As a manager for many years, I learned how to make coming to work fun. One of my favorite things I used to do was to trade roles with one of my employees for the day. I worked mostly in restaurants and would randomly pick an employee to trade places with me and I would cook or cashier while they would decide who did what, and when to send fellow employees on break. This was great because they were able to see me work their position correctly, or I was able to see how difficult their responsibilities were and in turn would gain a whole new perspective of their true value on my team and a deeper respect for how well they did their job. They, also, could see that managing a restaurant and crew is not always easy and can be quite stressful, giving them a better understanding of why I make the decisions I do.
Another thing I have done is to let everyone know that there was a really dirty spot somewhere in the restaurant ; an “I spy” kind of thing. The idea was for the crew to find areas of the store to clean, then come get me to see if they had found the right one. Whoever found it, if they found it, would get a pizza. This worked well, because in a lot of cases, I would declare that it was not the right spot, but they did a really good job, and that it was so clean that the area on either side looked even dirtier. This gave me the opportunity to ask them to get more necessary cleaning done. As the treasure hunt went on for the mysterious spot, many things were cleaned that were not on the regular cleaning list, and in some cases, had not been cleaned in a long time. The cost of the pizza came out of my pocket, but was well worth it.
When someone went above and beyond in any task, or especially in customer service, they were given a “caught ya” card. If they receive 3 of these cards, they got a free meal. I had a manager that would randomly catch you at the register when you were ordering lunch on your break and say, “You have been doing such a good job, lunch is on me today!” This type of unexpected recognition was very motivating creating a feeling of appreciation and value that never failed to increase productivity.
At crew meetings we would vote on employee of the month. This individual had their picture taken and displayed for recognition, but was also given a small raise. This was the best motivation, because they could potentially get one or more raises during the year, beyond the scheduled yearly performance review raise. With this up for grabs, most of the crew was more than eager to do anything and everything asked of them outside their regular duties. We would also vote for most lazy employee of the month. That person was given extra tasks throughout the following month, which enabled them to avoid being “the” laziest again.
My favorite, though, was that we had a small white board and we would write a word in English and the same word in Spanish, and we would spend our entire day using the new word in the opposite language than we spoke. As a result, I have a 400+ word Spanish vocabulary and can even speak a few full sentences. That will be helpful when I take Spanish in the coming semesters. It was a source of laughter too, because seeing each other’s faces as we tried to pronounce words outside of our native tongue, was, to say the least, quite hilarious!
So far, the experiences I have written about have been at fast food restaurants, but I have worked in retail as well, although not as a manager. One of the companies I worked for was an office supply store and the managers held different contests each month, for the purpose of increasing sales. Sometimes it was for most customers served by an individual employee, or highest number of items sold, or most improved sales for the month. The rewards ranged from movie tickets, to merchandise, to having lunch at a restaurant of your choice with the manager of your choice. I won several times and once chose to have lunch with the newest manager at Red Lobster. We had a great time and discussed different strategies for coming out on top again the following month.
No matter the industry or organization, with a little creative thought, work can be made enjoyable for the employees, as well beneficial to the company. If you are not the creative type, ask your employees for suggestions. You might be surprised at the ideas they come up with and anything that increases sales or productivity, or even increases safety awareness or customer service, is worth trying out. Providing employees with job satisfaction and consistent acknowledgement should be commonplace, but unfortunately is not always the case. Remember, people can earn a paycheck anywhere, and most see very little of the pay after bills are paid, so a little something extra will go a long way to improving the quality of the business and the quality of your employees lives.