This is the fourth article on my experience coming into a small company as their first Human Resources leader.
Work should be a happy place, right? Not necessarily a laugh-a-minute, but one where you genuinely enjoy your co-workers and people are in a positive mood, most of time. Maybe even a joke now and then.
When I came into my current company as it’s first HR leader, it was not an unhappy place. People genuinely liked each other and liked working with each other, and there were activities in place, like Thursday “Happy Hour” where everyone could pause and spend some social time together.
But, it was not a lighthearted place, and many people were not satisfied in their jobs. As I talked about in earlier articles, the culture needed a tune-up if we were going to attract and retain talent, and drive our business results. We needed a workplace that people looked forward to coming into each day, and employees that were engaged and satisfied. We needed real “fun”.
Fun happens when people like and trust each other, at all levels of the company. Fun happens when business trends are great, and the team can see the results of their hard work. Fun can happen in the middle of a quiet day when someone finds something for the group to laugh at. And fun can happen at a great meeting or off-site.
In a small company, HR can help be the “soul” of the organization that helps bring all of those things to life. In earlier articles, I talked about how establishing consistent and meaningful two-way communication, making sure everyone has the right resources to do their job, and making sure you have the right structure and people in place are the building blocks to creating a positive culture.
The next step was putting in place an effective recognition process, and pulling together meaningful team-building activities.
For the more tactical, day to day recognition, we were looking for something tangible that people could see and touch, so we came up with “Brenthaven Chips”. When you want to publically recognize someone, you write their name on the chip, and explain why you are recognizing them, and which of the values that they represent. We put all the chips in a bowl and do a drawing every Monday for a small gift card.
For company meetings, we came up a formula for our meetings that has a good balance of short, concise business updates, entertaining activities like trivia contests, and then a fun social activity. The most outrageous activity was taking trapeze classes with the group. Nothing gets your adrenaline going like flying through the air trying not to fall off the trapeze bar and face plant into the net!
The other team building events that resonated with our group were our “give-back” events. I polled the team to find out what areas they were interested in donating their time to in our community. We came up with 4 areas that the group wanted to support: Animal welfare, the environment, education, and helping the homeless.
I was able to come up with group events throughout the year that supported all of those causes, and people could pick and choose which one they wanted to support. We did yardwork at an Animal Shelter, planting in a local park, career fairs for a group that supports underprivileged high school Seniors get into and stay in college, and handed out food at a local foodbank. These events made the team proud of each other and our company. And they were fun!
We made our company goal of contributing 1% of our time back to our community, and had a great time doing it.
No one of these things can change your culture on its own. It is the combination of them all that makes a difference. In a small company, a little bit of attention can go a long way. HR can be the agent that helps bring about a culture that is rewarding, satisfying, productive, and yes, even fun.