Fun Ways to Motivate at Work

“Business is about profit, but you can have fun and make profits at the same time,” said Bruce McLenithan, director of Operations Learning and Development, Steelcase North America, Grand Rapids, MI.  “The world has gotten very serious… we’ve forgotten about the fun part,” he said.  We need to do things that make people want to be at work just as much as they want to be at home.

When McLenithan was a plant manager for Steelcase, he decided to move his office down to the factory floor. He felt that he was not the office manager, he was the plant manager.  In the plant environment, people were walking by his office all the time, there were no drapes or mini-blinds on the windows. The office was open, the employees could see him, that was important.

McLenithan also felt that it was extremely important to get out on the floor and walk around.  He knew all 1,100 employees by name. “It is a lot nicer to come up and say ‘Hi, Peter’ than it is to come up and say ‘Hi, how ya doing.’  People love to be called by name,” said McLenithan.  In fact, McLenithan told his supervisors that if they spent five minutes a day with each employee they wouldn’t need to do anything else all day.

McLenithan has offered many ideas to help make the workplace fun to be in:

Popcorn for everyone! When a department had perfect quality for six months or whatever was considered to be a significant milestone, McLenithan and the supervisor would treat those employees to popcorn.  They used an old-fashioned popcorn cart with wheels and would wheel the cart through the department.  The cart had a sign on it telling about whatever the accomplishment was.  People around the plant would smell the popcorn and want to know why that particular department was having popcorn.

When Steelcase started a safety program, a letter was sent out telling about the new program.  Included in the letter was a Band-Aid with a sticker on it that said, “We hope this covers all your accidents for the entire year.”  Sometime fun, yet it did not cost much and was simple to do.

Time was with Steelcase when they started their quality program. It started right around April Fool’s Day.  The day before april Fool’s Day, McLenithan and the quality group went out and put reject tags on everything in the plant.  When the employees came in on April Fool’s Day they saw the tags, opened them up and read, “No, this project isn’t rejected, but is this something you want to go to the customer?”  The employees got a big laugh and thought it was fun.

On an employee’s birthday, the supervisor would give them a “Birthday Sheet,” telling about what was happening in the year that person was born.

Start a Rewards and Recognition program.  If an employee was to be rewarded for an idea, he or she can chose an item from a list of 15 different things.  Things such as: a free lunch in the cafeteria, a Steelcase baseball cap or T-shirt, or a Matchbox-size Steelcase truck.  McLenithan felt that this was better than a monetary award because each employee got to make the choice.  “So we don’t have people getting upset because someone else got more money for their idea, and my idea was better.  Everyone chooses their own reward,” he said.

“We also have monthly meetings and we put people’s names on the board along with their ideas.  I feel that recognition is more important than rewards,” said McLenithan.  “Celebrate the idea.  What’s wrong with having a pizza party in a particular department for a good idea?”

McLenithan also has rewarded employees for their failures.  “We would have a party if we found a big mistake.  What that is doing is encouraging your employees to say, ‘We found a mistake, we’re going to fix it.’ Pretty soon they’re not afraid to report a mistake.”  Try to give employees an atmosphere when they are willing to report mistakes.

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