By Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR
ATLANTA--To build a healthy workplace culture through celebration, organizations—and HR professionals—should be guided by “GPS,” according to Scott Friedman, a certified speaking professional, author and humorist. Not a global positioning system, but by gratitude, play and surprise.
During his June 24 session titled “The Celebration Factor,” held here at the Society for Human Resource Management's 2012 Annual Conference and Exposition, Friedman shared examples of practices used by companies around the world to “acknowledge all that is good”—his definition of celebration. Organizations don’t need to invest a lot of time and money in celebration, he noted, but they do need to be sure that all employees are included in related activities.
Gratitude. Friedman suggested that participants practice the daily discipline of gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal, noting good events of the day as well as what they learned when situations didn’t go as expected. Similarly, employers should find ways to share and celebrate mistakes. “You want people to take intelligent risks,” he said. “You need to encourage people to innovate.”
One company uses the “Post-it Party” concept to convey gratitude to a particular person. All it takes, he said, is for a group of people to take three minutes to write down good things about somebody they want to celebrate and affix the notes to the person’s work space.
Play. Friedman encouraged audience members to use the “hang loose” hand gesture to remind themselves to let go of worry, anxiety and pressure and maintain a sense of humor. Another option, he said, is to take a “one minute humor break” by substituting numbers for words of profanity and using them as needed, or by celebrating the first stressful event of the day with a shout of “woo hoo!”
Another company holds an annual “bring your inner child to work day.” Employees are encouraged to wear pajamas, watch cartoons and play kid games. It was at that point that Friedman demonstrated the effectiveness of play by asking the audience to join him in dancing the “hokey pokey.”
Surprise. Finding ways to surprise employees is the most important element to making celebration work, Friedman said. For example, he surprised his long-term assistant by asking her to get something from his car trunk. When she opened it, she found her college-aged son inside, there to celebrate her 50th birthday.
The GPS mentality requires HR professionals, business leaders and people managers to pay attention to what really matters to employees; to what gives them the most joy, he said.
“To take care of your employees is a wonderful way to create differentiation and to attract and keep the best talent,” he noted.
Friedman’s book Celebrate! Lessons Learned from the World's Most Admired Organizations, Punchlines, Pitfalls, and Powerful Programs and Using Humor for a Change, originally released in Asia, will be released in the U.S. in late 2012.
Rebecca R. Hastings, SPHR, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.