Brittany Walker

Engaging Your Workforce: Just for Fun

A highly engaged workforce is good for business, plain and simple. One way to effectively move the needle on engagement is to foster a mentality of fun throughout the organization. A fun company culture is established through the energy of the workplace, and it’s up to leadership to walk the walk, and managers to set the tone for their teams. We spend a lot of time at work, might as well enjoy ourselves while we’re there.

Here are a few simple ways to foster engagement through fun:

  1. Take a note from The Office‘s Party Planning Committee. Nominate or request volunteers to head up your version of a Culture Club – however it fits your organization’s size and structure. At Tribe, our Culture Club comes in the form of the Snack Committee. With a budget of $100 per month, Tribe’s Snack Committee takes on the responsibility of a bi-weekly trip to the grocery store to fuel the office. Everybody loves free snacks; and a little bit goes a long way.
  2. Indulge in a little friendly competition. Organizing challenges is a great way to impact employee engagement. A fitness competition can bring wellness to life in your organization, and can easily scale to be as high or low tech as desired, for any number for employees. Competition can also apply to the work itself, by creating a challenge around an initiative or problem-solving exercise. Prizes often help up the ante.
  3. Encourage personal friendships at work. Having a good friend at work can lead to a greater sense of belonging. And when things don’t go as planned, or long hours are taking a toll, the built-in teamwork mentality of a friendship can drive employees to address problems more constructively. Fostering friendships at work starts with the vibe of the workplace. Incorporating social activities and encouraging eating lunch as a team is a great place to start.
  4. Celebrate success. Congratulating wins and milestones is an important step in building a fun culture. From dedicated website portals, to a verbal “thank you,” there are many effective methods to increase excitement and morale through acknowledgment. Even better, rewarding employees in front of their peers (i.e., friends), puts a little extra oomph in building pride.

Interested in building engagement through fun? Tribe can help.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin

The Waffle House EVP: offering meaningful work by serving the community during disasters

How does your organization provide meaningful work? If your company is developing the cure for cancer or your non-profit is addressing world hunger, it’s easy to identify the higher purpose that’s part of your Employee Value Proposition. But for companies with less obvious contributions to making the world a better place, it’s sometimes a challenge to help employees feel that their work is truly making a difference.

Waffle House might not be the first company that comes to mind when you think of meaningful work. But their employees know customers depend on them 24/7. Sometimes all their customers need is eggs and bacon in the wee hours after some hard partying. Other times they turn to Waffle House for safe harbor in a storm.

So much so that FEMA has developed what they call the Waffle House Index. A recent story on NPR reports that FEMA uses Waffle House closings to track the impact of hurricanes and severe storms. If a Waffle House is not open, it’s a good indicator that things are pretty bad in that area. “It just doesn’t happen where Waffle House is normally shut down,” said Philip Strouse, FEMA’s private sector liaison for the Southeast. “They’re sort of the canary in the coal mine, if you will.”

It’s not by accident that Waffle House provides a refuge for the community. Company management has made disaster preparedness a part of their overall business strategy – and their employee culture.

There’s a Waffle House hurricane playbook, for instance. Pat Warner, VP of Culture at Waffle House, said the employees refer to the playbook when a disaster hits their community. Hurricanes and winter storms are also monitored at corporate, which will rent generators and send teams to areas where a storm is expected to hit.

Waffle House also has an emergency menu in place for such disasters. Developed by engineers, the menu makes the most of available electricity and other resources, while enabling the staff to dish up a lot of food fast for the overflowing crowds gathered there. Two items you won’t be able to order in an emergency are waffles (waffle makers use so much electricity they can tax the generators) and bacon (all those strips take up too much geography on the grill).

In Atlanta’s 2014 Snowpocalypse, commuters stranded on highways gathered at Waffle House restaurants all over the city. NPR interviewed William Palmer, manager of a Waffle House in Norcross, about that experience. “My day was pretty long,” he said. “Basically, make sure the customer area was safe, make sure we (de-)iced the road, and just make sure everything was great for the customers.”

Like emergency personnel from fire fighters to ER staffs, Waffle House employees put serving the community in an emergency ahead of being at home with their own families. That doesn’t happen without a culture that places a strong value on filling that role and creates employee pride in the community being able to count on them.

And like most defining elements of a company culture, that starts at the very top. “What we’ve found in discussions with Waffle house is that they really considered responding to emergencies part of their core mission to meet the needs of customers,” said Julie Swann, associate professor at Georgia Tech, who uses the example of Waffle House in her work.

 Interested in building your employee culture? Tribe can help.