How to build Culture through COVID

zoom meetings

If anything could destroy your company culture, it was 2020. At first glance, it’s easy to see how the huge shift to remote work, closing the doors and extreme downsizing could demolish any positive culture you’ve worked to build in your business. However, ongoing analysis of 1.4 million employee-written reviews on Glassdoor, tells a very different story of the workplace amidst the 2020 pandemic. 

The truth is, 2020 might have been exactly what your company needed. 

An economic downturn can unravel the social norms that hold your company together. In the process of such an extreme change, it gives an opportunity for your true values to shine. According to the MIT Sloan Review, the average culture and values rating across the Culture 500 companies spiked during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. In fact, April-August 2020 occupies the top five spots in culture and values ratings for the preceding five years.

How is it possible that people were actually happier with their company culture and values in the midst of wide spread lockdown, layoffs, and shift to remote work? Because companies realized the importance of positivity, flexibility, communication, and other values. 

clear communication

What’s Your Most Important Value? 

Above all the research and ratings for these 500 companies, one important theme stood out in the months of the pandemic. Employees of highly rated companies valued honest communication and transparency above anything else. In fact, they were 88% more likely to write positively about leaders’ honesty and transparency (46%). Employees also expressed more positive sentiment about transparency (42%) and communication (35%) in general. In late April 2020, MIT asked over 400 HR leaders an open-ended question about the most meaningful thing their organization did to support the transition to remote work during COVID-19. The top answer?  High-quality communication. In fact, many employees grew to trust their employer for information on the virus rather than government, news outlets, or social media. 

Your employees value their paycheck and their office space, but more than anything they value your honest and transparent communication. However, it’s rare to find “transparency” or “communication” on any list of company values. In an earlier study of the corporate value statements of more than 500 larger companies, only 12% listed transparency or communication among their official corporate values. Perhaps this works most of the time, but during times of crisis, the quality of communication is essential to maintaining your company culture. 

covid company culture

Creating a Virtual Company Culture

Other positive reviews on Glassdoor mentioned values like integrity, positive thinking, compliance with regulation, and fair treatment across employees. 

The top rated companies also did a much better job in addressing issues related to employee welfare. They helped employees balance work with family responsibilities, protected employees’ physical health and safety, and supported their mental well-being. 

With so many companies looking to rebuild in a new, changing, and more virtual world. How do you build a strong virtual company culture in 2021? Here are a few ideas to get you started: 

1. Keep the Communication clear 

Even after the initial crisis is over, understand the value of your communication and keep the transparency as much as possible. 

2. Hire the rebel. 

Look for those who are resilient, adaptable, and creative. You want to be able to leverage differences, and keep going when the world is turned upside down, which might mean you need to hire the positive changes you seek. 

3. Enhance Inclusivity 

Zoom meetings can offer a much-more-level playing field for employees in other locations. Expand meetings to include everyone. Some companies even began offering forums for all employees to listen and share what’s on their minds, answer questions, etc. 

zoom meetings

4. Model Your values. 

Company culture improves when you really show your values. If your company has a philanthropic side or a desire to serve the community. Now is the time to build on those values and model what you believe. 

5. Show Appreciation. 

It’s more important than ever to show your employees you appreciate them. Working through a pandemic is not for the faint of heart. Every industry has been affected. Show employee appreciation through creative means with any budget level you have. 

5. Pay attention to employees’ emotional, personal and working experience needs

Allow for opportunities to build relationships through virtual lunches, morning coffee meeting or informal phone calls. Pay attention to employees environments, families, and the overlap of both schooling and working from home. Check in with employees and be flexible along the way. 

6. Keep meetings short. 

Put a cap on virtual meetings to avoid hours of video calls all day long. Shorter meetings ensure greater focus and more effective problem solving. Many companies have set a 15-minute limit on meetings to reduce fatigue throughout the day. 

7. Celebrate

Don’t forget to acknowledge and celebrate things like birthdays, anniversaries, workiversaries, and achievements from your employees. Showing your interest and employee appreciation through these moments can encourage a company culture that cares about its people. 

8. Switch Up Onboarding

You may have new employees who have actually never met the other members of your staff in person. Reinvent your onboarding process. Get to know these new employees and help them to feel like they are a part of the team. This can go a long way to increase employee retention over time. 

Your company culture should be a million critical priority this year. Dig deeper than you have before. Look for creative ways to show your employees appreciation. Live your values and develop deeper company traditions. This is an ongoing process, a positive company culture is not simply “achieved”, it is built every single day and it’s always evolving. If you want to ensure you have a business that continues to thrive through unprecedented time, it begins with the core values at the foundation. Those values will not only help your business to survive but to actually thrive in the face of crisis. 


How To Measure AND Boost Employee Satisfaction

employee retention

Satisfied employees are people who are excited to come to work, motivated to do a good job, and open to changes and collaboration. However, this is sort of the unicorn of employees. In fact, only 40% of employees are happy with their job. The other 60 percent are showing up because they have to, looking for something better, or doing the bare minimum. 

This is a BIG problem.

When your employees love coming to work, you get a happier staff. You get a motivated team who is more productive, has fewer absent days, better collaboration, and will stick with you for the long haul. Ultimately, satisfied employees make your company grow into the best place it can be. Oh, and the best benefit, your employee retention is high. They say for years, perfecting their skill and thinking deeper.

But how do you measure employee satisfaction? How do you boost the bad days and make improvements? That’s where we come in. 

Measuring Employee Satisfaction 

First, you have to know where you are in order to know where you need to go. We must first measure current employee satisfaction and keep this measurement going on a consistent basis. Here’s a few ideas to get you started: 

Hold 1-on-1 conversations 

This is the best way to see how the individuals are doing both in and out of the office. Enter this conversion seeking to understand your employee, not to change their opinion. JUST LISTEN! Follow up with them later, once you have had time to consider any changes that may or may not need to be made.

