Fun at Work Helps Retain Employees

Top organizations recognize that great employees are far more likely to remain long-term employees when they allow employees to lighten up and have a little fun. Here are several examples on how progressive organizations increase their retention of great employees through allowing themselves to lighten up.

Have Fun or Get Fired: The unofficial mission at the innovation-driven Paradigm Communication, the St. Petersburg, FL software developer, “have fun or get fired.” Realizing that their high stress and long hours is prime for massive burn-outs, Paradigm’s owner, Dan Furlong, also enforces a specific and well thought out dress code and attendance policy. Here is their entire dress code and attendance policy at Paradigm: show up for work, and wear something.

No Class E-mail: It can be incredibly frustrating trying to weed through mounds of e-mail attempting to figure out which ones are important and which ones are not. Tandem Computers came up with a light-hearted twist to their internal communication system. Tandem now has three levels of internal e-mail:

o”First Class” e-mail is all business and it should be read.

o”Second Class” e-mail is for interesting ideas and suggestions, a good place to go for hot topics and concepts.

o”No Class” e-mail is for humor and classified ads, a great place to stop when you need a quick mental break.

This e-mail classification structure allows everyone at Tandem to quickly sort what is important, good to know, and just plain fun.

Back to School: The 2008 annual meeting for financial analysts at innovation-driven Cognex, the Massachusetts optical products giant, was organized like any other financial analyst meeting – a day in elementary school. After being picked up in a yellow school bus, the analysts were driven to a meeting facility decked out with blackboards, lunch boxes, and even pop quizzes. Naturally, the annual report was made to look like coloring books. What else would you expect from a company that calls all its employees “Cognoids” and carefully trains staff to properly execute their official company salute modeled after, who else, the Three Stooges (right hand sharply brought to the bridge of the nose). With the strength to lighten up, Cognex consistently attracts and retain great employees from throughout the Northeast.

20 Percent Impact: At the spirit-driven McGuffey’s Restaurants chain, fun is taken very seriously. Fun is so serious that 20 percent of a manager’s annual raise is tied to how much fun he or she is to work with. Management fired their number two producing manager because he was an absolute tyrant and was not uplifting to his team. This best practice beautifully illustrates how creating a fun environment should be driven from the top-down and consistently reinforced.

Stump the CEO: Many great organizations are finding fun ways to keep executives in the face of employees while simultaneously showing the lighter side of business. One such company, AGI, Inc., the Melrose Park, IL cosmetics packaging company, awards prizes during their monthly employee meetings to the person who asks their CEO the toughest question. By demonstrating a willingness to be held accountable for the tough issues and to do so in a humorous way, operational excellence-driven organizations like AGI create strong connections that help drive the retention of great employees.

Be Loose and Have Fun: Aligned companies need not have fancy, page long, eloquently developed mission statements to retain great employees. Often, the simpler the better. One example comes from Great Harvest Bread, the spirit-driven franchise natural bread retailer, whose mission is to “Be Loose and Have Fun.” Given only minimal operational guidelines, their franchise agreement specifically reads “anything not expressly forbidden by the language of this document IS allowed!” No two stores look alike. Franchisees are allowed to tinker with pricing and recipes. There are no home office inspections. By living their spirit-driven mission, Great Harvest builds powerful retention connections with its diverse franchisees.

Happiness Barometer Team: The wonderfully progressive and spirit-driven Rosenbluth International Travel Group is known for their innovative, proactive employee relations strategies. They understand that happy employees are most often more productive and more likely to stay than sad employees are. One technique they use to keep tabs on employee morale is the Happiness Barometer Team, a group of employees who are charged with conducting a benchmark attitude and enjoyment needs survey every six months. Just with a name like Happiness Barometer Team, employees realize that Rosenbluth is serious about their happiness, so why leave?

Let ’em Surf: With facilities located near the Pacific ocean in Ventura, CA, the management team at Patagonia extend employees a very special perk tailored to their unique location. Realizing that you never know when great waves will hit, management allows employees to go surfing whenever they wish. With the flexibility to hit the beach when the waves are high, employees remain sky high throughout the entire Patagonia facility. Just imagine another organization attempting to lure a Patagonia employee away when the employee asks about their surfing policy.

