When addressing the group at employee social events, I’m known for asking, “Are we going to break the fun meter today?” Everyone usually smiles and it lightens the mood because they know we have a history of creating events that people just don’t want to miss.
We recently hosted two employee events that confirmed why we continue to support these types of activities. Sure it is a lot of work, but our employee volunteers seem to take pride in coordinating these successful events. Sponsoring a variety of activities that bring employees together continues to be an important part of our culture.
Here are a few ideas I think have made these sustainable and so well-received:
Incorporate a hobby.
For some at Marco (including me), that’s classic cars, so naturally a car show makes sense. We recently hosted our
third annual car show at our corporate headquarters in St. Cloud. We showcased dozens of really cool classic cars and presented a series of awards like People’s Choice, CEO’s Choice, Best in Show and Further Distance Traveled. I did show my restored Mustang, which of course I thought was the coolest car. I didn’t win, but a very deserving ’55 Packard did. We had over 300 employees, families, friends, and customers participate this year. We selected cars, but you could certainly pick fishing, hunting, crafting or any another hobby you know your employees have a strong interest in and would be willing to help organize.
Make it family-focused.
The car show is really a family event that happens to involve cars. We’ve found if you involve family, you get better participation. Some people come just to see the cars, but most come for the activities planned to engage kids and grandkids, such as the bounce house, ring toss, dunk tank and, of course, the food. This was a very affordable event and easily scalable to any budget. The family atmosphere is a great way to connect with employees beyond the corporate walls and get to know them a little better.
Get outside of your comfort zone.
As executives we can demonstrate our willingness to get out of our comfort zone, have some fun and actively participate. I’m pretty sure none of us wanted to be in the dunk tank, but we were. My 3-year-old grandson enjoyed being the first one to dunk me and yes, many willingly cheered him on with phones raised to capture the moment. If you’re willing to set the tone and break the fun meter as a leader, your followers are more likely to do the same.
Make it a charitable event.
We’ve found that tying in a charitable cause is a good way to raise some money and it adds to a fun atmosphere. It was easier getting in the dunk tank knowing we were raising money for the United Way. We know our employees support our philosophy of “doing good” as a corporation, so naturally it fits nicely into our customer and employee events. Next time you’re planning the company picnic or Christmas party, think about how you might tie in a charitable cause. I think you’ll find a lot of support and even raise the fun meter.
Engage your vendors.
Employee events do not need to be a large expense item. We’ve had great success engaging our vendors as sponsors for our annual employee golf outing which helps make our employees feel appreciated. Sponsorships generally cover the cost and allow us to host a first-class event that drew over 300 people this year. Employees seem to put a high value on it and travel great distances to participate. Employees from our North Dakota office organized a bus trip and others drove from South Dakota and Iowa to be part of the event. This year we expanded to 27 holes to accommodate the high vendor and employee participation.
There are many reasons we could come up with for not having this employee event, as the logistics alone can be daunting. But I feel the value this activity provided when we started it almost 20 years ago is even more important today. It is a way to bring our workforce together, so we’re going to keep doing it.
People seem to like the fact that leadership is actively involved in these events, whether it’s in the planning or participation. I think it’s important that if employees, vendors or customers are going to commit, then leadership certainly should too. Not only did I have a good time at these two recent events, I also had the pleasure of getting to know our employees and their families on a more personal basis.
I’ve found employee and customer events to be an important part of the cultural mix. So do your company events break the “fun meter?"