Post a survey on a regular basis. 

Surveys also help you get quantitative data that is completely honest and anonymous. To help you gage how you’re doing instantly.

Do some research

Stay informed of current salaries in your area or industry, make sure your benefits are competitive and look into what you can do to go above and beyond for your employees. Offer employee experience gifts or employee rewards that are unique and actually useful rather than the age-old pen or certificate no one wants. 

employee satisfaction

Boosting Employee Satisfaction

Once you have a good idea of the current level of contentment at your company, the real work begins. Commit to improve your employee’s satisfaction and support their careers.  By using the following tips, your employee retention will soar, productivity will increase, and your company will thrive.

Start In-House 

Think about the simple things you can do in-house to boost the mundane of everyday work. Hosting fun events, have a food truck show up for lunch, hire a local car detailer to detail the vehicles in the parking lot while they work. A little employee gift can go a really long way and doesn’t have to break the bank. 

Encourage Traditions 

Sure, the company summer barbeque is fun but get a little more creative in your company traditions. Volunteer at a community event, create unique “company holidays” of your own, allow your employees a day off or a unique employee gift on their work anniversary. 

Host an Annual Awards Ceremony

By treating your best employees to a yearly bash on the boss’s dime, you’ll encourage generosity, inspire performance, and incite a little competition. This is a great opportunity to give unique employee gifts and showcase the talents of your team. 

Help Them Help You. 

Give your people the freedom to get creative, to come up with their own ideas and run with them. This can be difficult to do if you like to keep a strong sense of control, but it can pay off in the long run. 

employee retention

Let Employees Vent

Amy Balliett, of Killer Infographics, points out that not every employee is comfortable speaking up.  That’s why she uses software called TinyPulse which lets her employees let her know when things are off, anonymously.  “It keeps it from something that will fester.  Festering makes an angry employee who will leave.”

Get a Mascot

This lighthearted mood-booster can be easy to adopt in any office. Choose a mascot (or let the employees vote) Whether it’s a goldfish, a stuffed animal, a concrete lion, or even a robotic BB-8, it really doesn’t matter. Having something iconic that can roam around from department to department to boost performance is a way to keep spirits up and create a little healthy rivalry.

Take care of the family

Your employees are working to provide for their families, support that effort. Pay attention to whose kid is going to the football championship, whose wife just had a baby, or who has a parent in the hospital. Acknowledge these, and offer things like a house cleaning service, childcare, or meal delivery to support your employee when they get home. 

Give Personalized Gifts

Take a moment to find out what the individual is “into.”  It could be cars, wine/beer, concerts, video games, anything really.  Then tailor an employee reward just for them.  A bottle of the best, tickets to a local concert, a massage after work, a gym membership or even just the next book in the trilogy they’re reading. It’s the personalization that matters. 

Attack the Real Issues

Employees can get on fine without snacks and parties, but they suffer when they feel they are undervalued, underpaid, and overworked. You can’t cover real problems up with a pizza party. If employees feel overworked, to find a way to create a more balanced workload. If they feel underpaid, figure out a plan to increase salaries. Acknowledge their concerns and find a way to make it right or you’ll lose out on your biggest assets. 

You may need to make large changes to improve employee satisfaction. Don’t be afraid to take risks to make it happen.

Bring in a Consultant

You’re a leader, not a mind reader. If you can tell there’s a problem but are lost on how to fix it, company psychologists and executive coaches can see things you can’t– and it might be worth bringing in back-up help. They can host a workshop for your company, take surveys, and help you come up with a plan for improvement. 

As a leader and manager, it’s on you to work to improve employee satisfaction. You need buy-in from your team to make real change. Make it light and positive, remind your employees that you’re doing this so you can create a better place to work. Ask for sincere honesty and participation to make the process easier. Ultimately, you’ll create a better work environment for them – and you’ll probably enjoy your job a whole lot more as well. 


Having Defined Purpose as a Business

engaged employees

What makes Wal-Mart different from their rivals? 

How did Procter & Gamble conquer longtime rival Colgate? 

How was Motorola able to move from a battery repair business into cellular phones?

Why didn’t Zenith become dominant in anything other than TVs? 

How did Boeing become the world’s best commercial aircraft company? 

These are the questions Jim Collins answered in his book, “Built to Last”. Collins looks in depth at landmark companies that stood the test of time and came out on top.  Collins and Porras looked at eighteen companies with an average age of 100 years. The goal was to see what made these companies truly exceptional and how they have surpassed their competitors from 1926 to today. 

By looking at successful companies over several decades, Collins and Porras are able to go above and beyond management buzzwords and fads to discover timeless qualities and create a master blueprint for building organizations that will prosper long into the twenty-first century and beyond.

Products Don’t Prosper

“Concentrating on products—or services, if that’s what you sell—is a trap.” – Jim Collins.

What you do, make, or sell is completely irrelevant. Some products become obsolete almost as quickly as they’re created.

Zenith and Motorola are a great example of this. These two companies were both known for making TVs. Zenith stayed there; Motorola did not. Year after year, Motorola changed products and continued to make jump after jump to keep up with the market. The difference was Motorola defined its core purpose as “applying technology to the benefit of the public,” not “making television sets.” This allowed them to give up what it made and keep its core purpose.  Zenith, on the other hand, couldn’t because they were only focused on making TVs.

You must clearly define who you are as a company, and you focus not on what you do but on what you could do. Once you have a very clear picture of what you stand for and why you exist, you enhance your ability to adapt to change.

Define what you Stand For

“It’s more important than ever to define yourself in terms of what you stand for rather than what you make, because what you make is going to become outmoded faster than it has at any time in the past.” -Jim Collins

Here’s how Collins and Porras describe an organization’s core purpose:

[It’s] the organization’s fundamental reason for being. An effective purpose reflects the importance people attach to the company’s work—it taps their idealistic motivations—and gets at the deeper reasons for an organization’s existence beyond just making money.