Stay tuned. I’m on my way to pick up my son at school in the middle of the weekday afternoon. I’m lucky enough to work for an enlightened employer.

Do You Have a High Performing Team?

Why do some teams perform well and others struggle to meet their deliverables? It is clear when things are going well. However, when teams are struggling, it is not always clear where the problems are and how to remedy them. What follows is a checklist that you can use to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your teams. It breaks down how a team functions into its component parts. By completing this assessment you will be able to identify and focus on those areas that could use improvement. As you work with your teams you need to keep in mind these core concepts.

Team Truths: Every team at some stage will struggle with the dilemma that it is difficult to balance loyalty to the team goals and loyalty to our individual styles. Getting diversity of style/personality to work for the team rather than tearing it apart is essential for team success.

Team Dilemmas: In addition it is important to remember that multiple realities exist. To argue rights and wrongs drains energy from team goals.

We must respect the right to differ from one another. Disrespect leads to divisiveness.

Here is the check list that you can use to assess the strengths and weaknesses of your teams.

1. Clear Charter. The foundation of the team is that of clear and common goals, so that the team understands how success is going to be measured. These have to be well articulated and understood by all.

2. Commitment to Team Members and Team Goals. Understanding the team goals is not the same as buying into them. Everyone needs to commit to the goals. In addition, a common source of difficulties can arise when people are committed to the goals but dislike other team members. However diversity of style and personality are at the heart of successful teams as these differences foster creativity. Team building exercises can help individuals to appreciate diversity and to teach them how to work together cooperatively. Dislike can be replaced by respecting differences.

3. Meets Team Deliverables. Successful teams, meet their deliverables consistently. To accomplish this, communications must flow freely and in all directions. In meetings, decisions are made effectively and communication is productive.

4. Clear Roles and Responsibilities It is vital to have clear roles and role definition as well as clarity around the responsibilities that each role entails. Blurred responsibilities can lead to power struggles and conflict.

5. Competent Team Members. Competent team members need to be placed in the right position. At times a highly talented person can be ill placed which can throw off the team functioning. Consider both the competency and placement of each individual.

6. Ongoing Feedback and Evaluation. In order to ensure success, well functioning teams provide and encourage ongoing feedback in all directions. This allows for mid course evaluation and corrections as needed as well as encouragement for a job well done. Read more

7. Creative Problem Solving. Problems are a fact of life. The ability to problem solve effectively and creatively is what makes lemonade out of lemons.

8. Effective Conflict Resolution. Conflict can be among team members, with other departments, or other companies. Successful conflict resolution takes divisive energy and redirects it to positive ends. Read about our conflict resolution services.

9. Good Morale. Low turnover and longevity is a benchmark of good morale. A team that successfully values the individual as well as the team has the best likelihood of success.

10. Good Relationships. Your relationships with other internal groups are an independent barometer of your teams functioning. High performance teams are respected by the rest of the organization as they meet deliverables and work cohesively.

After completing this assessment you will be able to identify and focus on those areas that could use improvement. Understanding any problem is the first step to resolution. Please contact us if you would like to discuss how our team building and development services can help your teams become more productive.

Understanding Yourself and Others on the Board

Disputes often arise on boards because of different personality types. Recognising your own personality type and understanding others’, can help to develop a more effective team. An approach stemming from the seminal work of the famous Psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, around colour personality types, is used by Synergy Training. Training Director Shaun Adams explains:

First identify your core type:

We each have all these strengths, but will have one or two dominant energies or colours. But how do you use your strengths? And more importantly how do others ‘perceive’ the way you use them? Put these 4 colour ‘types’ in order.



Earth Green:

Cool Blue:

Fiery Red – Assertive, action and direction

Positive, Affirmative, Bold, Assertive, Competitive, Decisive, Strong-willed, Demanding and Task/Goal focussed

People with a strong preference for using their Fiery Red colour energy know what they want and have little difficulty articulating their conclusions. Typically they are concerned primarily with action. They deal quickly with the present situation and appear to have little concern for the past. Their responses are efficient, effective and focused. They know what they want and where they are going. They are impatient with delays.

