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FUN! The Missing Driver of Employee Engagement and Recruiting

By Kevin Sheridan, Principal, Kevin Sheridan LLC

One of the central messages that’s consistently missing from most companies’ efforts to build world-class engagement and attract fantastic new talent is a simple three-letter word: Fun.
This woeful absence and missed opportunity is beginning to get noticed and corrected by more and more organizations. Hence the major rise of gamification in the workplace and the widespread incorporation of modern perks (e.g., ping pong tables and beer carts) into the employment value proposition. While these types of benefits used to be limited to tech start-ups, companies in all industries are nowadays following suit. Why? Because it’s good for business. Having a fun company culture helps engage current employees, as well as attract top job candidates.  
Coworkers are the unheralded glue of what makes employees come back to work – and even look forward to it. As an employer or manager, feeding co-worker satisfaction is in your best interest. A full 87% of employees say their co-workers are friendly and helpful . Considering how positively employees respond to this survey item, employers can easily capitalize on this key engagement driver. By allowing staff the opportunity to socialize and have fun throughout the day, organizations are able to foster employee camaraderie and co-worker satisfaction to bolster engagement.
A job should not be all work and no play. This important aspect of the work environment has been left out of the equation for far too long. But some smart employers have recently realized the impact a little fun can have on engagement, and they are not turning back. After all, engaged employees are 3.5 times more likely to stay with their employer, lowering turnover costs.   So creating an environment where employees are having fun while performing great work makes good business sense.

It’s bright, shiny, new, and it can take you places you never dreamed possible. A little red wagon? Close. I’m actually talking about a career with Radio Flyer – the people who make those little red wagons. People around the world know that Radio Flyer has been making children happy for generations, but a lot of folks may not know the same holds true for its employees. With more than 10 awards in the past few years for being a top employer – including HR Solutions’ Best-in-Class Award – Radio Flyer is attracting attention by simply understanding that adults want to have fun too.
On their first day at Radio Flyer, new hires receive a “welcome wagon” that goes far beyond a typical meet-and-greet; they’re given an actual Radio Flyer wagon to take home and play with so they can reconnect with the fun-loving child within. Senior leadership understands feeling valued and appreciated is a key driver of employee engagement, so making employees (a.k.a. “Flyers”) feel immediately welcome is essential. Receiving the company’s flagship product also connects Flyers (and their families) to the brand, which fosters strong employee and family support from day one.
But the fun doesn’t end for Flyers after their first day on the job. Creating a happy, healthy and rewarding environment for staff members at all levels remains a top priority. Employees are shown that their hard work is recognized through various events and awards. As a direct result of great management and direction, Radio Flyer’s most recent Employee Engagement Survey results showed that 92% of Flyers look forward to coming to work every day. (And it’s not just because of regular company tricycle races!) Radio Flyer’s ongoing efforts to create an environment that attracts and retains top talent serves as a shining example for organizations across all industries.

Even if your organization doesn’t specialize in making toys, there are still plenty of opportunities to incorporate elements of fun that will shape the culture and act as a magnet for top talent. So what else can Human Resources do to create more fun in the workplace? Specific fun activities that I’ve seen used successfully include:

  • Taking a break to play “marshmallow dodgeball” – it gets the blood and laughter flowing and no one gets hurt, and it only costs $1.87 for a 16-oz. bag.
  • Bringing the entire team or a department to an early afternoon movie. Buy popcorn and candy for everyone.
  • Creating Personal Fact Sheets for team members and posting them in the break room – these sheets enable team members to become closer by knowing something more about their coworkers, including things like their hometown, favorite TV shows, little-known trivia facts, accomplishments, what most engages them at work, etc.    
  • Shutting down three hours early on a Friday afternoon and encouraging teams who don’t often interact to mix it up and play games like Pictionary, Trivial Pursuit, etc.

The reality is we spend way too much time at work toiling away without laughing enough or having enough fun. Given the fact that the number one reason people quit their jobs is the combination of stress, workload and a lack of work/life balance, what better antidote for toppling this costly trend than having a little fun? And what better way to help hire the best talent than showing them a culture that actively promotes it?

Leverage fun.  It works.

Kevin Sheridan has helped some of the world’s largest corporations break down detrimental processes and rebuild cultures that foster productive engagement. His most recent book, “Building a Magnetic Culture,” made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Best-Seller lists. More information at

i - HR Solutions Normative Data, 2011
ii. - HR Solutions eNews, June, 2010
iii - HR Solutions eNews, October, 2010


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