Creating one of the best places to work takes a lot of creativity and a small dose of arcade fun.
When we installed our game room at Rise, I thought it would be filled with people daily. (Who could resist the temptation to play Atari video games and foosball?) I peeked inside one day and found it empty. After talking to a few people, I realized that straying from your desk to play air hockey isn't a natural tendency for most people.
To give people a small nudge, we created our first arcade competition using our AC/DC pinball machine. Place your name in a bracket and face off against a fellow employee. The last man or woman standing would receive a trophy. The runner-ups would receive gift cards. I was eliminated by the first round but the real prize came from seeing people get excited about the competition and indulging in some wholesome fun during the work day.
If you don't have pinball, you can still inspire your employees to have a little fun. Here are three ways to build momentum and engagement among employees.
1. Acknowledge small wins, not just big ones.
Most people want to rally behind the huge milestones like reaching a 20-year anniversary or landing a multimillion-dollar contract with a Fortune 500 client. But even small but strong wins for your company should be acknowledged and celebrated. For example, apprentices who are promoted to full-time employees at Rise are presented with over-sized business cards--similar to the giant checks that lottery winners receive--as a special way to recognize their transition.
When managers and senior leaders recognize that small wins lead to big wins, it inspires their teams to bring their A-game. To do so, build an infrastructure to honor those achievements. Set a quota, track one's progress and offer rewards for a job well done. It can be something as small as a gift card or as large as a free vacation.
2. Create gathering spaces.
Cloud-based services like Dropbox create virtual workspaces, making it easier for teams to share ideas, but face-to-face interactions are irreplaceable. Sure, you can call your business partner via Gchat, but great moments of collaboration can easily happen between two workers at lunch. In short, people need real places to hang out other than a conference room when they are working.
At Rise, we built a café stocked with free food and coffee, an atrium, and a game room. These social spaces allow our employees and clients to meet, strategize, and watch March Madness. Offer your employees safe spaces to be creative, to be vocal, and to experiment.
However, when you're designing these spaces, you must take mobility into account. In our office, everyone has a laptop and access to wifi so people can be mobile and not feel confined to their desks. If people can't easily move about, they will stay at their desk, hindering your goals for a collaborative environment.
3. Surprise your employees.
A genuine token of appreciation motives employees and tells them that you care. As an end-of-the-year holiday gift, I offered every Rise employee one of the hottest gifts last season: an iPad mini. The gift was a symbol of our successful fiscal year and how far our digital marketing agency has progressed--moving from my Chicago apartment to our 15,000-square-foot office. What made it impactful was the element of surprise.
Although appreciation can diminish over time, strive to do the unexpected--from handing out free Chicago Cubs tickets to spot bonuses at company meetings for excellence in internet marketing. Constantly surprising your employees will carry more momentum within your organization than one-off gifts.
When people come to work, it shouldn't be about waiting until the clock strikes five or working to receive a check. Treat your employees as if they are your biggest client. You'll see more satisfied workers and more people playing pinball when they have free time.