They may show less concern for the feelings of others or for personal relationships. Others can see their actions as hard or critical because they limit the attention they pay to their relationships. They seek power and control over situations. People using their Fiery Red colour energy, are extroverted and have high energy. They are action oriented and always in motion. They are positive, reality-oriented and assertive. They are single minded as they focus on results and objectives. They may well approach others in a direct, authoritative manner, radiating a desire for assertiveness and control.

Your Opposite – Earth Green, this is the personality type you will have most difficulty communicating with, selling to, motivating and generally building relationships with. You may see this person as: Docile, Bland, Plodding, Stubborn and Reliant.

Sunshine Yellow – Articulated Vision and Inspiration

Cheerful, Uplifting, Spirited, Buoyant

Social, Dynamic, Demonstrative, Expressive and Creative

People with a high level of Sunshine Yellow energy may spend their efforts racing towards their dreams for the future. They build the possibilities of tomorrow. They will often move from one idea or activity to another, impatient to find the vision of the moment. Their behaviour can be fun and others get caught up in this. Because they focus their attention upon the future and often intuitive visions, they may be perceived by others as more imaginative and creative than the other colours.

They can become completely committed to an idea and then discard it within a few weeks if it loses its excitement. They may therefore appear to others as shallow, impractical and unrealistic at times of difficulty. Their optimism can mean that they will be prone to denial at times.

People with a strong Sunshine Yellow colour energy preference, are strongly extroverted, radiant and friendly. They are usually positive and concerned with good human relations. They enjoy the company of others and believe that life should be fun. They approach others in a persuasive, democratic manner, radiating a desire for sociability.

Your Opposite – Cool Blue, this is the personality type you will have most difficulty communicating with, selling to, motivating and generally building relationships with. You may see this person as: Stuffy, Indecisive, Suspicious, Cold and Reserved.

Earth Green – One to One Relationships & Support

Still, Tranquil, Calming, Soothing

Sharing, Patient, Amiable, Caring and Encouraging

People with a high level of Earth Green energy are often concerned with the feelings of and relationships with other people. Their concern for other people’s welfare can often lend personal warmth to a situation. They can be sensitive to the values implicit in people’s actions and can act as useful barometers to the ethical consistency of an organisation’s actions.

People with a strong preference for using their Earth Green energy can be slow or reluctant to modify their personal values despite the apparent logic of an argument or situation. They tend to avoid decisions that could involve violation of their values or risking the unknown.

People using Earth Green energy focus on values and depth in their relationships. They want others to be able to rely on them. They will defend what they value with quiet determination and persistence. They prefer democratic relationships that value the individual and are personal in style, radiating a desire for understanding.

Your Opposite – Fiery Red, this is the personality type you will have most difficulty communicating with, selling to, motivating and generally building relationships with. You may see this person as: Aggressive, Controlling, Overbearing, Intolerant and Impatient.

Cool Blue – Introverted Thinking & Reflection

Showing no bias, Objective, Detached

Cautious, Analytical, Precise, Questioning and Formal

People with a high level of Cool Blue energy tend to live their lives according to the principles, facts and logic they find in reality. They often like to analyse all the possibilities to ensure they will avoid making an illogical or ill-informed judgement. They are planners, organisers, administrators and academics, with the ability to work out tasks systematically from start to finish.

As a result of their thoroughness, people with a preference for using their Cool Blue energy are often reluctant to make or express decisions quickly. Facts, logic and principles can appear more important than personal friendships or personal gratification for these people. They may be seen as detached or even rather cold at times.

People with a lot of Cool Blue energy tend to be introverted and have a desire to know and understand the world around them. They like to think before they act and maintain a detached, objective standpoint. They value independence and intellect. They often prefer written communication in order to maintain clarity and precision, radiating a desire for analysis..

Your Opposite – Sunshine Yellow, this is the personality type you will have most difficulty communicating with, selling to, motivating and generally building relationships with. You may see this person as: Excitable, Frantic, Indiscreet, Over the Top and Hasty.

Psychologists tell us that 85% of our problems in life come from our interactions with others. By understanding your own style and that of others you have a fantastic opportunity to apply simple adapting and connecting strategies to build successful personal and team relationships, resulting in increased effectiveness at board and a personal level.