A core purpose is bigger than any one person. It’s not defined by a charismatic leader, product, service, team, or technology. Don’t look for a cliché or a mission statement. It’s so much more than that. It’s about what you believe. And it should drive everything you do.

More than a Tagline

“Leaders die, products become obsolete, markets change, new technologies emerge, and management fads come and go, but core ideology in a great company endures as a source of guidance and inspiration.” -Jim Collins.

The whole point of your core purpose is to motivate and lead your people, not to drive sales. Your core purpose should be something meaningful that continuously anchors your employees. The core is the reason they come to work every day. People fundamentally want to know that what they are doing serves a greater purpose.

A true core purpose will endure throughout the lifetime of your company. It won’t have to sound impressive or be used as a tagline. In fact, it’s probably better if it isn’t even in your marketing messaging. It does, however, have to be extremely meaningful to your business. 

Purpose Creates Engagement

A well-communicated core purpose results in a workforce that is more engaged. When your employees understand how their job contributes to the company’s reason for existing, it is a powerful emotional connection. A job is no longer just a job, it is a shared common purpose, which promotes engagement. In turn, engaged employees work with more passion and dedication. That passion creates a connection to your company which drives customer growth. 

Companies with a highly engaged workforce improved operating income by 19.2% over a period of 12 months, whilst those companies with low engagement scores saw operating income decline by 32.7% over the same period. – 2010, Towers Watson Strategies for Growth Study. 

In simple terms, it is more thrilling to share a common purpose than complete a job.

engaged employees

Identifying Your Core Purpose in 3 Steps: 

Defining your core purpose is all about clarity, genuineness, and alignment. Collins identifies five important characteristics of a company’s core purpose:

  • It’s inspiring to those inside the company.
  • It’s something that’s as valid 100 years from now as it is today.
  • It should help you think expansively about what you could do but aren’t doing.
  • It should help you decide what not to do.
  • It’s truly authentic to your company. If it’s not authentic, your company will struggle to stand for anything meaningful. 

Bear in mind, your core purpose is not a strategy or a differentiator. In fact, multiple companies may have the same or a similar core purpose. That is OK as long as your core purpose fits the criteria. Not sure where to start? Here are 3 steps to help you determine your core purpose:

Step 1: What are you doing beyond just making money?

Ask yourself these few questions, consider doing some writing, journaling, or open up a Google Doc and start typing as you consider the following: 

  • Why does our organization’s existence matter?
  • What is your most important reason for being here? Why?
  • What would be lost if this organization ceased to exist?
  • Why are we important to the people we serve?
  • Why would anyone dedicate their precious time, energy, and passion to our company?
core purpose

Step 2: What core values do you believe in now that you will STILL believe in 100 years from today? 

This is not about wordsmithing the perfection mission statement. This is about identifying your true, honest, core values. You cannot “set” organizational values, you can only discover them. Nor can you “install” new core values into people. Instead, the task is to attract and then retain the people who are already predisposed to sharing your core values. Let those who aren’t predisposed to sharing your core values go elsewhere. 

Jim Collins said, “The founders of great, enduring organizations like Hewlett-Packard, 3M, and Johnson & Johnson often did not have a vision statement when they started out. They usually began with a set of strong personal core values and a relentless drive for progress.” 

“3M, for instance, has always had a sense of its core values—sponsoring innovation, protecting the creative individual, solving problems in a way that makes people’s lives better. These defined the organization and gave it a soul.” 

Core Values aren’t something you can jot down and then forget about. They are, in fact, everything. To identify core values, Collins suggests starting with the individual and proceed to the organization. Here’s a few poignant questions Collins gives to get you started on identifying your core values: 

  • What core values do you bring to your work—values you hold to be so fundamental that you would hold them regardless of whether or not they are rewarded? 
  • How would you describe to your loved ones the core values that you hope they stand for in their working lives? 
  • If you awoke tomorrow morning with enough money to retire for the rest of your life, would you continue to hold on to these core values? 
  • Can you envision these values being as valid 100 years from now as they are today? 
  • Would you want the organization to continue to hold these values, even if at some point one or more of them became a competitive disadvantage? 
  • If you were to start a new organization tomorrow in a different line of work, what core values would you build into the new organization regardless of its activities? 

Step 3: What are your goals?

No, we aren’t asking for your projections, or your 5-year plan, think bigger. What are your huge and audacious aspirations for the future of your company? What is the BIG picture, the outlandish, perhaps even embarrassing vision for what could be possible? 

When you have completed these three steps, you have created alignment within your company to preserve your core values, reinforce its purpose, and to stimulate continued progress towards big goals. 


Once you have identified your core purpose, the hard part begins. This is where you must align your company, practices, innovations, marketing, sales, and teams to the company purpose. This is where the magic happens. Without it, you just have a visionary idea with nothing to back it up. 

For example, one of the core values at 3M is sponsoring innovation. They put this into practice by allowing their scientists to spend 15 percent of their time working on whatever interests them. They also require each division to generate 30 percent of revenues from new products introduced in the past four years. They have an active internal venture capital fund to support promising new ventures and provides a dual career track to encourage innovators to remain innovators rather than become managers. They even give prestigious awards for innovations and entrepreneurial success. They don’t just have a mission statement; they practice the values they preach. 

Move Forward with Purpose

Most companies never define what they stand for; some never even build an accurate picture of what they’re good at. What these companies are left with is being driven only by what people will pay for. This isn’t a sustainable business model. Instead, spend the time defining what you stand for. 

The first step is to understand your true purpose, identify your core values, and pinpoint your big goals. Spend only a tiny percentage documenting that understanding, and the rest of the time building a company that aligns with your purpose. 

