The Chemistry of Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is the buzzword on everyone’s lips in human resources currently. Without it, countless hours are lost to employee absenteeism, resulting in reduced productivity, and retention rates for good employees may actually be driven down due to lack of engagement.
But how can it be achieved?  
Employee engagement can be driven by social cohesion, i.e. by creating “chemistry” between your employee so that they “bond” together. Social cohesion creates a team environment, so that your employees work for not only their pay-packet, but also in order not to let their teammates down. We call this concept, the “diamond” phenomenon.

What does social cohesion look like?

In essence, it looks like a diamond. You probably know that a diamond is created under pressure. Actually, diamonds are made up of carbon molecules highly bonded to each other. So too, with the correct social cohesion, pressure need not destroy the links of a company, but solidify the bonds and turn your company into a diamond.

Creating “bonds”

As an employee, you are in a unique position to create social cohesion. Your actions are like the electrons that form bonds in a diamond, creating the structure that binds your team together by the bonds you form with your team members. What is an example of a bond, I hear you ask?

One example, is to create “coffee dates” between employees. Have all the names of your employees in a draw and match up employees to go on “dates” to get to know one another. If you’re feeling generous you can fund the coffee. The more that your employees are involved with this scheme, the more employees they meet and get to know, and the greater the social cohesion

Another strategy is larger events. Holding office barbecues or Sunday picnics are another way of encouraging social mingling, as are parties for celebrations or holidays. Alternatively, organise a “fun” activity once a month, such as rock climbing or bowling.

Additionally, providing a meeting place for employees can help maintenance of social cohesion. Schools provide a teachers lounge for employees, similarly, a common room can provide an opportunity for socialisation between co-workers. With a common room, you can provide an occasional lunch, or an occasional take-away dinner if people are staying late, creating further opportunity for workers to take a break and mingle.

The effect of one social link

Hemoglobin is an unique chemical structure when looking for a comparison to social cohesion. It is the oxygen carrying component of red blood, and with each bond to oxygen, the structure of haemoglobin changes so that it can bind more oxygen. This is similar to friendships in the workplace, one friendship, is likely to encourage others to form, and the overall structural integrity of the whole company is improved.

Hopefully you’ve learned how to influence the engagement of your employees by improving social cohesion. So if you currently have a bunch of inert gases (people) who won’t bind to each other at all, take these steps to start the process of mingling in the office, and end up with a stronger, more productive company.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

7 Fun ways to increase employee engagement

Increasing employee engagement is a great way to improve productivity in the workplace. It may even be the most cost effective option in management, as the effort, cost and time put into training an individual amounts to a significant cost for a company. If retention is low, that is a heavy cost of wasted resources. So it is vital to implement strategies to improve employee engagement. Utilising fun can be especially effective, and building it into your culture will also entice clients to your brand.

  1. Start off the week with a bang: Monday mornings can be a drag, but to get everyone into the zone for the beginning of the week, encourage debate and discussion amongst your employees. The point here is not to get too serious, we are not trying to solve the problems of the Middle East. Debate topics should be light-hearted and fun: pineapple on pizza, yes or no? Kate Middleton or Meghan Markle, whose dress was better? When is the next season of Rick and Morty come out, and what crazy antics will they get up to?
  2. Keep the jokes rolling all week with joke user stories in project development. Classic references can be written as user stories, such as “Aurora borealis present at this time of year, this time of day, in this part of the country, localised entirely within kitchen”, (a Simpsons reference), so that employees initially think are real until they read a little closer.
  3. Encourage social cohesion by banning emails and instant messaging one day per month. Encourage your employees to actually get up and talk to each other. It’s good for comradery and social interaction as well as for the mental wellbeing of each individual employee. Alternatively, add gifts into instant messaging such as “slack” so that employees can send each other coffee gifts as a thank-you.
  4. Boost morale by “putting someone in the hot-seat”: ask someone to sit in front of their team and have everyone give them compliments to their face. This is a great self-esteem building exercise and helps build inter-office friendships.
  5. Create a team mascot:  hire a therapy dog for an hour each week (provided nobody has allergies) and the effects in mental wellbeing and boosted morale will be immediate. You can even dress the dog up in company colours/logos if you wish to get really into it.
  6. On a Friday afternoon, keep people motivated by taking song requests during Friday morning. Make a playlist and boost the workplace environment keeping people grooving along to their work.
  7. Finally, spice up Friday afternoon meetings by adding references from Seinfeld, or from The Office. Order burgers and call them steamed hams (again, a Simpsons reference). Go for a jog and relive the infamous parkour scene from The Office. Whichever show takes your fancy really. 

