Shortly after the 2008 recession began, the Mayo Clinic — a 56,000-employee organization that sees one million patients a year from over 20 countries — knew it would have to make some changes to stay afloat.

“We went to our staff and said this: ‘Your husbands, wives, sons, daughters might lose their jobs and benefits. We need you to be flexible so you can keep yours. You are our most precious resource,’” said Dr. John Noseworthy, president and CEO of the Mayo Clinic. He made his remarks during the second keynote session at the Great Place to Work conference in Atlanta this week.

The organization re-engaged employees around the key piece of its mission statement: The needs of the patient come first. “Every employee at Mayo Clinic understands that their role is to work as a team to make the patient experience better,” said Noseworthy.

The organization launched an ambitious social media campaign and, within a year, had a 49% market share among health care websites. “It’s simply sharing what we know with others, sharing what Mayo knows and believes,” said Noseworthy, who started writing a blog for employees. The blog’s been a “fabulous” engagement tool, he said, likening it to a weather report that enables him to assess how employees are feeling about the organization.

In the third and final keynote session on day one of the conference, Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation, shared some of his company’s strategies for creating a great place to work. He, too, started a blog where he shares, in great detail, what he’s done throughout the course of the day so employees feel a part of what’s going on. And he responds to all comments. “It builds transparency and an authentic level of trust,” he said. “It’s been remarkable. There’s not been any violation of trust and its’ been a very effective management tool.”

Katzenberg meets every month with new employees and the company hosts an annual creative update so all employees are in the loop about what new movies and projects are in the pipeline. In addition, the company tries to facilitate and encourage communication at all times. “At DreamWorks, we’ve tried to make it understood they [employees] can go to the boss of the boss of the boss,” he said.

DreamWorks Animation houses two onsite health clinics — one at its Glendale, Calif. campus where 75% of employees reside and another at its campus in Redwood City, Calif. “Our workforce is very young and they don’t think about their health so we do,” said Katzenberg.

The common goal of all of its engagement and HR initiatives, he continued, is to “break down the barriers between right-brained and left-brained people, between the two campuses, between management and employees.”

And whether you’re making movies, cars or cosmetics, “success depends on the quality and motivation of your people.”

Andrea Davis is managing director of Employee Benefit News, a sister publication of Health Data Management.

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