10 ways to give employees something to smile about

by Paul Spiegelman

employees having funThe greatest compliment I get from candidates who apply for jobs at The Beryl Cos. comes in the form of a question: Why is everyone smiling?

The answer is simple: They’re happy. They’re having a good time. They want to be here.

Yes, this is a workplace. But we have a lot of fun here. We have Crazy Hat Day and Wear Your Pajamas to Work Day. We have awards and cookouts and family events and birthday parties. We do it all in an effort to make this a place where employees smile while they do their work.

Here are 10 tips for creating a culture of fun while attending to the serious business of serving your customers and protecting your bottom line.

Tough Talks D

1. Evolve your culture slowly. Ours took a number of years to establish, and it’s still a work in progress. Start small by experimenting with a single department. Get a serious commitment from top management before you attempt any culture change.

2. Emphasize “right fit” as strongly as “right skills” when you hire new employees. Dig deeply with your interview questions to determine if a candidate has not only the core competencies needed for the job you’re trying to fill, but the personality and attitude to jibe with the culture you’re trying to create.

3. Integrate employee training into a broader culture of learning and personal improvements. Include all employees in training, from executives to support staff.

4. Make your business transparent. Post financials on your intranet. Share financial information and strategic direction through quarterly all-staff meetings, employee newsletters and email campaigns. Combine print, digital and face-to-face communication—like town hall meetings and brown-bag lunches.

5. Designate a culture director to plan events based on employee needs and moods and integrate fun into team-building exercises, meetings and other parts of the business. Invest in recognition ceremonies and awards. Celebrate em­­ployees’ birthdays with at least a card. Involve employees’ families and receptive customers in the fun.

6. Help employees who need it. We have a fund for employees who suffer losses or hardships beyond their control. That might mean we continue to pay full salary to someone who hasn’t accumulated enough paid leave to take the time necessary to care for a sick child. Or we might pitch in to help a colleague rebuild a house after a fire. We even handed out $50 gas cards one time to help defray the cost of commuting to work.

7. Offer employees the opportunity to give back to the community. Choose causes that are appropriate to your culture and to your organization’s mission. Make your goal charity, and not publicity. Be sincere.

8. Encourage an open-door policy among your executives. Have them make themselves available to everyone by appointment or email. Nudge managers to know the names of all employees and to observe which ones embrace the culture and which don’t.

9. Engage employees in efforts to present a positive image to the public. Solicit their suggestions for advertising campaigns and slogans. Invite them to tell their stories about their experiences at the company. Make them ambassadors for your brand.

10. Recognize the link between your new culture and profitability. Incorporate cultural considerations into rewards and compensation packages. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations with employees who aren’t performing or are taking advantage of a flexible culture to slack off. Be willing to dismiss employees who take undue advantage of the culture or who do not seem to fit in.

The foundation for all of this, of course, is a fair compensation and benefits package, which is critical in any company.

But my message is this: Engagement comes less from comp and benefits than from creating an environment in which people thrive and enjoy what they do every day. It all starts with finding the right employees, keeping them and creating a great culture that makes people feel valued.


Paul Spiegelman is the founder and chief executive officer of Dallas-based The Beryl Cos., which focuses on improving relationships between health care providers and consumers. Contact him at Paul.Spiegelman@beryl.net.