A fun time boosts employee engagment

Are you a company looking for a few effective ways to boost employee engagement? What about creating a friendly office culture that makes employees excited about coming to work everyday?

I have some suggestions for you. But before we dig into effective ways to boost employee engagement, I’d like to take you back in time to high school so you can see a bit of what not to do. No wait, let’s go back to middle school. That’s a bit more rebellious and interesting.

Come to class with me. If I remember correctly, there were rows of chairs. Textbooks were opened and casually laid out on the desks. Students were sitting in various positions. Some slouched, others crossed their legs. I think I spotted a note getting passed to my left… and wait, is that a girl chewing gum?

Standing in front of the class was Mr. Smith. He did not look happy. “Can I get a few volunteers to come up and solve these math problems?” Mr. Smith asked in the most encouraging tone possible. No sound. Not a single hand raised.

After a few desperate attempts, Mr. Smith finally threw up his hands and said, “I have some candy in my drawer over there. The first five volunteers get candy!” Immediately, two or three hands shot up, followed by a few more hesitant, half-raised arms.

Mr. Smith was relieved. But even though he got students to engage, he’d created what I consider to be an “artificial response”.  To build a culture of engagement you need to figure out how to get people positioned to where they readily and genuinely want to participate. I wonder how Mr. Smith might have gotten some passionate volunteers to solve those math problems without having to offer candy.

Why Should You Care about Engagement?

Creating the right kind of engagement is really important. In fact, employee engagement has been proven to be a crucial factor in company success. According to Gallup’s Business Journal, having highly engaged employees can reduce a company’s absenteeism by about 41%, while increasing workplace productivity by 17%. Culture IQ also found that companies in the top quartile of employee engagement tend to achieve 10% higher customer ratings than companies that do not.

Engaged employees mean happier customers, higher productivity, and lower turnover. Sounds like a win-win to me. So what’s holding most companies back? Time and lack of good methods. You have to make time and create opportunity to boost a sense of belonging and team.

So boosting employee engagement is not impossible but it takes effort. With a bit of time you can have happy employees who are excited about their jobs, their roles, and your company.

One of the secrets is as simple as getting to know your employees and treating them with respect. As Meghan M. Biro, CEO of TalentCulture, sums up beautifully, “Employees engage with employers and brands when they’re treated as humans worthy of respect.”

A Few Good Ways To Boost Employee Engagement

Here are some engaging ways you can create a more vested and energized workforce. These activities will allow you to get to know one another better and create a culture of mutual respect.

1. Create a “You Are Special” box – Have you ever had a down day and then felt encouraged by a small act of kindness? A smile? Or maybe a few thoughtful words? I have. And getting a compliment or positive acknowledgement has often allowed me to do a 180-degree turn to positive on some of my cloudier days. A “You Are Special” box can provide those timely words of encouragement or reinforcement when employees need it.

  • Ask each employee to create a box for another co-worker. You can make this a fun team event by providing boxes, stickers, markers and other decorations.
  • Have everyone write a personal note with a positive attribute to put in each person’s box.
  • Ask employees to put their boxes in an accessible area: office desk, locker room, or even a special cubby you’ve reserved for them.
  • Remind everyone to take a note out of the box whenever they feel down or need a few words of affirmation.

Make sure the “You Are Special” boxes are being used by mentioning them during team meetings. And ask if anyone is dipping into their boxes when they need a bit of a lift.

2. Creating Engagement Over A Meal -Who doesn’t like a great meal? Be it a light breakfast or a formal dinner, you can turn a possibly boring meeting into a surprisingly fun group experience. Sure, people will remember the food, but when you include effective team activities, everyone will walk away with something more valuable; a new enthusiasm for the company, brand, and their co-workers. If you just read off an agenda or rush through mini-sessions during a meal you’ll miss the opportunity to improve engagement. I always encourage clients to throw out the formality and create an informal and fun experience. Here are some ideas you use.

  • An Entertainer Who Can Facilitate: A great entertainer is one who can not only engage your audience with their professional skills but also serve as a facilitator to keep everyone captivated. When hiring an entertainer, companies usually make the mistake of paying someone to sing a few songs or tell a few jokes at the beginning or at the end of the meeting. But it’s better to make your entertainer an integral part of your event. When my team or I facilitate a dinner event we make sure whatever activity we lead is an integral part of the flow of the meal, integrated into the conversational part of the event and as formal activity.
  • Peak & Valley Questions: Your employees may see each other every day. But that doesn’t mean they know each other well. Sitting around a table during a meal can be quite awkward, especially for the new or shy team members. Peak & Valley questions help you to break the ice by giving everyone an opportunity to share something meaningful and personal. This can be as simple as sharing high moments and low moments with your colleagues.  Here’s list of more icebreaker activities that help people feel connected and thus boost engagement. My favorites are #4, #13, and #19.
  • Cook & Eat: Wondering what food to order for your event? Boost your employee engagement by letting team members cook their own dinner. Add a dose of healthy competition and have judges sample the food made by each team. A general rule of thumb for a cooking event is to keep things simple and have rules for alcoholic beverages. It’s great to have fun as long as you don’t start seeing stars and unicorns!

3. Make Music Together
Bob Marley said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you, you feel no pain.” What do you feel instead? Surges of energy. Excitement and new ways to relate and connect with people that words can’t easily describe.

We all engage with music in genuine emotional ways. So when your work team shares musical experience together the experience boosts motivation and camaraderie. This goes a long way toward increasing engagement.

I’m personally passionate about bringing the power of music to the corporate world through the team building events we facilitate here at Kidbilly Music. Here’s an example of how this can work to increase engagement.

I was hired to lead a song session with a leadership group of a large investment firm. This group of leaders had spent an entire day at a retreat working on their company values and the value statement. At the start of my session I asked who could name the value statement without looking at the written sheet. Not surprisingly, no one could list the entire value statement from memory.

Next I asked who could tell a personal story about how they’d put one of their company values into action. People were more successful at sharing values through a personal experience. We took this personal experience and created a song lyric that expressed the values in a genuine and fun way. By the time our session was over everyone could sing the song from memory without looking at a cheat sheet.

The outcome was that finally everyone could communicate their company values from an emotional and personal viewpoint. This is what an engaged workforce looks like…and sounds like!

All of the above ideas for better ways to boost employee engagement share important attributes. They give employees a voice, create a sense of belonging, of shared purpose and allow time for everyone to make genuine connections with each other.

It’s worth your time to provide opportunity on a regular basis to create a culture of engagement.

About Billy Kirsch

Billy is a Grammy & Emmy nominated, CMA & ACM award winning songwriter with numerous Top 10 hits to his credit. His team building programs and keynote speaking presentations help people tap into their creative abilities to become more innovative and engaged in their work. Clients include Fortune 100 companies and organizations throughout the world.