While the workplace is aptly named based on what is expected while we are there – to work – it’s also critical that we encourage having some fun while at work. Fun can come in many forms and can be subtle gestures or grand occasions. Whatever method you support , without having some fun in the workplace you are destined to have high turnover and/or less engaged employees. Over the years I have seen and participated in so many ways to bring some laughter/happiness to the work day so I thought I’d share some of them. Some may be applicable in your workplace, or they may inspire ideas that could work for you.
- Celebrate Halloween with costume contests and have the executive team be the judges (they must participate as well)
- Have candies/chocolates on your desk and have an open house to invite employees to your office – sometimes employees need an invite to come or they stay far away!
- Decorate office space for birthdays
- Wear fun socks or shoes to provoke dialogue
- Bring home made cookies/cupcakes (preferably that you made yourself) and pass them out
- Have a putting green set up in the office and charge $1/3 balls with money going to charity
- Take employees away for a fun day – indoor volleyball, baseball game, etc..
- Give back to the community by having teams participate together
- Ensure at town halls, or other opportunities in front of the organization, the leadership team show the camaraderie they have with the rest of the organization – have some laughs during the presentation
- Create a video to tell all employees they are getting new office chairs where the President is the star of the video demonstrating the features of the chair (seriously, we did do this)
- Provide ice cream to employees working in hot conditions during the summer – for a “wow” factor, drive in an ice cream truck and serve the ice cream yourself (that’s me in the photo above!)
- Televise big sporting events or news features on TV’s – if no TV’s, bring some in
- Have theme days – launch of a movie, sport jersey days, Hawaiian dress, etc.
- When launching a new program, do it with a splash – have cake, music, entertainment…
- Talk about your pets, children, travel – show the team you are human too!
As leaders, we set the tone by our own behavior. If we aren’t caught laughing and having fun at work, your teams will assume it’s not OK. If necessary, schedule time in your calendar every day to walk around and find ways to make someone laugh or smile. It doesn’t take much time but will be remembered for many years.
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To follow up on my previous article about the importance of communication, and for those of you that have worked with me in the past, you know how passionate I am around these three very powerful words:
“WE HEARD YOU”
What do those words say to someone? That you listened, that you cared, and that you did something about what they said. If you want to improve engagement and communication in your organization, seek ways to genuinely use these words. Genuine being critical – as powerful as these three words are, they can be equally destructive if you say them but have no evidence that you actually heard them.
Let’s use employee engagement surveys as an example. I am a huge proponent of reliable, valid and relevant engagement surveys as they provide a means of encouraging feedback, gathering insight, and if executed well, affecting change in the organization. When I hear either HR practitioners or business leaders speaking negatively towards these surveys, its invariably because they didn’t execute them properly in the past and ended up with the destructive result I refer to above. Multiple times, in multiple businesses, I used the same process for engagement surveys. The survey tool used is not as relevant as is ensuring you use an external vendor to gather the information. Trust and confidentiality are critical in getting relevant feedback and employees don’t view internally managed surveys such as Survey Monkey as confidential (even though they very well may be).
If you follow this process with engagement surveys, I am confident you will see great return on your investment:
- Choose a trusted partner/vendor to execute the survey.
- Ensure questions are relevant and tailored to your business.
- Communicate the heck out of the launch of the survey.
- Ensure your HR team is fully knowledgeable on the process and tools.
- Send teaser notices to employees that the survey is coming.
- Try to brand the survey. For example, at Workopolis, we called it “Workopinion”. At Dell, we called it Tell Dell. At Cardinal Health we called it VOE (Voice of the Employee). At a plastics manufacturing business we called it MyVoice. I’ve sometimes created contests with employees in helping name the survey which helps drive awareness of and engagement in the process.
- Send an invite communication from the CEO, stating his/her support for the survey and encouraging participation.
- Throughout the participation period (usually two weeks) send reminders encouraging employees that their voice matters and you want to hear from them. I’ve created intentional competition between different departments or business units by updating the leaders where they stand on participation so they can drive participation in their businesses. The higher the participation, the more relevant and diverse the feedback will be.
- Send another CEO communication at the close of the survey, thanking everyone for their participation, announcing the participation rate, and advising of what they can expect next. Remind employees their voice matters.
- Upon receipt of feedback, plan for and conduct mandatory feedback sessions where all employees (max 20 at a session) attend a session. The local manager and HR practitioner will share the feedback specific to that group (surveys will allow you to drill down to feedback usually when you have at least five participants from one group complete it – less than five would roll up to the next level manager for confidentiality purposes). It is imperative at these sessions that you seek insight into what the results are – ask probing questions so that you understand why a score is particularly high or low. This is where the most insight comes from and allows for more relevant action planning going forward.
