Just before the holidays this year, I was speaking to the employees at their holiday conference. The Managing Director wanted me to give an inspirational talk and really empower the employees to understand the importance of engagement and bringing their best selves forward at work—of course this is one of my favorite things to do!
While I was preparing for the talk, it came to me that it would be fun to do an experiment with them.
This goes back to one of the key things I learned when I interviewed Vineet Nayar, the former CEO for HCL Technologies and Founder of Sampark Foundation. He shared with me the story of how he changed one word and the huge positive impact it had on his organization. He said instead of using the word “initiative” when he wanted to make any changes, he switched to using the word “experiment.” It had a huge impact on the productivity and adaptability of an organization of close to 100,000 employees.
When I discuss the neuroscience of trust, I will often talk about positioning a new behavior as an experiment. By using this word, it takes away the “threat” of trying something new and makes people feel open and willing to test it out.
So I decided to end this particular speech with an experiment, using one of the behavioral based engagement activities that we teach in our Cultural Engagement Certification training. I had collected all the names of the employees and then they had to pick a name out of a bowl. It was to be kept secret because they were going to be that person’s Secret Santa for a week.
They had not done an activity like this before at work and some of the people were a bit skeptical. I told them that they were not to spend a lot of money but that the main task was to surprise their person each day in some thoughtful way. Since it was a small office there were questions about how to get away with this without being caught. I said this is part of the challenge. Everyone leaves their desk to go to lunch and other activities so they would have to be quick about when they would leave their surprises—and no one could say anything if they saw someone doing their deed!
Research shows that the act of giving actually increases oxytocin and makes people happy. And this is a great way to increase engagement in a company!
I also made a deal with everyone that the only thing I wanted back was an email at the end of the week with what they thought about this activity. They all agreed and they left that afternoon with visions of plotting their next moves.
Of course, each person was also receiving gifts from someone else so they got to be on both the giving and receiving end.
The results were astounding! Here are just a few excerpts that came from the flood of emails I received:
– This was a fantastic idea! We have already decided to do it next year again and then we will do it during a little longer period.
– I just want to say that this is the best activity I have ever participated in!
– Every morning when I woke up, instead of thinking how much problems I have to fix today, I just wondered what surprise I can get from my Secret Santa.
– The best thing was the good atmosphere and the joy we all shared.
– I think the atmosphere at work has been much better, we have got a stronger connection and there has been much more laughter and happiness than normal.
– I must admit that I was skeptical towards Secret Santa initially, but I think it has been great. We have talked more the last week than we have done the last 6 months.
– It was fun! The joy of giving and increased communication with my peers was great.
– Giving and seeing the smiling face of the recipient was the best.
It was so fun to have the chance to practice what we teach at Evoloshen Academy and then to get the results back was incredibly rewarding. Now I know how our Joy Ambassadors feel on a regular basis! In our certification training, participants get access to over 101 Engagement Activities (that come from engaged companies around the world we’ve worked with) as they are strategically working with engagement and their company cultures.
Engagement activities may look like simple things on the surface….but when you understand the impact these types of activities can have on the happiness, well-being, and productivity of your employees, not to mention the conscious development of a company culture, all of a sudden there is a definite method in the madness!
Once you get people started, the employees want to keep it going! Someone even wrote that they wanted to do Secret Easter Bunnies next!