At the end of the day, investment of effort into making your workplace more fun will not only retain your employees and keep them engaged, but a fun environment in your workplace can seep into your brand and influence your client’s perception of your company. Think of companies like Google, Apple or Disney. Bringing bright, happy experiences that people associate with your name is priceless in terms of marketing.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

Project Employee Engagement: A Scientific Experiment

Running a business is much like a scientific experiment. A manager will test hypotheses, run data analysis of performance and form a conclusion to continue in the current direction or to switch to a new hypothesis. Is it possible then to use a hypothesis to drive employee engagement and therefore improving productivity? As employee engagement is a tricky concept to define, designing an experiment around it in the office can be a great way to define engagement concepts within your workplace.

Designing a hypothesis

Reviewing Herzberg’s two Factor theory of motivation we can see that it is possible to be satisfied but not engaged in the workplace. Only engagement can truly drive productivity up, therefore when designing a hypothesis we must consider the factors surround employee engagement, which in turn will be reflected in data analysis of performance.

Consider the hypothesis that more money will lead to a high satisfaction among employees. If one forgets that satisfaction does not equal engagement, they could mistakenly provide promotions and think that this will encourage productivity. Consider then, the employee who breezes into the office late everyday, leaves early and collects a high paycheck. This employee is very satisfied, but they are certainly not engaged and they will certainly not lead to greater productivity in the company.

Therefore, employee engagement is the extent to which your employees are personally involved in the success of the business. To improve employee engagement there are tried and tested strategies which you can put into experiment in your own office.

Money is a threshold, not a reward

Taking the example of money in the form of promotions: a recent study by Princeton economist Angus Deaton and psychologist Daniel Kahneman had a very surprising result,  that money will not even influence satisfaction in quantities above $75,000. Therefore it is clear, that money should not be used as a reward for employee participation.

On the flip side more effective strategies of employee engagement include gratitude and incentives. Peer-to-peer recognition works because it plays to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs of self-esteem and love and belonging coming in higher than physiological needs that paychecks can provide.

  • Gratitude should be practiced everyday. Importing gifts into Messenger apps such as slack as one way in which your employees can recognise each other for good work.
  • Alternatively, setting up a company dollars scheme which can be exchanged for unique company merchandise can be the gifts that employees give each other.

Additionally, there should be a less formal opportunity for employees to call each other out for good work.

  • Having a weekly call out session is an effective way to boost self-esteem of employees, giving them a good feeling going into the weekend and boosting their morale about the quality of work that they have achieved.

There is an effective way of using financial reward to boost employee engagement,  and the finance reward to an act of work.

  • By using bonuses for each financial quarter the reward of money is tied to the action of the employee at work and therefore is tied to a sense of pride and accomplishment and achievement of productive work.

Finally, design your own hypothesis of what will work best for your company. Put one of these employee recognition schemes in to play, crunch the data in terms of employee performance and figure out how your experiment has succeeded. Overall, you will boost the productivity of your company significantly using any of these strategies.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

A guide to using humour in the workplace, using famous workplaces from Netflix Shows

All of us remember a particular job that we had which had a more relaxed attitude, jokes abounded and the camaraderie we felt helped us pass the hours just that bit more quickly. So popular, is the idea of humour at work, that any workplace depicted in television has a good dose of humor accompanying it.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

For example, anyone who has seen the comedy Brooklyn Nine-Nine will know of the hilarious antics that take, place in the police station that the captain not only puts up with but also joins in with. However, if everyone isn’t in on the joke, the situation could be more damaging than it is helpful. This article seeks to explain how you can take of advantage of the productivity which comes with encouraging jokes in the workplace, without causing offence to some of your employees.

Having a good laugh in the workplace has been shown to benefit creativity and productivity in the workplace. Yet, some employers make the mistake of stifling humor, seeing it as a distraction from getting work done. This is definitely a mistake, as humour has been shown to increase productivity, rather than hampering it.

Similarly, the role of humour in the workplace is hardly ever taken seriously by researchers, yet the work that does focus on this area shows overwhelmingly positive effects (1). Humour generally has a hard time being taken seriously, only tragedies being considered truly great pieces of literature. However, if you want a seriously great film, I recommend the hilarious dark comedy “the Seven Psychopaths” starring Colin Farrell. Don’t make the same mistake of these researchers and literature critics, encourage humour in your workplace to benefit productivity today!

