By | September 2, 2016

You might not be aware that the NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony was the first weekend of August (unless you live near Green Bay, WI). There was this other sporting event; the Summer Olympics.

We as a nation were more focused on the Olympics that weekend; the hype, the opening ceremonies and potentially record-breaking swimming events.

But in fact, the HOF induction ceremony was held Saturday August 6th in Canton Ohio and Brett Favre was the headliner of the 2016 class, a shoe-in first ballot inductee.  Another thing you may not have known is that a member of the newly defined “contributor” category was also inducted; former 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr.

Disclaimer: I’m a San Francisco 49ers fan. I grew up in the bay area (on the non-Raider side of the bay) and happened to be the right age for my childhood and young adult years to be dominated by watching the Niners win 5 Super Bowls and average 13 wins per season for a period of time.  I love my Niners; always have, always will.  I love football in general and have the utmost respect for almost every team in the NFL. I appreciate a good game and quality players, no matter who wins or loses.

But man was it a great time to be a Niners fan in the DeBartolo era; the 80s and 90s were good to us.

Eddie did admit at the start of his speech that he’s probably the only inductee of the HOF who didn’t make it onto his high school football squad. Yet there he was, on stage accepting his induction, fans and players cheering and hollering, giving him standing ovations on more than one occasion.

What stood out about his speech was how much he talked about the whole organization as a family.  He thanked the entire Niners organization, including grounds keeping staff, food staff, transportation staff, janitorial, equipment, administrative and just about everybody in the organization. It could have been easy for him to focus on the amazing players who played for him (many in the HOF as well) and just talk about Montana, Rice, Young, Lott, Haley, and many others. Instead he talked about everyone, no matter that their role or how high their salary; they were all part of making the franchise so successful for many years.

The concept of family was evident as he talked about how much he loved and cared for the people who worked for him, at all levels, and how he felt obligated to take care of them. He saw this as a child growing up in Ohio, watching how his father ran his business.

“My dad didn’t just run his business. He absolutely lived it. Every person who worked for us in Youngstown, and the 15,000 or so we had out in the field, were treated like part of the family. We knew all their names. We knew the names of their children. We knew that if everyone was working toward the same goal we’d all be a success. I tried to carry that on when I went to San Francisco in 1977”

You all have probably taken employee satisfactory or engagement surveys, often these are done annually. In recent years, questions are asked about if you feel valued, how managers treat you and even if you have a best friend at work.  Those questions are about a sense of belonging, being highly engaged at work due to the relationships, and how you are treated by others. No longer do these surveys focus only on salary, job tasks, resources, autonomy, communication, but they include that sense of connectedness and value to the organization.

What Eddie DeBartolo Jr. talked about in both his management of the 49ers and his father’s business was creating an environment with highly engaged employees who feel connected to the organization. Their employees were loyal and deeply committed to leadership, to each other and most importantly, to the common goal of the organization.  In the case of the Niners, this resulted in tremendous success for many, many years. (don’t get me started on how the organization is being run now…)


Much has been researched and written regarding employee engagement and employee satisfaction. We have all read about how happy and engaged employees perform better and stay longer. This is key to creating an environment where you aren’t dealing with turnover, excessive absenteeism and productivity problems.

Both Gallup and Dale Carnegie conducted employee engagement studies in the last year or so and came up with similar results:


About 30% of the workforce is highly engaged

The number of highly engaged employees is staying stagnant; no significant change in the last two years. That number is strikingly low when you think about the remaining 70% of the workforce and how they feel and behave at work.

According to Gallup, 17.2% are “actively disengaged” while the Dale Carnegie study found that number to be higher at 26%. The problem with disengaged employees is that they have a negative effect on the organization.  This group isn’t just a bump on a long, contributing but not fully engaged, they are often negatively impacting morale and productivity.  They influence and impact the highly engaged and mildly disengaged employees around them.


Disengaged employees have a negative impact on the whole workforce

An important distinction needs to be made between employee engagement and satisfaction. A recent Forbes article said it best:

“Job satisfaction is a measure of how employees feel about what they get from their employer. Employee engagement is more about what (or why) they give to the employer and the mission.”

The article goes on to link engagement to productivity and what engagement really means in terms of the impact on the organization and its success. We have all heard it before, engagement is more than pay and benefits; it’s about employees feeling empowered, having job mastery and strong connections with colleagues and managers.  This is especially true in the human services industry.

When employees feel engaged, cared for, valued by their employer, they work harder and perform better.  Everyone is connected to the mission, they are loyal and motivated and you see the results.

It’s everything Eddie was talking about. And it’s something we all could work on and improve.

Look around your organization, whether you are a leader or a direct contributor, and ask yourself “how well do we create this environment?”

If you want to read the transcript or watch the video of the whole HOF acceptance speech, click here.


Kristi McClure, LCSW

Kristi has more than 20 years of experience in the health and human service industry, the majority of that time working as a direct practitioner with children, adolescents and adults in both outpatient and residential/inpatient settings. She has worked with Relias for over 10 years, initially working with customers on getting the most out of Relias products, then managing the content products for HHS, and now as the Product Marketing Manager for Health and Human Services.

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