Low-cost ways to engage your employees

Pete Jansons

Employee engagement can be difficult at any time of year, but summer poses particular challenges in most workplaces. Clockwatching may become the activity of choice at your small business as workers count down the minutes until they can putter around in their gardens or fire up the grill. How can you compete with sunshine?

While going to work may never be as fun as basking on the beach, plenty of opportunities exist to make the dog days of summer more pleasant for your employees. Don’t let the fact that your small business lacks the budget to offer big perks like Google or Microsoft keep you from trying creative, low-cost morale boosters that really can make a difference. Consider the following low-cost ways to engage your employees.

Food. Free food is a tried and true pick-me-up, and it still gets almost everyone excited. Whether it comes in the form of a spontaneous treat or a planned event, people love to chow down and get social. Try a weekly potluck where a different staff member picks the theme each time. Bring out the blender for Hump Day smoothies using seasonal fruit. Conduct an old-fashioned ice cream social – you furnish the Breyers, team members bring in toppings. Post a food truck schedule for your neighborhood and encourage chatter about which ones the group may want to try together.

Field Trip. Remember the grade-school excitement before, during, and after an outing? Try a museum (ask if your local museums offer free visitor days) to inspire creativity, bowling to promote friendly competition or a minor-league baseball game (seats tend to be cheap) simply to enjoy a hot dog in the great outdoors.

Similarly, consider volunteering as a group. Cleaning up a park, reading to kids in summer Head Start programs or contributing labor to a Habitat for Humanity project will satisfy the desire to break routine – with the added benefit of promoting your small business’s name within the community. Schedule activities during work hours so as not to interfere with people’s personal commitments. Unsure what the team would enjoy? Just ask.

Provide Challenges. Avoid the temptation to give in to the summer slump. Your small business depends on consistently meeting goals in order to grow. Encourage everyone to kick it up a notch with a culture that rewards productivity. Offer occasional telecommuting as an option for those who prove they can get work done remotely. Challenge the staff to complete the week’s tasks by noon on Friday so everyone can get an early start on the weekend.

View times when an employee is away on vacation as an opportunity to let another shine. Teaching someone a new task or letting him try a different responsibility bolsters confidence and engagement while increasing the skill level and flexibility of your team. Don’t forget to thank those who rise to the occasion; acknowledgment is the ultimate morale booster in any season.

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