In short, worry about what you do, not what you say.


Gift Ideas for Employee Appreciation Day

employee appreciation

If you manage people, you should know that Friday, March 6th is Employee Appreciation Day. This day is employer branding gold because it gives you an opportunity to showcase your company culture, show how much you appreciate your employees and brag about how great your people are. This is your time to shine and really show how fun it is to work at your company.

Sure, parties are nice. But you can do better than a giant sub or an anniversary plaque. It’s about going beyond surface-level appreciation, dropping the mask of formality and create a positive relationship. 

Recently, Workhuman asked employees across industries, “What is the one thing you would change about your organization’s culture?” The top response was that people want appreciation. People just want to be appreciated and have the same level of respect from the top to the bottom. 

employee appreciation

Turns out, appreciation helps the company grow and thrive in ways you may not have realized. Companies that invest just 1% of payroll into employee recognition see significant returns in not just retention, but also productivity. Workhuman customers show an average increase in employee productivity of $1,737 per employee. For a 15,000-person organization, this equals an annual benefit of $26 million.

Here’s a few of the ideas on how to implement or celebrate Employee Appreciation Day that will really make a difference in the lives of your employees. 

1. Pay Attention

What’s going on in your employees’ lives outside of work? Who just bought a house or became a first-time parent? Who just ran their first marathon or completed a degree? If you’re not sure – ask around, get to know your people and find ways you can support them in their lives outside of the office. 

Work is a relationship, not a contract. If you want that relationship to thrive, you must give more than one celebratory day of appreciation. It’s about recognizing and appreciating the whole human continuously throughout the year. Virgin founderRichard Branson famously said: “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” 

employee appreciation day

2. Consider Service

Research by Deloitte found that 70% of working Americans believe “volunteer activities are more likely to boost employee morale than company-sponsored happy hours.” Put together a volunteer opportunity for employees in your community. Don’t make it mandatory, but offer it as a company benefit. Even better, make it possible for them to bring their families, children, and friends as well. 

3. Play Games & Socialize

Take a few hours off of work and enjoy team games. You can set up a ninja course in the parking lot, bubble balls, or sumo suits in the conference room. These can be great opportunities for teams to know each other better in a fun setting while introducing healthy competition and encouraging innovative thinking. 

4. Gifts

Create a ‘swag’ bag with fun company gifts. Include some treats, add gift cards, and share experiences at local restaurants, massage centers, or coffee shops. Include things they can share with their spouse and children. Remember to appreciate the whole family, not just the employee. 

employee appreciation for family

5. Provide a Lunch Experience

Have a food truck (or two) in the parking lot on Employee Appreciation Day, or provide a catered lunch for your employees with an activity afterward like an afternoon concert or ride around town on segways or scooters. You can ask your team to vote or look into local venues and events that could be a good fit.

6. Take a Field Trip

Get out of the office and take the whole team on a field trip for the day. Consider a local museum, garden, or amusement park. Use this opportunity to get to know your community and learn about your employees. 

7. Help with the Everyday 

Sometimes, the best reward is taking care of the everyday stuff that employees deal with after work. Remember that your employees are individuals with their own needs, families, pets, children, and hobbies. Perhaps rewarding them with a car detail service in the office parking lot, a housecleaning service, or DoorDash after a long day at work would be the best employee gift idea. 

8. Exciting Experiences

Consider special events, experiences, tickets, or travel vouchers as valuable employee gifts. Not only do employees tend to value experiences over accumulating more stuff, but they’ll also relate the positive experience with YOU, the company, and their boss. Thus strengthening their bond and loyalty. 

9. Help at Home 

Remember that your employee is supporting a family at home. Providing help at home can be an invaluable gift for employees and allow them to be more focused at work. This could be childcare, a home housecleaning service, Christmas light installation, yardwork services, handyman or professional home organizing services.

employees appreciated

10. Take Care of the Car 

If your employees drive private vehicles to work, employee appreciation day is a great time to surprise them a vehicle care day as a gift for employees. This could include a detail service that details all of the cars during the work day, a gift card for gas, an oil change voucher, tire rotation or other car services that keep your employees ride in tip top shape. 

The feeling that your work is important and that your contribution is valuable is a great motivator for anyone. Everyone wants to feel valuable and important. According to a SHRM study, 48% of employees reported that management’s recognition of their job performance was very important to their job satisfaction. This is what Employee Appreciation Day is all about. Make this the year that you truly make an effort to care for your employees, build confidence in individuals, and strengthen your company relationships. 

Is Employee Appreciation Day a Real Thing?

employee recognition

If you have a calendar on your wall, you’ll find Employee Appreciation Day printed on the first Friday of March. But you’ll also find Earth Day, Columbus Day, and Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Chances are we aren’t celebrating any of those. So does the unofficial official Employee Appreciation Day really count? Or is it just another made-up holiday like National Hot Dog Day or Walk Your Rabbit day?

The short answer is Employee Appreciation Day is officially unofficial and yes – it matters.

employee appreciation day

What it is:

Employee Appreciation Day was invented by Dr. Bob Nelson. Dr. Bob, as he is most well-known is the world’s leading authority on employee recognition. To date, Dr. Bob has worked with 80% of Fortune 500 Companies and sold over 5 million books on management, employee motivation, and engagement. Clearly, he knows a thing or two about retaining, motivating, and engaging employees.

Why March? 

There’s nothing truly special about the first Friday in March. However, there is a reason why this is the month for Employee Appreciation Day. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, December and March are the two most popular months for employees to leave their jobs. Many employees who are thinking of leaving choose to do so in the month of March, so having the holiday within the first week makes a lot of sense.

