Employee engagement takes many forms. It surprises me how often executives don’t capitalize on the many opportunities to maximize employee engagement that are available in an office for not much money or effort.
I work for a small tech company that is in growth mode. Consequently, we are doubling our square footage and moving to a new location. Because we are small, we really don’t have much in the way of resources for interior design, but that hasn’t stopped me in the past. At a prior company that wasn’t profitable, we were able to make the number 1 slot in our category for Best Place to Work here in Seattle but in my opinion it was as much for the employee engagement as it was the culture.
Building a great culture doesn’t mean anything without being purposeful about employee engagement and here is a great infographic on Employee Engagement in the Workplace (downloadable) that talks about a number of ways to engage employees. I find most lists very limiting but this one starts with the basics like setting clear expectation and definitions of success to and hits the nuance like gift giving, conversation topics, philanthropy, employee recognition, and rewarding environments to name just a few. Totally worth a look.
Employee engagement and great places to work can be done with a little consistent effort and it doesn’t mean you need to spend a lot of money. People think that Google spends a lot of money on their company culture, and they do, but they also have a lot of benefits that don’t have to cost much. Below are a few services that sound amazing and can be offered for little or nothing but the “hosting” of the service.
Just call up a local dry cleaner and most will be happy to put a drop box in your office. If you have a large enough team, the cleaners may offer a discount. The employee picks up the tab for the cleaning and the employee receives the convenience of being able to drop off and pick up at work.
Everyone thinks the company has gone off the deep end when massage is offered. Some companies do pay for massage, but it is easy to find a masseuse that will come in and give 15 min seated massages for a reasonable amount. Employees can pick up the entire tab or the company can contribute a small percentage. Knock it all you want, but no service gets employee engagement like a subsidized massage. Employees won’t use get a massage via their insurance benefits but they will take advantage when it is in house and a braggable moment.
Package pick up
It is very hard for me to get to a post office when I want to send out a package. Having a scale in the office and selling stamps is a small thing but makes life easy. All employees understand that this a self-funded service.
Call up your local gym and explain that you have 20 employees that want to join. They will usually give a company discount. Of course the company can sponsor some of this, but just offering an organized discount is a great benefit.
If you don’t have the numbers that will generate the discount or service, work with other companies in your building or very close physical proximity.
Switching gears, here are a few things we are doing with our new space that costs little to nothing.
We are going with our strengths and hiding our weakness. Our office is in the historic part of Downtown Seattle and the center of all the tech startups. Big name companies are spending a LOT of money on their sexy interiors but we don’t feel you must. We have high ceilings, brick walls and a lot of exposed big beams and pipe in the ceilings. We are leaving all of that exposed and painting the walls white. It looks super clean and highlights the space. We ARE highlighting the space (our strength), and NOT spending a lot of money (our weakness) on fancy gold flaked paint or multiple trims schemes. And we didn’t use an interior decorator to come to that conclusion.
“Inspirational Sayings” wall
Yes, this theme is a little old, but I don’t think anything has the potential of high lighting company values than your wall with inspirational sayings. So, how is ours different? We are pushing the envelope and going with more than just the Pollyanna. “Get shit done” is one of the sayings and it does reflect one of our company values. I wouldn’t dream of doing this in corporate America, but in our small funky tech start up, it works. The other notable saying we are going to put above the entrance to our CEO’s office is:
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results
I literally picture him dragging some newb to the front of his office by the scruff of their neck and pointing to the “Inspiration”.
I did stop the process before we got to:
The beatings will continue till the morale improves
or my personal HR favorite
Nothing like a hanging in the morning to motivate the troops
I was asked for a nap room on more than one occasion but after a little clarification I was able to politely decline. This is the opposite of employee engagement. Nap rooms are an old rage. I have worked in companies that had nap rooms and I get it. But just because you are doing a build out, doesn’t mean you need a nap room, bean bag chairs or ping pong tables. (None of which we will have). Nap rooms can work when the employees are working crazy hours. If the teams are working against a burn rate, competition or it is the culture of the company, nap rooms can work.
With a company that is working 40 – 45 hours a week, they are just a reinforcement to slow down productivity. After I explained that the companies that have nap rooms are working 70 – 80 hours a week, most of the folks requesting the amenity retracted. For the record, we will probably have a “pump” room (as we currently do) as we have a number of newly minted mothers.
We have a brilliant head of marketing and I love his ideas for the front entrance. We are a software company and have VERY few visitors. Consequently, we are going with an technology based receptionist in the form of iPad. No humans at reception. To make sure that folks understand to check in, we have a 5 foot arrow pointing to the iPad and a sign that says the following (think Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory interior):
Welcome to Acme Publishing
Glad you saw the arrow directing you to this spot. You passed the first test. Just touch the iPad screen and technology will call, text, email and Skype whoever you are looking for. They will be out shortly.
PS. It’s not that we don’t like humans, we just don’t receive many visitors. You are the first all week and we’d rather invest the resources into continuing to develop our award winning product.
If you are building out a new space or thinking about adapting your current space, keep employee engagement in mind. The more your employees are engaged, the better it is for everyone. It is better for the company, the team, the individual, and the family at home.
nasty: an unreal maneuver of incredible technique, something that is ridiculously good, tricky and manipulative but with a result that can’t help but be admired, a phrase used to describe someone who is good at something. “He has a nasty forkball”.