by: Melissa Brandt
With summer time hitting its full stride many companies experience a slight to (in some cases) severe slump in employee performance. Lets face it, with summer vacations, nicer weather, outdoor activities, BBQ's and longer days it is a bit against most peoples nature to remain tethered to a desk. So how can you as a manager or employer compete with the your employees primal urge to get out there? Here are a few quick ideas on keeping workers focused, productive and happy on those beautiful summer days!
1. Incentives - This one may seem so simple that right about now you are probably uttering the proverbial "duh". The problem? Most managers I speak with feel limited in their ability to hand out cash incentives in today's economy. As I mentioned in a previous article many companies are running a lean, or in some cases shoe string budget. If you don't find yourself in this boat, count yourself lucky. Though this advice will work for everyone regardless of whether or not they have tight purse strings. And we all know saving money is always a good idea.
The newsflash here is that incentives don't necessarily have to equal cash bonuses! In fact the same summer time activities that are causing your team to lose focus, drive and productivity are the exact motivators you are going to use to solve your problem. The number one thing people want during these lazy hazy days of summer is to get out there and enjoy it. By offering incentives that promote shorter days, flex time, or telecommute opportunities you are providing excellent motivators. By giving people goals not only are you helping to keep the focus on your bottom line, you're making success easy on your employees. When people have a clear cut idea of what is expected out of them they do better at their assigned tasks! Also folks tend to respond best to goals that they feel are in their best interest. No matter how loyal your employees may be it's difficult even for our diehard workers to give it their usual 110% when the summer sun is calling. Offering employees the opportunity to do what they want with their time guarantees that you will get the best out of them during the hours they devote to you and their careers.
2. Company/Corporate Functions - Each CEO, owner, or manager has their own style of running things. While we may not all be Richard Bransons or work at Google, that doesn't mean that our office culture has to be as dull and monotonous as Office Space. While it may sound cliche: A happy worker really is a productive worker; Fact.
If you simply can't afford to offer your employees any additional time off consider making the office environment a bit more fun to be in. To be clear I am not taking about Hawaiian shirt day. I think it's fair to say that no one really ever enjoyed that too much and it was abundantly clear why. "Fun" shouldn't feel fake. Office activities like Hawaiian shirt day don't motivate because they not only seem tired and contrived, but because they smack of disingenuousness! So whats the alternative? Below are a few easy and fun ideas:
Humble Pie - Who doesn't secretly (or not to secretly in some cases!) want to see the boss eat humble pie at some point in their careers? I admit that this one may not be for the faint of heart, or the vain. But there is something eerily motivating about giving employees the chance to shove whipped cream in your face. The employee who achieves the set goal quickest wins the ability to do just that. Trust me when I say that this is an opportunity that even the most angelic of coworkers or employees can hardly resist. If you're saying "wait a minute. I like the idea, but I don't want to be the one to get pie on my face" then consider conducting an employee pole. By getting each Manager, Division Head, or even C-level Executive (that are willing) to participate in the fun you help to level the playing field and also make it more enjoyable for you too! If we were all honest even the best of teams have at least one person who has involuntarily (I hope) rubbed coworkers wrong at some point, or maybe you have a office clown who goofs off just a bit too much? If so you can be assured that they will be voted for and for just a few moments everyone will feel just a little justice was served. They key with this one is to keep it lighthearted. Remember that its all in good fun and you will get great performance out of employees competing to win the right to throw that pie!
Company BBQ or Picnic - This is a great one and its fairly simple. Whether the food is catered or each person brings a dish this is still a relatively economic company function that is easy for large or small businesses, departments, teams etc. to pull off. If possible I suggest holding these events outside if the weather and your location permit it. Studies show that even 15 minutes of sunlight a day not only helps to provide your daily dose of vitamin D, but can greatly lift mood and even mental abilities. Keep in mind it's important to pick a day and make that everyone will be able to be present. Despondency may be an issue for those not permitted to join. Though most companies choose after work house to hold functions, hosting these events at lunch time is a great way to break up the day and keep your employees energized; everyone needs to eat right? The real beauty of this type of event is actual two fold. One is that it gives people the chance to mingle with those that they may not often get to see much face to face during the typical work day and it fosters an easy ground for even the most awkward to socialize. No matter who is on your team or where they may come from, people have always gathered for meals and doing so is a very natural and enjoyable experience for everyone. Two is the unique opportunity it affords you to hold impromptu informal meetings to catch up on the days activities without seeming like a micro manager.
3. Freebies/Contests - Whether you're looking to create a little healthy competition between your team members, departments, or (especially) within your sales team contests and giveaways can be a fun a effective way to keep the production ball rolling. Everyone likes to win. Even if you can't provide an all expenses paid trip for two to St. Barts, that doesn't mean that your corporate swag won't do in a pinch. The real point of the activity here isn't the prize itself its about the feeling it gives someone to WIN! If you want to go the silly funny route you can even choose to make the prize a half joke/jag. Believe it or not I've actually motivated people to produce amazing results with some of the silliest methods, and this is by no means age restricted (I'm talking to you Diane. I believe you still have that Moose). Of course if you are in a position to provide a slightly higher ticket item that certainly will not hurt anything. Free dinners, spa days, a round of golf, or that all expense paid trip to the Caribbean will all get the job done. Just remember that keeping it simple can work just as well as complicated and expensive options.
This list is by no means exhaustive, but has hopefully given you a few creative or new ideas. I would love to hear from you if you have others to share and welcome your feedback and ideas.