Also, because February is the shortest month of the year, it usually has the shortest deadlines and turnaround times. Many employees power through the first two months of the year and by the time we get to March, Employee Appreciation Day is a helpful break to reaffirm your connection with employees, rest their talents, and re-energize them. 

Why it Matters:

Over the last 25 years Employee Appreciation Day has grown into a respected tradition in the US. Surprisingly, according to a survey by employee recognition firm O.C. Tanner, 44 percent thought it was “extremely or very important” to recognize Employee Appreciation Day. However, in that same survey, only 10 percent said that their current place of employment does anything to actually celebrate. (Even less knew when Employee Appreciation Day was.) 

employee recognition

How to Celebrate: 

Dr. Bob himself gave some professional suggestions as to how you can effectively celebrate Employee Appreciation Day. He recommends the following: 

  • Be Sincere: It’s important to be sincere in your praise, gifts, or recognition. Praise because you are truly appreciative of what they do. A lack of sincerity only comes across as manipulative. 
  • Be Specific: Avoid general statements like, “You all did great this year” or “we’re doing a great job”. Instead, point out specific things that you appreciate about individual employees. 
  • Be Personal: Sure, an email is better than nothing- but if you can deliver praise or rewards face to face, it’s even better. This shows that it’s important enough for you to put aside all of the other things you have on your plate and focus on showing your gratitude for that one other person. 
  • Be Positive: Don’t use this day as a reason to undercut praise by saying, “You did great on that report, but there were a lot of typos.” When you use the word, “but” it completely erases all the praise. Instead, keep everything 100% positive. 
  • Be Proactive: When you know that employee appreciation day is coming up, look for people doing good. Be proactive in watching for people doing things right. This will help you in your sincerity, specificity, personal, and positive approach to the day. 

It’s a simple moral calculus – every person who works for a living deserves to be recognized and appreciated. This is especially relevant in the US, the birthplace of Employee Appreciation Day, where employees often have no guaranteed vacation time and typically work longer hours than most other developed economies. 

What to Give Your Employees 

Here are a few ideas to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day this year. Pick one or two that would serve your employees best and be sure to include a sincere, specific, and personal word of appreciation: 

employee appreciation
  1. Free Food: Food is a great equalizer. It’s also the most direct way to everyone’s heart. You can offer free lunch on site, or even gift cards or dinner packages to send a meal or two home for each employee to enjoy with their family. 
  2. Gift Packages: You can create some great gift packages for employees and their families. Give gifts, snacks, candy, and add in branded merchandise for some extra oomph!
  3. Special Award: If you have an existing recognition system you can incorporate an Employee Appreciation Day initiative to reward everyone in the office.
  4. Flexible Scheduling: We can all appreciate getting some hours back in our day, so consider ending the day early or starting the day late as a way to give your employees time to relax and kick their feet up. 
  5. Leadership Message: It’s always beneficial to have leadership record a video message, send out a special email, or give out personalized cards to show appreciation from the top down.
  6. Experiences: Give your employees the gift of experience for Employee Appreciation Day. This could be concert tickets, theme park admission, vacation vouchers, or skydiving for the whole team. If these types of experiences are outside of your budget – consider smaller experiences like admission to a local museum or art gallery, a fitness class, or a spa day coupon. Think about what your employees are interested in and get to know them to find an experience that would fit their personalities.
  7. Everyday Help: Your employees still have to get their oil changed, go grocery shopping, and walk the dog when they get home after work. Celebrate employee appreciation day by helping with the everyday. Offer a gift card for grocery delivery or a home meal service. Have an oil change service come to the office or offer home help during the workday. This can be a great way to show your employees you understand their obligations outside of work and are willing to support their home and family.

Employee Appreciation Day is a golden opportunity to set the tone of your culture and serve as a regular touchstone to reinforce your ideas. The real question is why AREN’T you celebrating?


The Power of Teambuilders

meeting with team

Do you know why do geese fly in a ‘V’ formation? Because it allows them to work as a team. Geese are amazing examples of natural teambuilders, there’s a lot we can learn from these amazing teams.  

The leader of the gaggle starts at the front of the V. This is the hardest position to fly because he has the most wind resistance. This is why the leader takes this position. He is helping the other geese by taking on the tough workload. When he needs a break, he communicates to the others. Immediately another goose steps up to the front of the V to take his spot. 

geese flying in v teamwork

As the other geese follow behind, they are constantly paying attention to one another. If one goose should fall out of formation for any number of reasons, two others will always follow and create a secondary V. Those three geese stay together until they are able to join the team again. 

Throughout this process there is not one goose working harder than the others, they each take turns at the front. No one gets mad when someone gets tired, or a smaller goose needs a little extra help. The gaggle is constantly paying attention to who needs what, they are equally sharing, and communicating when they can and when they cannot lead. 

Geese work together seamlessly without any official training or a goose company handbook. 

Unfortunately, when humans try to create teams, it rarely works so seamlessly. Instead of clear communication, organization and instinctual support, you often get one of four common team problems: 

1. The one where you do all the work. 

2. The one where you can’t get a word in edgewise.

3. The one that ends up in a useless monologue by one team member. 

4. The one that is all play and no actual work gets done.  

It’s no wonder why only 24% of participants in a survey conducted by the University of Phoenix, reported preferring to work in teams. However, if you can harness the power of teams you may very well unlock the hidden gem to ultimate business success. Luckily, a little science can help.

meeting with team

Finding Teamwork Superpowers

In 2010, a collaborative research effort conducted by Carnegie Mellon, MIT, and Union College set out to identify what factors support and destroy teamwork efforts. 

