Does your team have any informal traditions, such as annual get-togethers, monthly pot-luck dinners, or employee birthday cakes? Do you celebrate project completions with pizza parties? Do you have lost-the-deal pep talks and lessons learned meetings or any other type of event or action that helps your group feel like a team that cries together and celebrates together?
If your answer was yes to one or more of the above questions, then you have most likely seen that these organizational traditions have real business value. This value shows itself in a number of ways, including:
- An increased morale because people think fondly of previous events and look forward to future events
- Stronger interpersonal relationships between employees because they have had the opportunity to get to know each other a little better outside the business structures related to job-based task execution
- An enhanced sense of “team” because these events, by their nature, are communal ways to celebrate success and reduce the disappointments of failure
- A greater feeling of loyalty to the company in general, you as their manager, and their team (your department) because of their conceptualization of group belonging
After reading though the above bullet points you may be thinking “So what, my group likes getting free pizza” or “Big deal, my employees get to know each other a little better. I just want them to get their jobs done”. The business value of these types of activities is not simply to give them free pizza, get them to feel like a team, or to increase their loyalty toward you and the company. The business value is the increased productivity, improved work quality, greater internal communication, and reduced employee attrition that comes as a consequence of the work environment these events have helped to create.
Various studies have been done that have observed a relationship between having friends at work, employee satisfaction and reduced attrition. Also, over the years, I have anecdotally observed this phenomenon. Certainly, over the years, there have been significant changes in the workplace related to technological advances, company realignment based on recent economic conditions, and changes in worker demographics, but it’s my belief that people are people and that this occurrence still rings true today.
Every company has its own culture, rules, idiosyncrasies and traditions, so some of the below ideas may not be appropriate for your specific organization, but hopefully you can find one or two ideas that can help your team grow closer as individuals, make the mental association of your department as a team, and/or enhance your employees’ loyalty toward you and your company.
- Buy a dozen small (inexpensive) items that represent the work performed by your department; for example, if you manage a group of computer programmers or newspaper journalists, find miniature plastic keyboards meant as a key ring charm. Then, each month at a staff meeting give out one to the employee with the most significant contribution during the prior period. This is analogous to giving the game ball to the football player who scored the winning touchdown.
- Have an “Employee of the Month” parking space given out based on recommendations by customers or fellow employees.
- Bring in pizza for lunch when a difficult department/project milestone is reached so everyone in your department can help celebrate the group’s success.
- Have an annual department outing. It doesn’t have be expensive, it could be a picnic at a local park, a barbeque at your home, a bowling night, or other equivalent low-budget get-together.
- Start an after-work golf league that plays nine holes of golf on Friday afternoons during the summer.
- Give out T-shirts related to a major department accomplishment, containing both the company logo and words related to the milestone being celebrated. For example, “I survived the XYZ Product Rollout!”
- After the completion of a project, whether a success or failure, have a meeting to discuss what went well and what could be improved upon in the next project. This type of meeting has many advantages.
- It reinforces the things that went well, with the goal of carrying it forward to the next project.
- It provides a forum to discuss what went poorly and facilitates a discussion on what could be done differently in the project to minimize the chance of repeating previous errors.
- Lastly, to today’s topic, it reminds your group that they are a team; they win together, lose together, and have a shared professional destiny by being part of the same group.
Until next time, lead well, always communicate, and think business first and technology second.