Boost engagement with a company book club

Having engaged employees helps profitability. As a business leader, there are a number of ways to engage employees. Engagement starts with the right culture, and the right culture starts with engagement. The chicken or the egg scenario, right?

The dilemma can be challenging. If you put too much thought into what to do first, you won’t take any action. Getting stuck in this cycle will get you nowhere, while your employees disengage or leave, seeking an employer that has a stronger culture.

A new approach

One employee engagement suggestion — which has been put into practice at my company, COE Distributing, and is inclusive with all 100-plus team members — is a companywide book club.

The thought of a book club may be intimidating, lead to eye rolling or cause the hair on the back of your neck to stand up. However, the engagement and sincere appreciation you will receive by successfully implementing a quarterly book club will make you feel otherwise.

The structure is simple: Select a book, have everyone read the same chapter in a week, and then hold a 10- to 15-minute standing (no one sits and gets comfortable) discussion on what each team member liked or disliked about the reading material.

The key is to select a book that will provide benefits both inside and outside of the work environment in order to get full buy-in from the entire organization.

How to implement it

First and foremost, you have to read the book and be convinced it is right for you, your leadership team and the entire company.

Ask yourself: Does it speak to you? Can you see your team members buying into the messages the book is providing? If the answers are yes, then expose your management team to the book, stick to the schedule of when you expect to roll out the book to the entire employee base (one chapter per week) and evaluate everyone’s buy-in to the messages in the book, as well as the discussions generated weekly.

From personal experience

The first book I selected for COE was “Becoming Your Best: The 12 Principles of Highly Successful Leaders,” by Steven R. Shallenberger. I was introduced to this book at a YPO luncheon, where everyone in attendance received a copy. From the discussion that took place in the room that day, and from reading the book, the messages within the pages spoke to me. I knew there was a bigger purpose at work than just me reading this book.

It’s important to note that I hadn’t read a complete business book in over five years, concentrating solely on news headlines and white papers. I can honestly say that this book and the processes that it led me to follow and implement, both personally and at COE, changed the course of my company and my life.

I’m hopeful you will enjoy a similar experience.


J.D. Ewing is the president and CEO of COE Distributing is the nation’s largest wholesaler/distributor of office furniture, specializing in forward-thinking products that fit perfectly in any environment. With more than 30 years of experience, J.D. has grown this third-generation, family-owned business to extraordinary success by staying true to the most valuable business lesson he’s learned — people are the difference-makers. His business model encourages collaboration among himself, employees, customers and vendors
to create a culture of empowerment and satisfaction.