Great ideas for economical employee engagement

By D. Keith Bolton  Director of Human Resources, Community Living Inc.

By D. Keith Bolton
Director of Human Resources, Community Living Inc.

What constitutes a “Best Place to Work?” Is it the level of pay, the quality and cost of benefits, the advancement opportunities, or the organizational culture? The truth is that all of these play an important role, but you can make your work place a better place to work with programs that are valued and appreciated by your employees, without adding a lot of cost.

Community Living Inc. in St. Charles County instituted a SPOT Award, which stands for Superior Performance and Outstanding Teamwork Award. This is given when a leader sees someone doing something great and is given when the performance is witnessed. The employee receives a recognition card and a small token gift, such as a candy bar or a drink gift card.

D. Keith Bolton

D. Keith Bolton

Community Living Inc. also encourages employees to maintain a healthy lifestyle by making arrangements with a local produce provider to deliver fresh produce and fruit to the worksite on a weekly basis. The employees are able to place their order online from a selection of fresh products, often less expensive than the grocery store prices. The employee is also able to pay online, and the produce is delivered to their workplace, free of charge. The employees love this program, as it saves them money and time.

Susan Haddad, a senior manager at Assurance Partner Matters at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC, also knows some low-cost ideas for improving the workplace. One tip is to close the workplace at 3 pm before a national holiday to allow employees to get an early start on travel or take care of last-minute preparations. The employees should be paid for the time missed, but the benefit to the employees outweighs the cost.

Susan also suggested that flex work hours are a great way to allow employees to be empowered to manage their schedule based on their work priorities and deadlines. This does not work in all work environments and would require supervisor approval, but a flex work program can provide increased morale and productivity.

Several employers reported allowing employees to have up to two paid days per year to volunteer for a charity or community service project. Some companies let the employees choose their volunteer project, and others do their project as a company. When employees work together on a common project, outside of the workplace, it creates a stronger sense of teamwork and comradery.

Nancy Whitworth, director of human resources for McCownGordon Construction, says her company hosts Cookie Fridays, when cookies are baked and employees gather to enjoy the warm cookies, right out of the oven. The company also provides shakes, slushies, and other drinks from a local drive-in during the summer and cappuccinos or coffee during the winter months.

Other companies use a variety of techniques to increase employee engagement, including going on baseball game field trips, inviting employees to wear their college gear to work, hosting pot luck luncheons, organizing cookouts celebrating employees’ birthdays or work anniversaries, creating scavenger hunts, starting kick ball games, sponsoring volleyball or softball teams, hosting lunch and learns, bringing in health fairs, and giving fitness center discounts.

Anything that provides recognition and builds relationships can have a positive effect on the workplace. It often does not take a lot of money; it just takes creativity, a little time, and a little effort.

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