When Memorial Day has come and gone, school’s out, the grill is fired up and the neighborhood pool has opened for the summer, there’s usually one more milestone coming: The company picnic is just around the corner.

Countless people groan when they hear those words. For many employees, “company picnic” brings to mind a lame event they feel obligated to attend because executives expect them to. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Instead, company events can offer great opportunities to create unique experiences for employees and their families. The key is to host events that match your company’s culture, engage your employees and leave an impression that will last long after the activities end.

The Importance of Company Events

Events that create employee engagement don’t just offer fun. Companies that have employees who feel engaged see growth that is 2.5 times higher than that of their less-connected counterparts. Engaged employees are happier too — those who are dialed-in are 87% less likely to leave their companies.

To take it a step further, a survey of 400 small-business owners found that 96% said company events yield a return on investment. Well-planned events not only boost company morale and improve company culture, but they also have the potential to promote creativity. And CEOs overwhelmingly name creativity as the skill they value most in people.

The benefits of a successful company event are clear. By taking time away from the office and getting together for events, your brand can establish its culture, celebrate individual and team victories, build relationships, reduce stress and improve motivation, all of which improve creativity and productivity.

Identifying Event Opportunities

The question then becomes “What’s the best way to give employees and their families an experience they will want to tell their friends and family about?” To answer that, create a planning committee with a spectrum of voices: veteran employees, new hires, people with a range of ethnic backgrounds, single people, married people and members of all departments, from the C-suite to the reception desk.

With this team, your organization will be able to plan events with employee engagement and validation in mind, increasing the likelihood that you’ll maintain satisfied and connected employees. Using employee input will also help you create opportunities for employees to see one another in a new light, adding depth to their relationships.

Make relationships the cornerstone of your event strategy. After all, creating experiences through which employees can strengthen their emotional connections with your brand, their co-workers and their loved ones is a secret weapon to boost employee retention. Focus your events on bringing families, spouses and friends into the spotlight alongside employees.

Putting on the Right Events

If many of your employees are parents, use events to offer families the opportunity to experience something new together. Schedule visits with Santa and the Easter Bunny. Bring in someone from a local university to teach parents and children how to code.

At my company, we set up an inflatable projection screen to show movies in our parking lot. Kids loved it, and it only cost us about $500. The right event for you doesn’t need to cost a fortune. What matters is the outcome, not the money you spend.

These events will help your employees and their children create happy memories as well as positive associations with your brand. A long-term study showed that it’s good for children to see their parents happy at work, so that’s a win-win scenario.

For events geared more toward the single set, a Segway tour, low ropes course or murder-mystery night could build teamwork skills and offer plain-old fun. And while a company Christmas party might not be exciting, a pingpong tournament with brackets and prizes might get the office buzzing.

Making the Impression Last

No matter what specific events you choose to create, make sure your leaders spend time complimenting employees in front of their loved ones. It can be as simple as “Wow, it’s great to meet you! We really appreciate [employee’s name] around the office — you should see how successful he is at what he does.”

Challenge each member of your leadership team to have concrete examples of genuine things they appreciate about their people that they can cite when meeting family members. This can accomplish a number of things: It shows employees their leaders are paying attention, it shows families that the person they love does a good job and it creates a memory for all involved.

From there, just keep your eyes on the prize. Don’t plan a company picnic just to check a box. Create events that answer these questions: What will spark creativity? What will the kids like? How can we de-stress, recharge and build relationships?

With those ideas as your guide, I bet you’ll be hearing “Wow, I can’t wait to come back next year!” from your employees and their loved ones. Moving forward, you’ll be able to put on company events that leave employees feeling creative, refreshed and happy at home and the office.

 

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