- One of the most critical steps but the least used, is creating action plans. Go to the lowest possible level in organization that the survey will allow, and have plans for each department or division. This needs to be created and owned by the individual departments and their leaders and not at the senior level. Hold them accountable for creating meaningful action plans based on their feedback/results and execute against those throughout the coming year. Actions taken coming directly from the feedback equates to “We Heard You”.
- Communicate to the entire organization progress against these action plans and presumably positive outcomes. Again, saying “We Heard You” throughout these steps reminds employees that their voice mattered and any change is as a result of their feedback, and not random or irrelevant change.
- Do it all over again a year later.
If you follow these steps, the net result should be a positive change in scores as employees will now believe their voice matters and “We Heard You” was genuine. Being able to attach these three words to any changes made in an organization facilitates the change management process, gains buy-in to the change, and holds employees accountable for the feedback they provided.
For help in how to genuinely say “We Heard You” in your organization,
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I could end the article now as I’m guessing you know what I mean, but I’m told one-word articles don’t have enough impact!
As I reflect on my last 27 years as an HR Business Partner, I can put all of the feedback, suggestions and ideas I have used in every business and industry I’ve worked into a funnel, and out from the end of that funnel comes one word – communication. Think about it. As an HRBP or CEO, you have likely met multiple times and spoke about the importance of some or all of the following:
- Performance feedback/reviews
- Engagement surveys
- Round tables
- Town halls
- Recognition programs
- Conducting 1×1’s
- Timely team meetings (be it daily huddles, weekly meeting, monthly reviews, etc..)
- Update emails to the organization perhaps at year end or in challenging times
- Progressive discipline
- Training and development
- Lunch & learns
All of these have one common denominator – communication. If I was given a magic wand to solve any organization’s people challenges but was told I only had one strategy to use, without a doubt I’d focus on improving communication. I’ve never met an organization that communicates too much or too often. I don’t believe there is such a thing as too much communication.
The most impactful areas to focus on in an effort to improve communication are:
- 1×1’s – ensure every manager (right up to the CEO) conducts, at minimum, bi-weekly 1×1’s with each of their direct reports. I always tell my employees that this time slot (usually one hour) is their undivided time with me so they set the agenda. I prefer it not be a debrief of what they are working on but rather a coaching/mentoring opportunity for them to bring challenges or concerns and we talk through ways to manage them.
- Town Halls – I like to see a quarterly cadence wherein the leaders of the organization stand up in front of all employees and provide updates on the overall business and the key priorities for that quarter. Notice I said leaders and not leader? The CEO definitely should be the featured act, however, giving exposure to the other members of the leadership team and even beyond that, to employees that have lead a key project, or are looking for some public speaking experience, or you are grooming to be a leader, are great to profile during these town halls. For businesses that can’t gather all employees live at the same time, then simply record each town hall and distribute to employees or remote locations to make available for viewing.
- As I’ve learned through Lean Six Sigma or Continuous Improvement practices, brief huddles (15-30 minutes) daily with employees from every function is a great way to have everyone marching to the same beat and focused on the most relevant imminent tasks. This keeps everyone informed, brings them together on a regular basis, and often builds better camaraderie and communication between departments.
- Announcing new hires – I’m a huge fan of announcing all new hires, regardless of department, title, etc. I ask for a photo in advance of them starting (obtain permission to distribute of course) as well as a few sentences that describes the new hire personally (e.g. family, interests, hobbies, etc.) that they would be comfortable sharing. We’ll take care of the relevant work experience portion of the announcement. The new employee feels very welcomed and special, and existing employees know who to have a look out for on their first day.
- Announcing terminations – contentious I know! In every organization there is great debate around this one. Since transparency is so important to me and is a foundation of trust, I am a firm believer that organizations should announce when someone has left, regardless of the reason. You don’t have to announce the reason if it’s not appropriate, but too often we become victim of the rumor mill or even worse creating productivity issues when someone leaves the organization and we failed to communicate it. I believe you can never go wrong with transparency but you can if you hide or avoid sharing relevant information, such as departures.
- Be present – instead of sending a text or an email, consider picking up the phone, or even better, walk over to the person you want to talk to. Too often we are caught behind our phones and computers and the face to face communication has become much less prevalent. Find time every day to walk the office, facility, store or wherever the bulk of your employees are and say hello. Too often employees keeping the company running every day don’t even know who the senior leaders are much less ever talk to them. This may require some effort to schedule time in your calendar if it’s not natural for you to do, but trust me, 30 minutes of this a day will significantly improve communication flow as well as what employees communicate about you.
Communication – critical for engagement, easy to do, transparency is critical, often is not often enough, and to quote George Bernard Shaw, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
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