The Office

While humour can have all of these great benefits in the workplace, it can go awry quickly. Poor jokes, especially sexist, homophobic or racist jokes can only serve to alienate certain members of the staff.

One need look no further for an example than the seriously awkward situation on “The Office”, when in the process of making a point about racial discrimination, the manager, Michael Scott gives the role of “Black” to Stanley (who is a black man). To combat this, understand that styles of humour can be broken down into:

  • affiliative humour (when you laugh with others)
  • aggressive humour (jokes that are made at the expense of others)  
  • self-enhancing humour (in which one attempts to cheer oneself up)
  • self-defeating humour (in which one uses, or allows others to use negative humour at their expense)

Employees can be educated on these four types of humour styles to understand that affiliative humour and self-enhancing humour are the most acceptable forms. Additionally, ensuring that work behaviour and anti-harassment policies are up-to-date and communicated to employees can be helpful. Once these steps are in place, feel free to encourage as much humour as possible, to the benefit of both your employees, and the bottom line.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

  1. Holmes J, Marra M. Having a laugh at work: how humour contributes to workplace culture. J Pragmat. 2002;34(12):1683-1710.

Mindfulness: annoying new fad or your key to employee engagement?

There has been much hype surrounding the practice of mindfulness in recent years. It has evolved from a technique taught by yogis to yoga practitioners to help them cope with the difficulties of life, and it has now become a common strategy used by healthy people to optimise their wellbeing and to combat stress. Mindfulness is harnessed in forms as diverse as meditation to colouring books for adults.

Mindfulness has more recently been recommended to employees to as a way to decrease their workplace stress, enhance their focus on their work tasks, improve creativity and increase productivity.

Is mindfulness all it’s cracked up to be? Can employees really use it to their benefit at work or is it simply a fad which will pass in time into distant memory?

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness actually originated in the Eastern religion of Buddhism and monks have been practising meditation for thousands of years. Yoga also has many elements in common with the practice of mindfulness, with one simple mindfulness exercise being to focus on the breath.

However, the distinction between the way this exercise is practiced in Yoga and mindfulness, is that in yoga, the breath is focused upon to the exclusion of all other thoughts, whereas the practice of mindfulness is to notice thoughts that come, accept them, and then let them go and return to the breath.

This is slight distinction (but an important one) goes to the heart of the philosophy of mindfulness: that you are aware of all that exists in each moment. To expand upon this, mindfulness teaches you to become keenly aware of yourself and your surroundings, but just to observe them as they are. This includes your own thoughts and feelings, but you are trained not react to them, therefore freeing you from the negative values you might normally place on them when you are in “autopilot”. In terms of the brain, the science is clear, the practice of mindfulness is a robust technique for improving mental wellbeing and cognition. One study found that the actual grey matter of the brain increased with the practice of mindfulness (1).

Mindfulness in the workplace

It isn’t clear how mindfulness became popular in the business world, but it may have had something to do with Google inviting one of the pioneers of mindfulness to speak to its employees ten years ago. Since then, it has developed an entire course called Search Inside Yourself based on neuroscience and mindfulness which it now offers to companies outside Google who might be looking to improve the emotional intelligence of their employees, promote effective teamwork and enhance their innovation through reducing stress and improving general wellbeing.

Surely, mindful colouring books do not represent the most effective way of enhancing workplace productivity. However, it seems unlikely that buddhist monks would have practiced the technique of mindfulness for thousands of years if it bore no merit. Additionally, Google has invested a great deal of time and money into its mindfulness-based programs. Mindfulness is likely to stick around for the foreseeable future, and with it, it brings a greater ability for your employees to focus on their tasks, and find innovative solutions to work-related problems.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

  1. Holzel, B.K., Carmody J, Vangel M, et al (2011). “Mindfulness practice leads to increases in regional brain gray matter density.” Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging  191(1):36-43.

8 Funny employee awards

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that humor is good for you. In fact, having a good laugh has been shown to benefit your mental well-being, your cardiovascular health and your creativity and productivity in the workplace.

Humour physically releases endorphins in the brain, chemicals which improve mood and decrease stress. Studies have shown this effect to be so potent that pain tolerance in increased when a person is laughing. In the workplace, this improved mood and reduced stress translates into greater creativity and reduced productivity, through reduced absenteeism, improved sense of belonging to a team, and generally through the association of work with more positive emotions.