They identified three teamwork superpowers: 

  • Superpower #1. Conversation turn-taking: No, this doesn’t mean you have to use a talking stick (although it wouldn’t hurt). This simply means that a team doesn’t work well together unless everyone is contributing – plain and simple. 
  • Superpower #2. Social Sensitivity: This requires team members to truly perceive and understand the feelings and viewpoints of others. This can be difficult to do when combining multiple team members from multiple backgrounds and personalities. Ironically, the 2010 research study found that the most successful groups tended to include more women, due to their higher levels of social sensitivity.
  • Superpower #3. Psychological Safety: Google has conducted their own research on what makes teams hum with efficiency. They were surprised to find just one common factor in successful teams, which was psychological safety. Team members needed to feel comfortable speaking. This comes down to trust within the group. Teamwork and trust go hand in hand. It’s very difficult to have one without the other.

Effective Teambuilding Today

Teamwork” became a buzzword in the 1980’s. Team workshops became all the rage and although they were successful, upper management treated teambuilding as a fad and reverted to the comfortable top-down management style.  Despite these initial setbacks, teambuilding has become increasingly productive and the power of the team is here to stay. It’s never been more important to emphasize collaboration rather than control. So, what makes the most powerful teambuilders? There is more than one answer, but here are some pointers:


1. Get Buy-In. Teamwork requires buy-in from all team members. When you mention teambuilding, is everyone eager and excited, or is the idea met with silent groans? It might be time to think outside the box, consider the personality and needs of your group, and create buy-in through clear communication. 

2. Avoid the Awkward. Teambuilders, where people are singled out and might feel embarrassed, is exactly the opposite of the trust-building activities needed to build strong teams. You want teambuilding activities that actually encourage and require the support of a team, not singling out individuals. 

3. Create a Challenge. Working through a challenge together increases oxytocin and group cohesiveness. There is a myriad of options when it comes to choosing a challenge from tech projects to puzzles, art graphics to rope courses, the possibilities are limitless. Choosing the right challenge comes back to knowing your team. 

4. Keep Communication Open. This is consistently pointed to as the main facilitator in building effective teams. According to, 186% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. That’s literally more than everyone. Relationships are built on conversations of both private matters and company business. 

5. Be Honest. Honesty is an essential element of communication and trust. It is essential that colleagues feel safe and comfortable sharing honest opinions about problems or issues. This requires others to actively listen and involve them in team actions and team decisions. 

6. Diversity. The power of a team is exponentially increased by diversity among team members. When multiple members of an organization come from varying backgrounds, culture, age, sex, skill sets, talents, or education it allows them to leverage their experiences to solve even the most challenging work issues.

7. Carry Your Weight. This also comes back to trust. Each team member must be able to carry their own weight, follow through and coordinate their efforts both independently and within the group.

8. Set Expectations. Assign specific milestones for productive and consistent progress in any project. This is key for trust, accountability, and collaboration. 

Feeling inspired? Today’s workforce requires an adaptable culture to find actionable answers. It’s time to get your team ‘flying in a V formation’ and unleash the superpowers of your team. 


You Are What You Eat

work cafeteria

Using Food To Boost Company Culture

Turns out, the quickest way to an employee’s heart may actually be through food. Whether it’s a treat in the breakroom, a catered lunch, or a food truck in the parking lot there’s a lot to be said for using food to boost company culture. Shared meals are a naturally casual way to strengthen a team and build a more positive company culture.

Chances are, it’s been a while since you took a real actual lunch break. For most of us, we grab something on our way to a meeting or snarf down leftovers in between emails. According to recent research, only one in five people are setting aside time during the workday to eat lunch. The rest of us are missing out, and so is your company. 

lunch salad

Company lunches are proving to be extremely beneficial for some of the country’s biggest corporations. For example, lunch at Google is part of the company’s efforts to have employees from different disciplines meet. Having one person from accounting and another from marketing have lunch at the same time is the perfect place for different perspectives to collide and create new ideas.

In a study of 20,000 U.S. managers and their teams by Harvard Business Review and The Energy Project, it is clear that lunch breaks (especially those taken together) are hugely beneficial to the company culture. In the study, 40 percent said they felt more engaged and creative when they took a break from work to each lunch. Over 80 percent admitted they were more likely to stay at a company where lunch breaks were encouraged.

How it Benefits you and your employees

  • Relationships: Lunch is the time when employees are more likely to see, socialize, and talk to other employees who may not be in their department. These types of stronger inter-department relationships lead to efficiency and better collaboration.

In an interview with The Independent Google’s UK managing director, Dan Cobley, explained the importance of the “serendipitous interactions” that happen while their employees (Googlers) stand in line for lunch, “we know people will chat while they’re waiting. Chats become ideas, and ideas become projects.”

employees at lunch
  • Productivity: Providing company lunch during your peak busy season can have a huge payoff. Studies have shown productivity in an office that hires a corporate catering service can increase as high as 150%! Knowing they have a lunch provided that is high quality, healthy, and delicious allows employees to focus throughout the day. 
  • Change the Meeting: No one is excited to attend a meeting, but if they know their lunch will be waiting for them it not only makes the meeting more bearable, but more productive as well. When employees know they’re going to enjoy a delicious lunch during a meeting, they are less likely to be distracted by email and cell phones and more engaged in the meeting topic. 
  • Celebrate! Lunch is a great way to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, and company achievements. Set aside the store-bought cake and actually offer real celebration for your employees.
  • Get Healthy: Healthier employees are not only more productive, use fewer sick days are less likely to develop medical conditions that require costly treatment. they show up. Dashing through a drive-through or in a gas station for lunch means your employees are often eating unhealthy food. Employees who eat a healthy lunch are not only less likely to come down with a cold and gives you at least one opportunity to encourage healthy eating habits among your employees.
  • Not Just Lunch: Healthy snacks are another way to provide your employees the boost they need and maintain energy and focus at work. Snacks tend to draw a wide audience to the breakroom, which encourages relationships across the office. Stock the break room well and then sit back and watch it impacts the culture in your office.
work cafeteria

Ideas to Get Started: 

