary, whether that be career development, training, facilities such as our subsidised restaurant and free on-site gym alongside a focus on health, wellbeing, and being part of a team.

It is also important these things evolve too in order for us to keep that engagement and attract new talent to Acushnet.

Acushnet – key activities in building employee engagement

Recent key activities in building engagement have included launching an Engagement champions group, where myself and Nick Jerman (our HR Director) meet with members of our business from every department to discuss current issues, receive feedback or discuss/review new ideas; no management are allowed to ensure all employees have access to this opportunity and the champions share this feedback or facilitate questions from their peers.  

Employee recognition has also played a huge role and we launched an annual award scheme in 2019. Last year this evolved into a (peer to peer) quarterly recognition scheme. Nominations centred around great performance built upon our core values.

We had an incredible response to this, and these nominations become the qualification process for our annual employee awards. Last year’s awards sadly had to be presented online but the organisers got creative, and Justin Thomas was kind enough to send a video message to all of our team, but in particular Employee of The Year Steve Murray who is part of our Operations Team.

Acushnet event 1

The recognition scheme was entirely conceived, developed, and organised by our employees it had no Director level input at all. The teams are very hopeful of celebrating our 2022 awards face to face rather than via a Teams call.

You recently signed The R&A Women in Golf charter, can you talk about this?

This is something we have been interested in for some time, and our followers on LinkedIn would have noticed we celebrated the contribution and roles of Women at Acushnet Europe throughout the month of March – we wanted to showcase the broad and varied opportunities available at the company for women.

However, historically we have not had many applications from women for certain roles or departments, so we want to do something to resolve that. Promoting the Golf industry and especially Acushnet as a wonderful and rewarding career option for women was one of the primary objectives that we had in signing the charter.

Acushnet for hire golf club jobs

We challenge ourselves and fellow signatories to achieve that with an external focus to encourage women to apply for roles within the industry and demonstrate the appeal, rewards, and enjoyment of doing that at Acushnet.

Internally we will be continually challenging ourselves and our policies to attract, retain and develop women providing career development opportunities. It is very exciting and even one month into this, we are close to launching an initiative that will offer opportunities and insights into what working at Acushnet will be like.

Our UK Women in Golf focus group and our Global Diversity, Inclusion & Belonging council are just two examples of how we have evolved and provide focus and action in this area.

Employee Experience development in Acushnet UK

As an employer how flexible you are in terms of time and location?

We are really open to this but prefer the term agile working to flexible working. We had some success with this before the pandemic, were very open to providing options, and trusted our employees to work this way. However, it was not taken up by as many people as we hoped for at that time, I don’t know why as we really encouraged it.

The recent necessity to work from home for everybody apart from our production and logistics teams has given employees the confidence that they can work effectively from home, that they have the tools to do it and they also enjoy it.

We launched our agile working policy towards the end of 2020 and whilst it has not had the chance to succeed yet due to almost all of our teams still working from home, we have great confidence that it will have high levels of support from our employees and will be helpful in retaining staff and appealing to potential new members of our teams.

Acushnet event values

What are you doing for the health & happiness of your employees?

This is something the company has always taken seriously and certainly impressed me when I joined Acushnet in 2012. It was a clear step up from anything I had experienced previously. We have an Employee Assistance Program to support all of our employees and their families, I have used it personally several times and I know it has been a great resource for people during the last 12 months and the Covid-19 threat.

At the start of 2020 we completely renovated our on-site gym and renamed it the wellness zone, our previous gym was a good standard corporate gym but it only really appealed to a hardcore of gym-goers. The objective of the wellness zone was to appeal to a much wider audience whether they be a beginner, recovering from an injury, a moderate user, and indeed the serious trainers too.

We also wanted it to be used throughout the day not just before/after work or at lunchtime, so we trusted employees to work with that agility in mind.  

We had a phenomenal response to the facility and partnered with a company called The Training Shed to not only design/fit the gym but also provide 1:1 or group support to meet the exercise needs of our people. Sadly, the facility has been closed since March 23rd 2020 but that has not stopped us supporting our teams.

Acushnet Wellness Zone

More recently during the post-Christmas lockdown, we offered MyZone fitness tracking belts to our employees with about 40% of them taking part. We offered team challenges to keep us all moving during the difficult winter months, even for me as somebody carrying an injury it helped with my motivation and activity levels.

We are about to launch online and further exercise facilities to our employees too.

Outside of that we have excellent health and safety record and are regularly praised by authorities for our standards and support for our people. I believe our employees really value the support we offer them and our openness to looking for new opportunities and ways we can support their wellbeing.

employee engagement at Acushnet

How did employee engagement evolve in 2020? What do you expect in 2021?

This biggest change in 2020 was launching our Guiding Principles to the entire UK organisation in February 2020 at Burgess Hall in St. Ives. We have some employees with over 40 years of service and many more with over 30 who couldn’t remember us engaging with our employees on that scale for some time.

The principles included a local Mission, Vision and Values, which our leadership team developed during 2019, a broader group of employees (from across the business) evolved the content and developed a launch calendar to give the Guiding Principles the best opportunity to be accepted and implemented quickly when they were launched.

I am not sure I have ever worked on a more enjoyable project but more importantly, we know from our pulse surveys that the response to this was excellent; the way our teams pulled together to support our customers and the golfers was a very proud experience to be part of.

diversity inclusion Acushnet

As a company with a great history, I know we would have been able to deal with the challenges of the last 12 months but our focus on building and developing our culture was paramount to not only what we achieved in 2020 but also, the way we did it.

In particular, we experienced greater collaboration, people taking initiative and ownership for their actions or decision making and a customer focussed outlook whether your job is aligned to our trade partners, the golfer or indeed an internal customer.

Acushnet in 2021 – extension of building our culture

2021 is simply an extension of building our culture, you can’t do that in one year, it takes a lot of time and focus but it is something that drives me, and I know is important to our employees.

Without a great culture, we can’t realise our potential, and so we strive to have happy, engaged employees who don’t think of what they do as a job but as something that is an important, integral, and enjoyable part of their lives.

Thank you, Matthew, for the interview.