By John Rampton, founder of Palo Alto, California-based Calendar, a company helping your calendar be much more productive.
The importance of building happy teams has perhaps never been as vital as it has been during the Great Resignation. Company leaders fighting to hang on to talented employees rely on certain staples like bonuses, bumped-up retirement contributions and promotions.
These mainstream tactics are certainly capable of motivating and delighting team members. However, with more companies dangling the same carrots, employees just look for the largest ones. Then every time one individual leaves, you find yourself trying to rebuild your team again.
What if instead of trying to engineer bigger carrots, you cultivate new ones? As employees find professional reward in far more things than their paychecks, you have an opportunity to get creative. Here are three strategies you can use to foster a happier, more productive team.
1. Dial up their workspace.
We never outgrow our desire for better toys. They may not be the same as those we had when we were young, but we love them just as much. Our “stuff” keeps us happy and content at any age.
Perhaps all your team members need is a desk, computer, chair, phone, wastebasket and stapler. But giving them more than the bare essentials can make them feel special. You probably won’t have to spend too much to do it.
Not everyone can have the corner office, but they can have elements of it in their space. Think about light therapy lamps (a.k.a. “happy lights”) in windowless workspaces, better ergonomic chairs and the footrests to go with them. Maybe a team member wants a standing desk or a treadmill desk to keep moving while they’re working.
Of course, there are numerous electronic devices that would warm employees’ hearts and their workspaces. Bigger and better computer screens, monitor stands and mouse pads that charge cell phones are a few. In a less technological vein, green plants can do wonders for making a sterile space more appealing.
The members of your team won’t all want the same creature comforts, so cater to their individual wants and needs. Have them create wish lists so you can determine what things cost and begin working them into the budget. Remember that these workspace additions are great contributors not only to team happiness but also productivity.
2. Host extracurricular team events.
Members of the happiest teams not only work well together; they actually like each other. It makes sense that if they enjoy spending time together when not working, they’ll be happier when they are on the clock. It’s your job to figure out how to create extracurricular opportunities to cement those bonds.
Food and drink always provide a great opportunity for people to connect and converse. Team breakfasts, lunches or happy hours give employees a way to relax and enjoy each other’s company. They’re not unlike pleasantly chaotic family dinners during the holidays.
And don’t overlook fun and games. Have different teams compete against each other for kitschy traveling trophies and loud bragging rights. How about seeing who can solve the Wordle of the day in the fewest tries and fastest time? Then there’s always bowling, NCAA basketball tourney brackets or rousing Minecraft tournaments.
One of the keys to team happiness here is allowing employees time for events while they’re on the clock. You can’t expect the single dad with a toddler to hang out all night with the people he’s seen all day. Moreover, you don’t want him to feel like he’s missing out on the fun time and time again when he prioritizes his family instead.
Hosting these kinds of not-the-usual-office-holiday-party events doesn’t mean work won’t get done. On the contrary, work colleagues tend to talk shop even in social situations. Who knows what creative solutions your team may come up with after dinner and a movie in the conference room?
3. Offer individualized benefits.
Of course, you should be offering the benefits employees expect, like health and life insurance and a generous 401(k) match. But your team members may find happiness in some more original perks, especially ones that appeal to them individually.
With rising gas prices, offering transit passes to employees who leave their cars at home might spark joy while also helping the planet. Provide fuel gift cards to those who can’t take mass transit but can carpool. Employees concerned about their carbon footprint (and their employer’s) may be delighted by these benefits.
If there’s a gym near the office, offer memberships and be a little lenient with time if employees use them during lunch hours. Before you worry about the expense, consider how you’ll keep your insurance rates down if your team members are healthy.
There are other benefits you can offer that play to employee interests and passions. How about providing passes for museums, zoos, theaters and live music performances? Divvy up the company’s season tickets to sporting events instead of always using them for clients.
No one expects to get a free pass in their personal or professional lives. That’s why your team members might be elated by being surprised with one from time to time. A little fun makes the job less of a chore.
Sow seeds of joy.
There is one common thread in all these inventive ways to increase team joy. That is, you need to know each team member as an individual, not just as a work unit.
Once your team members see that you take more than a passing professional interest in them, they will be happier and work harder. So don’t dangle carrots. Plant seeds.