If you’re ready to see a big shift in morale and collaboration in your office, start with a company lunch. Providing lunch once a week is a great place to start. There are several ways to do it, depending on the size of your office: 

  • Less than 10 people – Take individual orders for a local restaurant, have an assistant or secretary pick up lunch and have it ready in the breakroom or conference room for everyone to enjoy. Try different places around town to provide variety and respect the decision of those who choose not to participate (although honestly, why would they?) 
  • 20-100 People: Anywhere in this range is perfect for a catered lunch. You can talk to local restaurants about their catering options and most often they will come set it up for you and take it down a few hours later. Another option may be to get a local food truck to stop by outside for a few hours. Let everyone know when the truck is available and pick up the bill at the end of the allotted time. 
  • 100+ People: Once you get to more than 100 people in your office you should definitely consider using your own kitchen and hiring a chef. If you don’t’ have the facilities or budget for this, continue with large service catering options. 

Add Value: If your lunch meetings feel too contrived, convert them into a Lunch and Learn. You can ask coworkers to share a cool shortcut or tool, present a productivity hack, or share a video or webinar can bring value to other team members without being overly formal. You can also try to add in theme lunches to help get to know your team better. Present a theme like “Where is your favorite place to travel?” or “What was your first job?” and use the lunch to focus conversation around getting to know each other better. 

Company Lunch is a boost for Everyone

Everyone needs to eat. The lunch hour at work doesn’t have to be lonely, rushed or non-existent. Why not enjoy it together and give your company a boost in the meantime. Oh, and by the way – yeah, 100% of the cost of office lunch is deductible, so there’s always that too. 


The Experience Economy of 2020


When our parents were in the workforce, buying a new car, or moving into a high-class neighborhood was the image of success. Today’s workforce could care less about what they drive. In fact many choose cheap mopeds or even bike to work. They certainly don’t mind renting an apartment to come home to either. What employees really want has completely shifted and so has the world of employer benefits. 

Learning from the Past: 

Post-WWII, American’s craved normalcy and strived to get “stuff.” After the destruction and fighting was over, having things – certainly having more than the next guy, was the ideal of success and security. By the 1960s, people were obsessed with having more stuff. The middle class was the most prolific buyers of many luxury goods. The gross national product rose 36 percent, personal spending increased by 42 percent. Huge corporations started to take over and getting more “stuff” was the milestones of life – a home in suburbia, a Cadillac, a couple of kids, white picket fence, a color television (or two), and dinner on the table at 5pm. 

Today, this isn’t the case. Instead of collecting more things, we are dejunking, unloading, and Marie-kondoing our space. The old markers of success have lost their luster and instead, millennials want to seize the moment, explore experiences and carpe diem as much as possible. 

Many millennials are foregoing life in the suburbs for an apartment in the city. They are waiting to have children in order to embrace more of life’s experiences. They are going for more access and less ownership, living life rather than buying it. 


Why Stuff is No Longer Enough: 

According to a study conducted by Expedia and the Center for Generational Kinetics, 74 percent of Americans now prioritize experiences over products or things. This new “experience economy” is changing everything. Why stay home and play board games when you can go to a real-life escape room? Why eat dinner at home when you can do a bar crawl or distillery tour instead? Who wants to climb the corporate ladder for a corner office when you can be a freelancer and have the freedom to work from anywhere in the world?

The Experience Economy:

This rise of experience economy has changed a lot of what we do, including the employee benefits we offer. No more is a raise or a cash bonus motivating enough to your employees. They are looking for more. 

Part of this shift comes from kids are watching their parents’ lives crumble as a result of financial meltdowns. Today you see men and women well into their 70s working at the grocery stores and the fast-food drive thru. Another part comes from the realization that spending money doesn’t bring lasting joy, but experiences can. 

This is why employees now value flexibility in PTO, work from anywhere opportunities, travel experiences, education and networking more than they value the cash in their pocket. Experiences are unique, individual, shareable and lasting. A new TV is none of those things.  

Success is no longer tied to the size of your bank account or the location of your office. According to a recent article in Forbes, “…millennials are changing the definition by focusing on purpose-driven work and relationships.” 

What Experiences Do We Crave? 

Everyone is looking for some type of experience, but what you’re looking for likely depends on your age. Atop the list of experiences that all Americans are saving for is travel. Studies show 65 percent of millennials are saving money for travel plans in the future. But even travel looks a bit different for each generation: 

  • Gen Z (Born between 1996-2020): They are looking to try new things and explore the world around them. They may enjoy new experiences close to home, or going to places they have never seen before. This group is also more likely to enjoy a long weekend rather than book an extended vacation.
  • Millennials and Gen X (Born 1965-1995): This group values relaxation, a time at the beach, a nice spa getaway, a retreat somewhere in the mountains, secluded and quiet. For this group, a week off of work is the perfect amount of time to rest and recharge. 
  • Baby Boomers (Born before 1965): The classic sightseeing is important for this group. They want to see the historical sights and the landmarks of the world. For this group, they tend to plan their travel well in advance, and are often gone for more than one week. 
travel company

How This Affects the Economy:

The Experience Economy has created billion-dollar start ups like Uber, AirBnb, and WeWork. There is a whole new part of the economy that didn’t even exist before. It’s designed to make travel easy and create attainable experiences close to home. Millennials “aren’t spending our money on cars, TVs and watches,” Taylor Smith, CEO and co-founder of Blueboard, told CNBC. “We’re renting scooters and touring Vietnam, rocking out at music festivals, or hiking Machu Picchu.”

Social media has only added fuel to the experience fire. While you likely won’t post a picture of your new TV, you will absolutely post a photo of your weekend road trip. The fear of missing out has more of us looking for something we can do, somewhere to go, and experience to have, enjoy, and post about. Since 1987, Harris group found that the share of consumer spending on live experiences and events relative to total U.S. consumer spending increased 70 percent.

