Have you ever thought of closing your organization for an entire day and challenging every single employee, from receptionist to partner, to dream up ways to improve?
We have, and we do it every year.
We close all three of our offices, and play host to some 100 employees from London, San Francisco, and New York City (as well as full-time telecommuters from such off-the-beaten-track locales as: Benton Harbor, Michigan; Bowling Green, Kentucky; and Evanston, Wyoming.
We call it Dream Day, and we've held it annually since 2006. Each year, we split the day in half, spending the morning dreaming how to be a better workplace. In the the afternoon, we cook up new ways to surprise and delight clients and prospects with unique new service offerings.
Among the more notable outcomes of Dream Days past include:
- A new full-time position for an in-house academic, hired from M.I.T., who has taken our social-media thinking and counseling to new heights.
- An employee exchange program in which participants have the opportunity to spend up to a three-month period working in a different office (and immerse themselves in a new culture).
- A host of tactical improvements that have helped us streamline internal work processes and improve productivity.
This year's Dream Day was no different. Only I forgot one thing.
Throughout each year the agency participates in charitable activities. At last year's Dream Day we held a lunchtime auction in which staff members auctioned such services as a boxing lesson.
This year we divided into teams and, armed with plenty of Peppercomm cash, shopped for holiday gifts for victims of Hurricane Sandy. U.S. Marines representing the Toys for Tots program (check out the photo of our team with the Marines, above) collected the presents at our retreat.
Rather than continue my narrative, I thought I'd let three employees pick-up the Dream Day tale:
I asked Jessie Clapper, Trisha Bruynell, and Jeff Simpson to answer these questions:
Do you think this year's Dream Day succeeded in uncovering new ways in which to improve Peppercomm?
"No question. In fact, clearing the calendars and creating space for brainstorming with everyone from a receptionist and a strategist to an analyst and an I.T. technician was like providing rocket fuel for the brain!"
Did you feel fully engaged, and are you confident we'll implement some of the new ideas in 2013?
"I was a designated team leader throughout the day, so I was fully immersed from start to finish. Since I've seen the results from previous Dream Days, I have no doubt the best ideas will become a reality next year."
How would you suggest we take Dream Day to the next level?
"If we can do this much in a day, imagine what we could accomplish in a Dream Weekend or Dream Week?"
I got one more piece of feedback, this time from Sara Jane Whitman Ramos, Peppercomm's culture czar. She's the one responsible for setting each Dream Day agenda.
Here's her takeaway: "Dream Day embodies everything that defines Peppercomm's culture. It's an opportunity for all of us to play a part in the strategic direction and development of the firm. It gives us all a little bit of ownership. The bonding that happens is something we can't replicate outside of Dream Day. New employees tell us they hear about Dream Day from the day they start and they anticipate being a part of it for the first time."
Dream Day isn't just a nice thing to do for employees. It's a superb way to foster teamwork and enhance morale, while simultaneously empowering your employees to shape the workplace of the future--and we get all sorts of ideas and solutions we simply couldn’t have come up with any other way.
For us, the proof is in the pudding: Peppercomm was just this year named the best workplace in all of New York City. Talk about making one's wildest dreams come true!