Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Having Fun at Work: 3 Ways to energize your staff and increase productivity

You want your employees to be as productive as possible, but grueling work schedules can sometimes achieve the opposite result. Contests and events can serve a dual purpose of re-energizing your workforce and demonstrating employee appreciation. Here are three ideas for simple company activities that won't break the bank, but will make your employees more loyal - and excited about work!

1. Rely on having the type of fun your employees want

Some companies have employee softball teams. How many have rare coffee tastings? Don't put together events, teams, or clubs because it's what is expected. Defy employee expectations by crafting your extracurricular strategy based on what your employees like. If you have a fitness-oriented culture, perhaps an outing club, bowling team, or flag football meetup group will appeal to your employees. Is your team full of caffeine-addicted early-birds? A coffee tasting outing or bringing in different rare coffees each week might be a much-appreciated benefit.

Rely on your employees' talents to determine what type of fun activities to offer, as well. Having an employee who paints in their spare time or spends weekends dressing up like Disney characters at children's parties isn’t just a fun quirk worthy of the employee newsletter - it can be the basis of an event to show off a talent and allow other employees to catch a much-needed break.

Of course, don't neglect the importance of yearly or semi-annual parties or picnics. The summer family picnic and winter holiday party are standard for good reason. If possible, invite families or significant others to one or both events to allow employees to show their loved ones their professional success.

2. Implement innovative recognition programs

Getting a figurative pat on the back from your manager is always a great feeling. That feeling, however, usually lasts only a few moments before it's back to the daily grind. Innovative companies have come up with more innovative employee recognition solutions. Help employees compete (with themselves and with each other) by putting together a rockstar approach to recognition.

Take a peer-to-peer approach, instead of top-down. When a fellow employee appreciates you, it feels genuine since they aren't required to give you feedback as part of their job description, and this kind of peer-to-peer recognition can be built into your culture. When someone helps a new person set up their voicemail, goes the extra mile on graphic design, or even finishes a project for an overworked colleague, there should be an easy and accessible way to show appreciation. This will also foster a great collaborative environment.

Tell the world how awesome your employees are. It's one thing to email an employee with your thanks. It's another to boost their self-esteem with an email copied to their manager, team, department, or even the company. If you have an intranet system or cloud-based social application, create a template for employees, managers, and vendors to write up their recognition. If you have company social media channels, you might compile recognition there as well.

Start a system of tangible rewards for employee recognition. Create a detailed recognition system in writing that rewards employees when they deserve it. This doesn't always have to be a cash award (although small cash payments would likely be appreciated). You can source gift cards in a certain increment or award employees with things like a recognition lunch, reserved parking, or additional time off in their PTO bank. Even plaques or award certificates that can be displayed in an employee's work area serve as a tangible reminder to them and everyone who works around them of their success.

3. Use gamification to make work fun!

Millennial employees - new hires in their 20s and early 30s - are used to a lot of feedback. They're also used to a digital work environment and have likely engaged in a few online games in their day, even if their game of choice is more in the Candy Crush realm than Call of Duty.

While 89% of employers think employees leave for more money, only 12% of employees actually report leaving their jobs for monetary reasons. Most employees require engagement to stay focused and have fun at work, and making work and goals into games is one way to ensure employees are engaged!

Tie your gamification strategy to specific business goals. It should provide feedback to the employee to see how their work is affecting the overall goals of the company. Of course, it should also tie into intrinsic motivation by creating a positive, winning feeling in employees and allowing them to have fun in the process.
One thing to focus on is making sure your gamification actually enhances productivity and makes work better. Micromanaging employees with point systems often has the opposite effect, causing employees to fear Big Brother and leading to less organic creativity and more employee turnover.

Become a powerhouse of employee retention

Having fun at work can lead to better productivity and employee engagement. Even better, these simple methods cost less per employee than traditional financial bonuses or incentives while creating a similar sense of appreciation and well-being. Fun work activities and recognition through contests also has the added benefit of employee retention, and even recruitment if the program is large enough and done well. Innovative companies have already started these types of programs, establishing powerhouses of employee retention, and in this case, imitation is certainly the sincerest form of flattery. Your employees won’t care if you’re not the only one engaging in these programs because they will appreciate your effort -- and their rewards.

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