Bringing the Experience Economy to the Office:  

This breakthrough creates a mountain of opportunities for employers to support their employees, gain loyalty, and provide experiences that are significantly more beneficial than a Christmas bonus or new iPod. Consider benefits like concert tickets, yoga retreats, spa packages, travel reimbursement, date night ideas, classes, or passes to a local sporting event. 

employee with tickets

Still not sure where to start? 

Embrace the experience culture in your office to give your employees what they crave. In turn, employees tend to be more loyal to employers who understand and support their interests. Based on the age of your staff, here are a few ideas to get you started: 

Age:Valuable Experience Ideas: 
Employees under 25 years old: Concert tickets
Escape Room
Axe Throwing PaintballGo-Cart Racing Skydiving/Indoor Sky Diving Distillery Tours 
Bar Crawls 
Sporting Event Tickets Hiking or Backpacking Experiences
Employees between 25-50:Concert or Sporting Event Tickets 
Wine Tour or Weekend Winery Couples Massage Facial Mani/Pedi 
Mindfulness Retreat Beach getaway, activities Cruise Package National Park activities or retreats 
Employees older than 50 years old: National Landmark Tickets  Historical hotel stay Cruise Package 


How To Get Management Buy In

management buy in for plan

The age-old traditions of annual reviews, top-down leadership, and revolving talent are no longer working to help businesses thrive. Today’s HR professionals understand that to improve engagement, increase motivation, and attract new talent while retaining the people they already have, requires them to foster a new type of environment. 

While HR departments everywhere know exactly where they should be focusing their time, the hard part is getting the buy-in from executives and upper management. 

New plans require new budgets and for HR professionals to get the support they need, they must get management buy-in, from the top. The best way to do this is to communicate the plans in a way that management will respond to. If they can get the executive buy-in first, and leadership is on board, your new initiative can start off on the right foot. 

management buy in for plan

Start with a Plan 

Before you explain to top-level executives the costs of training, technology, or tools you need to have a plan. Your plan should have three main points: the problem, the change, the plan. 

1.     The Problem: Clearly define the problem, and what needs to change. 

2.     The Change: Explain what it will take to solve the problem and (most importantly) why. 

a.     Be sure to include both long term and short-term advantages. 

b.     Show how your initiative aligns with the more broad company goals. 

3.     The Data: This part is crucial. You’re need data backup your plan. Have numbers, quotes, products, and any informational data you can to answer questions and back up your plan. 

a.     Look for numbers on organizational bottlenecks, declines in productivity, production delays, and other top priorities. 

b.     Stay away from theoretical data. 

c.     Find ways to relate your data to dollars and cents.

BONUS – The Comparison: If you really want to pack a punch, make a direct comparison to what it will cost the company if you do absolutely nothing. What’s the outlook in one year? Three years? 

The key is to know your plan inside and out. The more time you spend in the planning stage, the better prepared you will be to answer key questions and speak clearly about the details that matter to your management team.

Consider timing

Before you pitch your plan, consider your timing in relation to what is going on in other areas of the company. Bad timing can ruin even the best of intentions. Be conscious of budgeting processes and business dependencies. Understand the overall pulse of the company and make sure you are up to speed on what is happening at the macro level to ensure your proposal is supporting the whole, not conflicting with current company issues.

Know Your Audience: 

If you are pitching your initiative to upper management, you need to know about the people you are seeking support from. Get to know their personalities and tailor your approach to them. If they are no-nonsense, get-to-the-point type of people, don’t waste time with flowery language. If they want concrete data, don’t use hypothetical examples. Do they prefer general charts and graphs or more detailed information? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, it may pay off to do some research and talk to others who may be able to help you get to know the leadership team. 

Practice Your Pitch

Ask a friend, family member, or even your dog to let your practice your pitch. Have someone come back at your points asking “why?” or “so what?” so that you’re ready to respond to criticism clearly and calmly. This can help you dive deeper into what you are really trying to achieve and exactly why your company won’t succeed without it.

meeting with executives

This Isn’t Show and Tell

You can’t allow any program to sell itself, even if you’re sold on it. You have to be the one to tell them, sell them on it, and don’t rely on a demo to do the work for you. Your research and data should drive the presentation. Upper management isn’t interested in an infomercial, they want a specific solution to a specific problem that directly relates to the company. 

Consider Alternatives:

Of course, you want your plan to pass with flying colors, but chances are there will be some compromising. Go in planning for a negotiation and be prepared for Plan B, C, D, and E. 

For example: 

·      What you could do with half your requested budget? 

·      Could you make it work with only part of the resources you need? 

·      Are there other alternatives that cost less? 

Having backup options will help you to remain flexible and responsive to feedback and ideas. 

Know the Answers

Before you walk into the meeting, have the answers to the questions you know will be asked. The better you can answer these questions the easier it will be for the executives to make a decision. The dialog you bring is more important than your pitch, so be ready for anything. Start with this list of questions and be sure you can answer each one thoroughly: 

·      How does this plan help us retain or attract talent?

·      How does XYZ impact the bottom line?

·      How do we measure up to the competition on this issue?

·      What resources do you already have? What will you need?

·      How long will this take to be effective?

·      What metrics can we use to track this initiative?

·      What does the implementation process look like? 

·      How does this affect various departments?

·      What will happen if we don’t implement this change/policy/strategy?

Above All, Be Confident

Remember that you are the expert. You have the skills and experience to get your initiatives off the ground. Have confidence in your plan and the value of your ideas. Be open to feedback and compromise but remain strong in your beliefs. If you can follow your plan to show how your initiative aligns with company goals, that ROI can be measured, and that your plan will have a significant impact to change both your employees’ lives and the bottom line, you will get the buy-in you’re looking for.