Want Employee Engagement? Do Something Wacky

Coming up with new and wacky employee engagement activities.

— Business Partner

In the last post, we were wondering whether it made sense to search for employee engagement ideas on the Internet. I was skeptical. Why search the Internet when your people are right there? Ask them. But first, make sure that it’s safe and worthwhile for them to answer truthfully. Otherwise, you’ll get the same rehashed Internet ideas as your answer.

The person who prompted that question was an IT Business Analyst serving on his company’s Employee Engagement Council. Instead of calling on his own experience or that of his coworkers, he turned to Google for generic advice. I didn’t think it boded well for him or his employer.

In the meantime, his twin brother was doing an almost identical search at a different company. They both ended up downloading my e-book, 49 Employee Engagement Ideas, but their attitudes were vastly different.

Take a look at how they answered my landing-page questions. The first twin obediently states his Biggest Challenge at Work:

“Thinking up Employee Engagement Ideas for the Employee Engagement Council I am on.”

His brother is facing a similar challenge:

“Coming up with new and wacky employee engagement activities.”

But he goes above and beyond expectations, leaving me this effervescent note:

“I’m a fresher straight out of college, my role is that of a business partner in my company and I’m having a difficult time coming up with innovative employee engagement activities. It was while surfing for them that I fortunately ran into your website. Thanks a ton!! :)”

Thanks a ton, two exclamation points, and a smiley. Smells like employee engagement to me! So, what’s going on in his world that’s missing from his brother’s?

First, his job title. The second twin is called Business Partner, meaning he supports the business without being directly involved in the production. So, let’s say he works in HR. This is important because the engagement project is right up his alley. The same is not necessarily true of his brother, who works in IT.

Next, unlike his brother, the second twin has a solid game plan. He wants “wacky employee engagement activities.” It’s likely that he’s done his research, and either his coworkers told him they’re up for something wacky or he’s read up on high-performing cultures. Personally, I hope it’s both, in which case he’s on the right track and I highly recommend his approach.

When I started writing Who the Hell Wants to Work for You?, I wanted to find out what sets America’s favorite employers apart from the rest. I ended up with something wacky in every chapter! Whether it’s performance management, employee feedback, or the floor plan, the companies everyone wants to work for do something outrageous in every domain.

This is not only true of the crazy dot-coms, like Google, Facebook, and Zappos. Traditional businesses like USAA (insurance) and Camden Trust (rental properties) are known for wacky activities of their own. (Both have been ranked at the top of Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Companies to Work For.”) Plus there’s Harvard research on why you want wacky elements in your work culture.

What are we talking about here?

When you hear of wacky activities, you might picture indoor scooters and giant slides. Employee art? Or maybe shaving your head for charity (or for the hell of it.) Depending on what your employees want, these could all be fantastic ideas. However, for something truly daring and bizarre, try generosity, trust and genuine care towards your employees.

I am not just saying that to be corny. All these great companies I’ve read and written about practice these virtues. Maybe not perfectly, but far better than the average employer out there struggling to attract and keep good people. And there’s plenty of evidence that they didn’t become generous after they could afford it. They started out that way.

And that’s what makes it really wacky.

If you like wacky ideas, you might like my book, because I sorted through piles of bat-crazy stuff to hand pick real gems.

Who the Hell Wants to Work for You: Mastering Employee Engagement

Written by

Tim Eisenhauer is a co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.


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