“I never did a day’s work in my life — it was all fun.” ~Thomas Edison
Edison’s point is well taken, but I doubt he ever worked in any of the deadening cultures most of us have had to suffer in at some time during our careers. I’m not asking for rainbows and unicorns, they call it work for a reason. But the fact is that leaders can add some zing, zest and just plain fun to being at work. And numerous studies have shown a lively, personalized workplace culture improves business performance (and profits).
I’m talking about fun, but this is serious business. Global employee engagement is stuck at an anemic 30 percent. This is a red flag for HR and Leadership. It’s our job to help create happy employees.
Here Are 5 Ways Savvy Leaders Make It Happen:
1) Personalize Employee Engagement. Nothing makes work more fun than real engagement. It creates a bond between the enterprise and it’s people. When people are engaged, they dig deeper and suddenly work becomes a lot more fun. But what engages one person can leave another cold. So leaders must use technology to create personalized profiles of each employee. What are her hobbies and passions, where is his heart and soul, what thrills and delights her? And where do these passions intersect with the culture and employee needs? Find that sweet spot and the fun (and stellar results) will flow.
2) Use The HR Technology Tools. HR Technology, used correctly, are manna from heaven for HR pros and Leaders. They allow us to build a community that not only enables great performance, but makes it much more social and fun. Again, it’s all about personalization, drawing out the best in people, getting their creative juices flowing, their hearts racing. Games are turning out to be amazing tools for adding fun to a culture if utilized with a strategy for adoption. Smart leaders use all the smart tools at their disposal to create fun whenever possible – with a strategy that authentically mirrors the plan for leaders and employees to get to productive work.
3) Exercise Your Inner Comedian. One of the great unsung leadership tools is a sense of humor. Watch the way good (there are a few left) politicians, comedians and actors use humor to build a bond with their audiences. A good joke, a sense of fun, a surprise, a prank – they instantly lighten the mood, lift morale, and unite people. Find ways to bring humor to your workplace culture. Strong communication and a genuine employer brand is a good place to start. Find a voice for your company that is informal and engaging, and has a sense of humor. Consider Naming A Chief Humor Officer. Caveat: don’t force it and don’t get corny about, both are cringe-worthy and counterproductive.
4) Be Holistic. Employee performance soars when people are happy and healthy. This means fitness that is linked to rewards, good food, basic human understanding and recognition for good work. If someone is going through a rough patch in their personal life, offer to help but know when to give them a little space. Conversely, celebrate success and milestones that happen outside the workplace. Everyone will have a lot more fun if they feel they can be themselves at work.
5) Solicit (Off The Wall) Ideas. Everyone’s idea of fun is slightly different. So turn over the workplace asylum to the inmates by establishing a mechanism where people can express their idiosyncrasies at work. How about 5 Minutes of Crazy? A weekly funercise where a volunteer (again, no forcing) leads everyone in … anything they want. Think of it as “Show and Tell” for adults. How about My Favorite Stupid YouTube Video that seems to make everyone laugh? Available for viewing on your team’s social channels of choice or maybe it lives in your social enterprise and the team can own the channel privately.
Let’s be honest, no workplace can be fun all the time. It shouldn’t be. Our careers are serious at times. But if you look at history’s most successful entrepreneurs, leaders and employees, you will see a common thread: they all love what they do. We may not achieve that perfect synergy, but getting there is half the fun!
A version of this was first posted on Forbes.