So to amp up the levels of comedy in the office, why not present funny and satirical awards to your employees? Present at a Friday afternoon end of week wrap-up meeting for a little tongue and cheek humour, allow them to laugh at themselves and their coworkers and let out some of that office tension pent up from the week.

Funny Employee Awards

Here are 8 examples of some great gag awards below:

  1. The Golden Shovel: awarded to the member of the team that digs themself into the biggest hole
  2. The Academy Award: best acting in the office, awarded to the best performer when it comes to a sales pitch or product demonstration
  3. The Pacifier: given to the person who resolves office conflicts, or to the person who has the biggest dummy spits. If you want to get even more humour out of this one, present both awards on alternating weeks, and let them guess what they got the award for!
  4. The Carl Sagan Space-Time continuum award: for the employee who doesn’t have the best grip of time
  5. The Loch Ness award: whenever you’re looking for them, they’re nowhere to be found, and you’re not even convinced that they work here but play along anyway.
  6. The Big Stinker: for the person who eats smelly food. Also could be for something else less pleasant…
  7. Office Mum: whoever is taking care of everyone around the office, male or female. Could also be the paired with “Office Baby”. 
  8. The Golden Paperclip: for the one who holds everything together when it’s all falling apart. Also references the Microsoft Office paperclip in Windows 98 that is always around and asking for assistance, only to be shut down moments later.

Providing some stress relief in the form of humour to employees is essential in the modern workplace. This is especially true if the work is physically, mentally or emotionally taxing in some way, as most workplaces tend to be. Dealing with this work, day in, day out can lead to burnout, but it is these short intervals or humour that break up the day which can build resilience in our employees. It is quite easy to get overwhelmed by stress, and become overly emotional and down. The best response that we have when it comes to dealing with these heightened states is to let it all out with some laughter.

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.

3 Fun ways to increase employee engagement

Engaged employees are a rare breed. Amongst even the biggest and most highly rated organizations in the world, we will often find that engaged employees would account for at best only about 50% of the total workforce.

A Gallup survey conducted in 2013  suggested that only 13% of total employees are engaged, which truely makes for a remarkable 50% a remarkable number to achieve. Where does employee engagement come from? How do we make sure our employees are engaged? What do we do to ensure an engaged workforce?

Using an employee engagement platform is one of the best ways to increase your employee engagement. Being able to recognize and reward employees based on their behaviours and adherence to company values is one of the best ways to increase employee engagement. Apart from this, there are other fun ways to increase employee engagement.

Here are 8 fun ways to increase employee engagement:

Attaching notes of appreciation to your Kanban

The Kanban is a component of project management used to measure the progress of a given project. Kanban can be used in digital form through programs like Jira, MS Project etc, however it is becoming industry standard to create a Kanban through post it notes and other cards on the wall.
As most projects are made up of User Stories and Epics, the content of the Kanban will indicate what User Stories are completed and which are in progress. As the Kanban becomes increasingly filled, it can be easy to lose track of who is working on what, and to share the wins when something gets completed. The content of the Kanban can be pretty dry at times, so why not spice it up with some notes of appreciation. Usually User Stories are completed by one person, or a small team at best, so it’s important to reward and recognize team members when they complete something. Adding stickers to the notes is a fun way to do this!

Add “thank you” notes of appreciation into your office culture

Using “Thank you” notes around the office is a great way to build employee engagement through rewards and recognition. Though you might think that simply verbally saying thank you is an effective strategy as it is, being able to write it down is even more effective in engaging people. The reason why a physical reminder of a thank you is more effective is because it lingers, long after the action has occurred. This builds employee engagement through rewards and recognition. It also adds an element of fun by giving team members a chance to express their gratitude in unique ways.

If you’re feeling a bit strange about saying thank you, there is a guide.

Have a rage and praise meeting

Rage and praise meeting, though a recent phenomena is actually a great way to increase employee engagement, by allowing employees to air grievances and praise others hard work.

To be clear, a rage and praise day is a day whereby team members go around a circle and say “I raged at … but praise … for making it better“, or something along those lines. A rage and praise meeting is great for giving team members a voice, but also providing their airing of grievances with a balance. Usually, complaints are hard to voice due to a perceived air of negativity, but giving them a voice can definitely help.

The best way to increase employee engagement is through rewards and recognition. Though there are many ways to increase employee engagement, try these!

WooBoard is a peer to peer recognition platform where your employees can send public messages of thanks and appreciation to their colleagues. Sign up for your free 14-Day Trial of WooBoard today.