For those of you who are HR, Marketing, or Admin Managers, it’s that time of year again. Spring? Yes, but more precisely, it’s a time that management starts planning the company’s annual summer event. To really nail it, the logistics and timing are important – you’ll need to be cognizant of a number of items including employee vacations, where the party is going to be held, and the budget.
With your day-to-day job priorities taking up the majority of your time, you may find it tough to plan a successful party. Don’t worry – Wildman is here to make sure your event isn’t a flop.
You want your event to be a success because ultimately it’s a reflection of your work. But how do you measure a successful company event? Most would answer “that everything went off without a hitch” or “the boss seemed happy”. Those aren’t necessarily wrong, but another factor, and perhaps the most important, would be employee engagement.
Why engagement? Of course you want everyone to have a good time, but employee engagement is a factor with real implications on a company’s bottom line. Several studies have indicated that engaged employees are happier, more productive, and tend to stay longer.
Gallup, for example, conducted a very large study in 2012 in which they discovered that businesses with engaged workers were twice as likely to be successful financially, while those with the most engaged employees were four times as likely to achieve such success. The study further found that high workforce engagement resulted in greater attendance, fewer safety incidents, higher productivity and profitability, and lower turnover.
“Great!” you think, “How do I put together an event that people find engaging?” The honest answer is there’s too many variables involved to come up with some simple event checklist that will ensure success. However, there are several considerations around engagement that should be addressed up front to improve the odds of success.
- Get Management Behind You: In your initial planning meeting, ask management what their goal is for the event. You’ll probably get a variety of typical answers like, for everyone to have a good time or for workers to know management cares. While these are great, this is where you suggest the overall goal should be high employee engagement for all the business reasons stated earlier. The idea is to get management behind you and help promote engagement as leaders across the organization.
- Break the Mold: If your company’s summer picnic (or whatever annual event) is the same every year—the same place, same agenda, same food, even third Saturday in June, it’s time to change things up. If employees know what’s going to happen, then they’re less likely to be excited. Break the mold; get creative. Come up with a new theme, change the format or venue, etc. Sure, you might be limited to some degree, but ask yourself how you can make it different each time in order to keep people curious as to how you will top last year’s event.
- Create an Experience First: There’s no doubt that planning and coordinating are critical for a successful event, but what’s even more important is to focus on what kind of experience you are creating for employees. If it’s just show up, eat some food, converse, and listen to the owners talk for a few minutes about the company, people may not leave as excited as you’d hoped. An easy way to create an experience that will encourage engagement is through games. Again, don’t go with old staples, like horseshoes and softball which can exclude people. Be creative. Have a Company Olympics with silly games that involve everyone. Draw up teams that mix people outside of departments and announce the rosters ahead of time. Being on competitive teams makes it hard for employees to hide and forces social interaction.
- Reinforce the Memory: Assuming you have a well-executed event built around a positive experience, you want to reinforce the memory of that experience. A good way to do this is with memorabilia tied to the event. Team shirts and trophies are standard examples for team activities, but you want it to be a memory for everyone. If families are invited, have something planned for significant others and especially children to take home and savor the memory of a happy day together as a family. Also, make it something practical and durable that they can use on a regular basis as opposed to something cheap that will get tossed out a few months later.
- Gather Feedback: Once the event is over, yes, you can sigh with relief but should not forget to gather feedback from the attendees. The simplest way to do this is through a (very) brief survey. Keep it to under 5 questions that requires minimal time and effort. The responses will be a big help in planning future events, and the number of responses you get back will also be another indicator of employee engagement at your company.
Pulling off a company event like an annual picnic or an Employee Appreciation Day is no easy feat, but if you focus your planning efforts around “return on engagement” then you’ll enjoy the satisfaction that comes from knowing you’ve helped make the company a positive and more successful organization.