In our newly buoyant economy, employers are once again focusing on hiring and keeping the best staff – the very people whose enthusiasm and ambition will crank corporate performance into a higher gear. So what’s happening in your organisation to win hearts and minds in the workplace? And how does this impact on your role?

Motivational strategy used to be largely based on bonuses and salary rises but studies have shown that beyond a certain comfort level financial incentives become progressively ineffective. Factors such as peer-group recognition, a sense of community and an element of social interaction all play their part in creating an enthusiastic workforce.

So leadership teams are revising their internal marketing strategies. They’re also becoming increasingly aware of workplace stress, and are seeking ways of being more caring, supportive employers, and recognising the importance of a healthy work-life balance.

With global corporations like Starbucks and Google leading the way in introducing employee wellbeing initiatives, everything from building an in-house gym to organising quiz nights at the local pub is being offered to enhance the sense of community and social interaction amongst colleagues.

Internal events also play a large part in this process, and the responsibility for planning such activity very often falls to the PA/executive secretary.

In addition to the purely business-focused conferences of the last few years, there’s a trend towards bringing employees together with a purely social objective. From family fun days to talent contests, experiential activity is gaining currency, allowing people to make friends with the people they see five days a week, sometimes introducing family members into the mix as well.

But some finance directors and CEOs are questioning how purely social events can really contribute to the bottom line. Fun-style events for employees and their families could easily be dismissed on the grounds that they have no measurable outcomes, so the return on investment is impossible to quantify.

It has been argued that a one-off party or anniversary celebration is a blip in the calendar that has the same effect on company-wide motivation as a crash diet has to sustained weight loss. The feel-good factor fades as soon as “real life” returns.

But those smart companies that have committed to raising and sustaining levels of motivation amongst their workforce are taking a more strategic approach, by including social activity as part of a long-term internal events programme.

And as with any other business strategy, the starting point for this is a measurable objective, such as reducing staff turnover. Experts estimate that it costs around twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement, so limiting churn (staff turnover) is already a critical goal in all companies.

One model being followed by some organisations is to channel internal communications into three streams: Company, Colleague and Client. Working teams for colleague communications are responsible for internal events and their task is to ensure that the content is relevant, measurable and genuinely addressing its audience. This can extend as far as changing the format of the annual conference to give internal company briefings and the fun social awards dinner their own specific platform and focus.

In devising a calendar of motivational activity the options are endless and need not be expensive – anything from a company-wide talent contest to charity fund-raising. Structured experiential events can be made effective by thoughtfully considering all the elements that participants – in this case your own colleagues – will encounter at the event and making sure they all connect to make one big on-message impression.

Using current staff turnover figures as a baseline, it’s easy to monitor churn over a period of a year. Further metrics can be supplied from annual employee wellbeing surveys, examining such factors as how valued employees feel, to what degree they are proud of their company and to what extent they would recommend their employers to job-seeking friends. The statistics make it possible to progressively track the effects of a long-term motivational strategy.

Events strategy should also include market research. What are your workforce demographics? Which activities have proved most popular in the past, and which didn’t work so well? What message do you want your audience to take away? For example, do you want them to believe that their employers value them as individuals?

So making staff feel appreciated, recognising the important role that their home lives play in their daily lives, and including events that thank employees and their families for continued support, turns out to be a sound business investment with measurable return, after all.

Nicky Whyman is Commercial Director of KDM Events, one of the UK’s leading providers of event content. A business strategy specialist in the field of creative corporate events, she gained early B2B experience in the manufacturing and service industries ... (Read More)

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