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Editor’s Note: A contest to keep furloughed workers engaged judged a smashing success

Blessedness Onaiwu, center, was the winner of the “Power’s Got Talent” talent show in the spring. Other Power Home Remodeling employees who participated included host Alyssa D’Angelo, top; and contestants, from left, Tyler Morgan; Caroline Morris; and Joshua Graves. (Courtesy of Power Home Remodeling)

Blessedness Onaiwu, a customer development mentor at Power Home Remodeling, may be on his way — with the help of his employer and colleagues — to parlaying his spring furlough spurred by the coronavirus pandemic into his dream career in entertainment.

Last spring, Onaiwu, 23, came in first place in “Power’s Got Talent”— an elaborate virtual production, designed as a mash-up of “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice,” to keep some 2,200 furloughed employees engaged with the company.

The show featured contestants advancing through several rounds in April and May, with three judges in purple chairs offering brutally honest critiques — and live voting by hundreds of colleagues around the country.

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Onaiwu, who was furloughed in April, then brought back in early June, won the grand prize of $1,000 with his saxophone and rap performance.

As an added bonus, the show connected him in an on-screen virtual meeting with his idol, instrumentalist/vocalist Youngr.

Employee engagement, which measures how much workers feel they matter to their firms, is a key metric in the Top Workplaces competition. Employees who are highly engaged are more likely to feel loyalty toward their organizations, work harder to build success and remain there.

Even during the furloughs, spurred by last spring’s lockdowns, Power took extraordinary measures to maintain its company culture and connection with its workforce through weekly virtual town halls providing updates on the business; mental and physical wellness programs; and a speaker series targeting veterans and women.

To determine whether they were successfully reaching their furloughed workers, Power took another step to hire Energage, the same company that conducted the Top Workplaces survey, to poll them.

According to Energage, 98 percent of respondents said they felt Power leadership has been accessible to them during the furlough.

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Onaiwu said he was struck by how much company leadership took a personal interest in him.

“I am beyond grateful for the opportunities and the doors that Power has opened for me,” Onaiwu said in an email.

He said since the show, the number of gigs he and his partner are booked for spiked.

Onaiwu said that Asher Raphael, Power Home Remodeling’s co-CEO, “told me that whenever I am ready to record a studio album, he would personally help to put me in contact with the best producers that he knows.”

He said Raphael’s gesture means more to him than the influx of bookings. “It’s not every day that you see a co-CEO care about their employees so authentically and so genuinely.”