Is business always boring?
Kenexa, an IBM company, annually measures the organisational performance of many of New Zealand's top businesses. Last year, 70 per cent of the approximately 34,000 New Zealand employees whose organisations took part in Kenexa Best Workplaces 2012 agreed that their organisation is a fun place to work. Those who agreed were also more likely to be engaged - that is, emotionally, cognitively and behaviourally aligned with the organisation, such that they are willing to put discretionary effort towards accomplishing tasks necessary to achieving the organisation's goals. Does this mean managers should try to emulate the Google physical work environment (a tough ask!) or follow the advice of self-styled "fun gurus" and organise celebratory conga lines when sales deals are closed? No, because there are many kinds of workplace fun.
Organic fun is probably what most people think of when they think of fun. It develops spontaneously (such as inside jokes) and can be encouraged through the environment or organised events. Google does this well by providing opportunities for people to enjoy one another's company, with the hope that this will lead to greater opportunities for innovation and problem solving.
Managed fun involves situations which are typically organised by someone in authority, such as a shared morning tea. People are more likely to be cynical about this form of fun (eg. mandatory wearing of silly hats in meetings or a "joke roster"), but if everyone's on-board, these can be very successful.
Task-related fun involves aspects of the job which are specific to the work employees do, such as really loving the chance to talk to new customers or enjoying delivering presentations.
What does this mean for managers? Recognise that "managed fun" should really be an opportunity for organic fun to occur and consider whether task-related fun is recognised as such in your team. Above all, ensure workplace fun does not involve coercion, but results in a feeling of inclusion. As a manager trying to make the workplace more enjoyable, you want to create an environment in which workplace fun can develop. Organise situations where it's more likely to occur, set boundaries on what's acceptable and help people recognise the fun in the work they do - then leave the rest up to your employees!
The Kenexa Best Workplaces Survey is now closed for 2013. Winners and finalists will be announced at the annual awards evening on October 31, 2013.
• Supplied by Kenexa