Monday, March 29, 2010

So You Want Better Employee Engagement Grab A Taco!

So you're a leader of a growing company (meaning a company that consists of more than just you) and you keep hearing how important employee engagement is and that it's one of the critical pillars to your success.  So you better start paying attention to it right? You don't have a clue what employee engagement means exactly so you go to where every great business leader goes to find out - Google.  You type in the term "employee engagement" and suddenly find yourself immersed in over 1,500,700 websites referencing everything from guys like me who will come in and consult with you on it to big time organizations like Gallup and Accenture who will charge you big money to study and report on it.

Overwhelmed, unsure of what site to click on, where to go and what to do you elect to do what most other business leaders do, you simply admit defeat and decide that you'll come back to it another time.  After all your employees are engaged enough.  They seem happy with their jobs and oh sure there's a dust up here and there but who needs a bunch of hubbub about employee engagement.  You say to yourself forget it we're just fine thank you very much and you click your way over to the Wallstreet Journal or ESPN.

And so the opportunity to understand your internal culture and perhaps make a real impact on your people dies a slow painful death.  As your interest fades you hear off in the distance shrieks of "Noooooo!" bellow up from the bowels of your corporate engine but dismiss it as indigestion from that big lunch you just had.

Employee engagement is hard.  Employee engagement is tough.  Employee engagement can be intimidating.  For a leader in today's corporate world, finding a way to understand, improve and even leverage the power in it can be overwhelming.  Especially if your organization isn't one that has ever spent any time, invested any money or mindshare in it. 

Regardless of the size of your company, and to be fair, your position in it, how engaged and connected your employees or co-workers are with one another is critically important to your company's success.  I won't get into all of the statistics about why employee engagement is important, if you want that you can read about it in a previous Blog post (actually there are a few so you do a search - when you're done with this one of course!).  Let's just say that your employees, your co-workers your teammates want and need engagement!  And perhaps, engagement is only a taco away.

I know at this point your probably asking yourself what does a taco have to do with engagement.  Well to me...everything.  One of the ventures outside of Ripple that I am involved with is an email and web security company called MxToolbox.  Super cool company with some amazing people!

Some years ago as our team was growing we needed a mechanism to engage and connect everyone so we started Taco Thursday.  Taco Thursday became a weekly ritual where our entire staff got together to share some tacos, shoot the bull and get to know one another.  No agenda, no company propaganda just co-workers from every facet of the company coming together to share a few laughs, tell a few stories and engage one another and enjoy some yummy tacos.

The results were fantastic.  Co-workers stuck on a problem or having to deal with a customer issue could lay their issue on the table and everyone would gobble it up and spit out a solution before the first tacos were gone.  A new hire that would normally take weeks and months to feel comfortable with his new surroundings was instantly part of the family because we made them feel comfortable because of his or her own taco order (he new guy gets Guacamole with his bacon and egg Nice!).  We chat about the latest movies, the best television shows, the best podcasts, the whatever is hot topic and it's a blast!  I look around each week and see the smiles, hear the laughs  know the and mood of our company is better because we take this time to engage as a team.

Conversations are always informal, sometimes spirited but always fun.  I find myself as the CEO looking forward to this 20-30 minute break from the day to day to enjoy a couple of beef fajita tacos with my compadres.  That's what they are...compadres and that's really the point.  During taco Thursday we are all a bunch of people who work together, who fight the good fight together and who engage and connect together.  We aren't defined by our positions or area or responsibility - we are just Wendy, Rudy, Eric and Peter.  Taco Thursday has become a way for my staff to really get to know one another on a deeper more meaningful level and I can tell you the time and small investment we make as a company pays off dividends for us.

Forget all the hubbub around employee engagement and grab a bag of tacos and start your own taco Thursday and see if you can't get your people engaging on the most basic level first....through their stomachs.

Hey pass the salsa and as always...

Ripple On!!!


Scrumhalf Connection said...
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Scrumhalf Connection said...

I remember when I first started at MxToolBox and I had my first Taco Thursday. The concept overall was so foreign and to me. It was so unfamiliar to be sitting 3 feet from the CEO and the CFO and talking about the tv show American Idol. I had come from a corporate environment where the most boss/employee interaction was when someone had a birthday and we had a grocery store cake!

I look forward to Taco Thursday every week because of its simplicity and the camaraderie it has brought to our team. I would highly recommend this to every management team as a tool to help bring their employees together.