Imagination Sharpens the Dull Blade of Routine
Keeping employees energized, enthusiastic, and engaged in their work is a constant challenge in these uncertain times. I have ventured into countless numbers of companies to facilitate seminars, where cultures of “terminal seriousness” are pervasive, and staff looks as if they’re on death row. A recent study showed that almost 80% of all work-related injuries, and illnesses, are stress-related. Companies are starting to acknowledge the need to “lighten up,” and inject some fun into the fundamentals of business. Here are just a few suggestions that can improve morale, teamwork and productivity…
Start a Monday morning off with “humor impact aerobics.” Within a time frame of two-three minutes, this will re-energize your staff after a long weekend and re-connect everyone in the spirit of teamwork. Everyone stands next to each other in a line or circle. Direct them to raise their right arm and shake out their hand, then left arm/left hand. Now have them shake out their right leg, then left leg. Next, right arm/right leg, left arm/left leg, right arm/left leg, left arm/right leg. It will look like an epileptic support group, and the room will fill with laughter as some struggle to maintain their balance. Now, using their right hand, they take the left hand of the person on their right, and shake their hand (the person on their left will be shaking their left hand). Finally, have them face the front of the room and take a deep breath with a slow exhale. Now they are primed and pumped for the day’s tasks!
If you find staff morale or energy levels sagging in mid-day, take them aboard the “massage train.” Have them stand one behind the other, throw their hands way up in the air and stretch, then drop the hands onto the shoulders of the person in front of them and rub. Then reverse the line 180 degrees and repeat the process. This need not take more than a few minutes, just to reignite the energy level via some fun interaction by kinesthetically connecting everyone.
An employee at a local department store found a fun-filled answer to the problem of learning new company guidelines for clerks. She’s also an aspiring singer, and with management’s blessing, created a “compliance choir” that sang the new guidelines over the store’s sound system just prior to opening the store. The tune was not only catchy, but the clerks caught the message as well, and there were far fewer mistakes made during new policy changes.
Much resistance can show up when implementing new company guidelines and policies, blocking retention of information. One time I was hired to announce a company’s new safety regulations as several of the celebrity characters that I do. This not only entertained and disarmed the disgruntled staff, but it proved to be effective in helping employees retain the new information, because they connected it to what my characters (Jack Nicholson, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Julia Child, and other celebrities) said about it.
You may want to render your own version of what I call the “Worst Work Experience of the Week Award.” I worked for a bank that was beset by low morale among the tellers, who constantly feared dealing with troublesome customers. So on Fridays we started to reward the teller who was voted the best (most horrific) story about a difficult customer with a prize. It dramatically improved morale and increased customer satisfaction because tellers were now seeking out those hard-to-please patrons to win the award. Customers responded by becoming more civil, as a result of the increased attention.
When appropriate humor and fun become embedded in a company’s culture, employees feel more relaxed, resourceful, and ready to contribute to the business.