Imagine that you work for a multinational retail company. Your employer just announced that all sales from around the world – for one day – will be distributed back to employees. You will get the same bonus as your CEO, your VP, and your colleague who works as a cashier on the other side of the world.
How inspired would you be to work for such an egalitarian company?
In 1999, IKEA did this exact thing, calling it a “Big Thank You Event” for its 40,000 employees. The buzz-worthy initiative netted approximately $120 million CDN and was democratically distributed among every employee to thank them for the company’s success.
While most organizations don’t have $120 million lying around to be distributed to employees, the premise behind IKEA’s genius idea is a useful for any company looking to inspire its team. It comes down to the concept that every employee matters, and every employee contributes to the success of a company. Therefore, to inspire your employees, it’s important to find ways to show each one how much the company values them. If initiatives to inspire employees start with this premise, no matter how big or small the budget, inspiration is almost always guaranteed.
Here are 5 unorthodox ideas to inspire your employees in 2017:
1. Turn charitable giving into a social celebration
Each year, Capital One Canada hosts an internal contest called “Who wants to be a philanthropist?” where employees compete to win funds to support their personal charity of choice. They champion a cause they believe in, and their colleagues then vote on which charities will receive prizes (the top prize is: $35,000). In an era where research confirms that millennials value meaningful work over fat pay cheques, this “by employees, for employees” effort celebrates passion for giving in an inspiring social setting.
2. Create office areas that celebrate the lives of its people
Walk into most offices and you’ll see portraits of founders, industry awards, or maybe inspirational words from the company’s corporate mantras. Initiative, a New York-based agency took a different route. To pay homage to their teams, they designed a communal Memory Wall where employees could post images of their families or team members on a wall – part-bulletin board, part-creative art installation – to celebrate their personal and work lives together.
3. Host special company “hack” days
Flow, a software start-up, established their own hackathon-style initiative called Delight Days. On a designated day, employees task themselves with improving Flow in whatever manner they want – however big or small, with teams or on their own. The only caveat? The work has to be done that day, and it has to make Flow more fun to use. Remember all those “one day I want to…” company projects that keep falling to the bottom of the priority list? Hack days may be the perfect excuse to bring people together and turn those aspirations into reality.
4. Cultivate urban explorers
Humans are profoundly social by nature, but in a quest to increase profits, we can get too transactional. Sometimes the solution for co-worker camaraderie lies right in our backyards. Jewellery company FourMine hosts bi-monthly employee outings with its entire team to explore something fresh and interesting in their city, from gelato-making classes to checking out the hottest new restaurant.
5. Consider unconventional self-care
Gym memberships and yoga classes are great, but when tight work schedules prevent employees from using these perks, the effort becomes pointless. Coca-Cola asked their employees to think about their best ideas for well-being at their Startup You idea session. Music emerged as a key theme, and soon Coke Music Moments was born: weekly musical performances by associates in the Atlanta head office that inject new energy into the work environment. Well-being initiatives should be developed by employees – often the best solutions aren’t what management was expecting.
As we embark upon 2017, it’s the perfect time to inspire your employees to make this coming year their best yet.
Julie is the president of BlueSky Personnel Solutions, a recruitment agency that specializes in Bilingual/French placements. After a decade and a half of recruiting top talent, she is a veteran in her field. Julie works closely with both business and HR executives and job candidates, and offers insights into the strategies, nuances and psychology of the hiring process.