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Sochi, Russia, is not the only place where the Olympic motto of “Faster, Higher, Stronger” is put to the test. At Xima Software in South Jordan, Utah, the thrill of victory is celebrated with a $1 gold necklace, and the agony of defeat is underscored with Cry Baby candy or Band-Aids.
Xima staged its own office Olympic Games on Feb. 7, with events that included an opening ceremony with flag bearers and individual country anthems, and prizes awarded for first, second and third place during the closing ceremony.
It was all part of the six-year-old company’s Fun Friday celebrations that have become part of its culture. One week, employees took part in National Pro Wrestling Day. Other weeks, workers paid homage to Star Wars and dressed up like members of a boy band to celebrate Justin Timberlake’s birthday. Themes for upcoming Fun Fridays include Chuck Norris’ birthday, Wig Day and Cinco de Mayo.
The office Olympics was the latest in the firm’s efforts to foster fun at work. Wearing team uniforms of matching T-shirts, members of three “countries”—Java Developers for Life (members of the development team), Black Voodoo Thunder (sales) and Death Star Rejects (support)—competed in Xima’s version of the biathlon, bobsled, curling and fencing events. Four office chairs, for example, were tethered to create a bobsled for each country, with athletes careening 75 feet down the hallway to the finish line. (Click here to see a slideshow of images from the competition.)
Making time for fun is important, according to Jared Olsen, SPHR, Xima’s director of operations and 2013 president of the Salt Lake chapter of the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM). He will lead a concurrent session on coaching at the 2014 SHRM Annual Conference in Orlando, Fla.
“Two of our key buzzwords are innovation and creativity,” he said. “If you don’t have fun at work and don’t foster that creativity and enjoyment, you are going to have turnover and people who don’t believe in the product or mission. This is one of the ways we invest in our people, by having fun with them.”
Olsen said the company’s Fun Fridays serve as a recruitment, retention and team-building tool.
“We’re successful because our people are happy, and they’re happy because we have fun. One of our core values is we work together and play together. Taking an hour and a half once a week to play together has unified our company. It’s created a culture where people really want to work for us.”
Olsen spearheaded the Olympic-themed event, spending about an hour creating rules and guidelines, and another 30 minutes setting up the contests.
“I think in HR we get too focused on the policy and productivity. This is important. Allowing your team to work together is important,” he said, noting that as they strategize for the competitions “they’re really going to connect as a country. That connection will just further the work of Xima because they’re going to know each other better.”
Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor for HR News. She was a senior editor for the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Committee’s (SLOC) creative team from 2000 to 2002, where her duties included covering Olympic downhill skiing and curling for SLOC’s book, The Fire Within.
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