FUN: The Missing Driver of Employee Engagement and Recruiting

This guest blog has been provided by Kevin Sheridan, best-selling author and innovator in the field of Employee Engagement.

One of the central messages in my recent keynote presentations focuses on what is consistently missing from most companies’ solutions for building world-class engagement and attracting fantastic new talent: FUN.

This woeful absence and missed opportunity is beginning to get noticed and corrected by more and more organizations.  Hence, the major rise of gamification in the workplace, and the widespread incorporation of modern perks (e.g., Ping-Pong tables and beer carts) into the employment value proposition.  While these types of “fun” benefits used to be limited to tech start-ups, companies in all industries are following suit.  Why?  Because it’s good for business.  Having a fun company culture helps engage current employees as well as attract top job candidates.

Coworkers are the unheralded glue of what makes employees come back to work, and even look forward to it.  As an employer or manager, feeding Coworker Satisfaction is in your best interest. Eighty-seven percent of employees say their coworkers are friendly and helpful. 1  Considering how positively employees respond to this survey item, employers can easily capitalize on this Engagement Driver.  By allowing staff the opportunity to socialize and have fun throughout the day, organizations are able to foster employee camaraderie and Coworker Satisfaction to bolster Engagement.

Take a look at a wonderful rap video created by GlobeSherpa, a small tech company in Portland, Oregon.  This is quite possibly the first rap recruitment video ever made:
http://www.globesherpa.com/jobs/

This video shows us how important it is to have a fun culture, as well as to openly show that while recruiting.  There is no doubt that GlobeSherpa’s current employees had fun making the video as well.  You can see it in their faces and feel it in their movements.  The video also illustrates how thinking creatively helps organizations stand apart from the standard, “same-old,” competition.  Lastly, the video exemplifies that actually showing innovation far surpasses simply saying you are an innovative company.

A job should not be all work and no play.  This important aspect of the work environment has been left out of the equation for far too long, but some smart employers have recently realized the impact a little fun can have on Employee Engagement, and they are not turning back.

Fun Linked to Engagement

Recently, many companies have begun providing unique levity-building benefits to create a Magnetic Culture that attracts and retains an organization’s best talent.  Engaged employees are 3.5 times more likely to stay with their employer, lowering turnover costs.Creating an environment where employees are having fun while performing great work makes good business sense.

Case Study: Radio Flyer—Success Should Be Fun

radioflyerIt is bright, shiny, new, and it can take you places you never dreamed possible.  Although I could be alluding to a certain little red wagon, I am actually referring to a career with Radio Flyer.  Many people around the world know that Radio Flyer has been making children happy for generations, but people may not know the same holds true for its employees.  With more than 10 awards in the past few years for being a top employer, including HR Solutions’ Best-in-Class Award, the organization is attracting attention by simply understanding that adults want to have fun too.

On their first day at Radio Flyer, new hires receive a welcome wagon that goes far beyond a typical meet and greet; they receive an actual Radio Flyer wagon to take home and play with so they can reconnect with the fun loving child within.  Senior Leadership understands feeling valued and appreciated is a Key Driver of Employee Engagement, so making employees (a.k.a. “Flyers”) feel immediately welcome is essential.  Receiving a literal welcome wagon also connects Flyers (and their families!) to the brand, which fosters strong employee and family support from day one.

The fun does not stop for Flyers after the first day on the job. Creating a fun and rewarding culture for staff members at all seniority levels is a top priority.  Flyers are shown that their hard work is recognized through various events and awards.  Radio Flyer parties and celebrations are held regularly to encourage camaraderie. Celebrations occur about once a month and range from the December Holiday Party where all Flyers receive their choice of a honey baked ham or a fruit basket to “Maya del Sol, the surprise celebration where Flyers find out they can leave work early to enjoy food, drinks, and a mariachi band.  The Halloween Party is a Flyer favorite, as it is one of the biggest celebrations of the year.  Flyers look forward to participating in a highly competitive pumpkin-carving contest and costume contest. Robert Pasin, Chief Wagon Officer (CWO) of Radio Flyer, believes providing activities that serve as a creative outlet is beneficial to a Flyer’s well-being and helps shape a fun company culture.

Fun even finds its way into company businesses cards, which show a composite of a cartoon body on a scooter with a photo of the Flyer’s head to personalize each card.  See the image at the top of this section.

These special efforts consistently earned Radio Flyer Best-in-Class scores on it Employee Engagement Surveys, showing the organization was competitive even within the top 10 percent of all organizations surveyed.  Radio Flyer’s lowest scoring survey items were still 7 percentage points higher than the norm and by many standards, worthy of celebration.

Even though these survey scores were well above average, Radio Flyer still made an effort to improve.  As a direct result of great Management and direction, Radio Flyer’s most recent Employee Engagement Survey results showed 92 percent of Flyers look forward to coming to work every day.  (And it is not just because of regular company tricycle races!) Radio Flyer’s best practices in creating an environment that attracts and retains top talent serves as an example for organizations across all industries.3

Even if your organization doesn’t specialize in making toys, there are still plenty of opportunities to incorporate elements of fun that will shape the culture and act like a magnet for top talent.  A great way to draw people to the organization is through the brand itself.  By creating positive experiences for customers, organizations will manage and shape their brand. When an organization is known for its fun and lighthearted attitude, Engaged employees will be attracted to become part of such an environment.

Interestingly, you will not find “Fun” on any employee engagement survey vendors’ Key Driver Analysis (a formal statistical analysis that identifies the drivers of engagement in order of importance).  The reason fun as a driver of engagement is missing, is because none of these vendors are asking about it in their employee engagement surveys.  Leaving this driver out of the employee engagement solution is a critical mistake because it’s one of the most impactful means of creating world-class engagement and attracting top talent.  Nearly every high-engagement organization makes a proactive effort to leverage fun. I saw this success time and time and time again over 30 years of offering management consulting advice to hundreds of best-in-class organizations.

So what else can Human Resources do to create more fun in the workplace?  First off, carefully look at corporate policies which may be confining and restricting fun and laughter in the workplace.  Remove or relax those policies.  Specific fun activities that I successfully implemented at the last company I founded include:

  • Take a break to play “Marshmallow Dodgeball” – it gets the blood and laughter flowing and no one gets hurt!  And only $1.87 for a 16 ounce bag.
  • Bring the entire team or a department to an early afternoon movie.  Buy popcorn and candy for everyone.
  • Encourage employees to make a workplace video to Pharrell William’s “Because I’m Happy” song.
  • Create “Personal Fact Sheets” for each team member and post them in the break room – these sheets enable team members to become closer by knowing more personal information about their coworkers, including their:  hometown, favorite TV shows, secret little-known trivia facts, accomplishments, and what most engages them at work.  Sample attached.
  • Buy ice cream for every team member and take a walk.
  • Shut down three hours early on a Friday afternoon and encourage teams who don’t often interact to “mix it up” and play Charades, Pictionary, Apples to Apples, and the like.

The reality is we spend way too much time at work toiling away without laughing enough or having much fun.  Given the fact that the number one reason people quit is the combination of job stress, work load, and a lack of work life balance, what better antidote for curing this costly turnover than fun.  What better magnet for being able to hire the best talent than showing them a culture that promotes fun.

Your key takeaways:

  • Laugh more.
  • Show employment prospects that your organization has and promotes a culture of fun.
  • Leverage fun.  It works.

Source References:

  1. HR Solutions Normative Data, 2011
  2. HR Solutions eNews, June, 2010
  3. HR Solutions eNews, October, 2010

 

Kevin Sheridan is an Internationally-recognized Key-Note Speaker, a New York Times Best Selling Author, and one of the most sought-after voices in the world on the topic of employee engagement. Kevin has spent thirty years as a high-level Human Capital Management consultant. He has helped some of the world’s largest corporations break down detrimental processes and rebuild a culture that fosters productive engagement, earning him several distinctive awards and honors in the process. Kevin’s premier creation, PEER®, is consistently recognized as a long overdue, industry-changing innovation in the field of Employee Engagement, and his most recent book, “Building a Magnetic Culture,” made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today best-seller lists.

Kevin can be reached via email at kevin@kevinsheridanllc.com, on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kevinsheridan1 and on twitter @kevinsheridan12. His webpage is www.kevinsheridanllc.com.

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