Fostering community and driving employee engagement through Team Building


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This is a draft excerpt from the upcoming book, What’s Your Green Goldfish? Beyond Dollars: 15 Ways to Create Employee Loyalty and Reinforce Culture:


1st inchOnboarding

2nd inchFood & Beverage, Shelter / Space, Transparency / Openness

3rd inchWellness, Time Away, Modern Family

4th inchRecognition

The fifth INCH

The fifth inch on the 9 INCH journey to the heart of your employees involves Team Building.

Success is frequently seen as a purely individual achievement, often at the expense of others. But in the corporate world, an organization can only thrive with the collective help of everyone. For employees being part of a team helps create a sense of belonging. Feeling more connected leads to being more happy.

Fostering Community

Assurance Agency Ltd., (#842) a Schaumburg-based insurance brokerage has a whole host of incentives. There’s Starbucks coffee, yoga classes and a Wii station, plus big-ticket items such as referral bonuses for new clients, education reimbursements and companywide bonuses for reaching goals. Yet the benefits with the biggest impact on culture seem to be those that bring employees together.

I think we’re really thoughtful about the things we emphasize,” says Jackie Gould, the company’s chief operating officer. “A lot of them aren’t really about the money. It’s more about fostering the relationships.” (Source:

Let’s look a Baker’s Dozen of companies who actively foster a sense of community and improve employee engagement through Team Building:

Employees that play (music) together, stay together. Harmonix Music Systems (#133), maker of the game series Rock Band, goes the extra mile to support the company’s bands by providing practice space. Down in the basement of Harmonix’s Cambridge headquarters, there’s a hidden sanctuary where employee bands can rock out. The dedicated practice space is equipped with stage lights and music equipment, and bedecked with Christmas lights for mood. (Source:

Make it Memorable

Decision Lens (#711) sponsors the excursions twice annually during usual work hours. They are paid for in full by the company. The founder worked at several large corporations and was turned off by what he called “lame” annual company barbeques or bowling excursions. He wanted to engage his employees with group activities and trips they otherwise may not be able to on their own. For example, Decision Lens paid for its 35-person staff to visit the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Goddard Space Flight Center about 20 miles northeast in Greenbelt, Md., where they listened to astronomers discuss how they’ve been using the Hubble Telescope. Last month, employees geared up for a day of competitive go-kart racing.

“If you want to play paintball or go bowling, you can do that with your friends on your own time,” says Saaty. “The idea is to inspire people to do what they didn’t think they could do. If an employee has a bad day or run of days, I want them to remember that these are the people that had his or her back and who shared an awesome, one-of-a-kind experience. That goes way beyond work.” (Source:

According to Rob White, CEO and Co-founder, Zeus Jones (#300), “Most Fridays, we have what we call “Beer and Tell,” where one or more people share what they have been doing to everyone on staff. The beauty of being a small company is that we can still all fit in a room, and celebrate the work, and the little or big successes of colleagues. In addition to our work for clients, these successes include new staff welcomes, engagements, pregnancies, babies, new pets in HH and even winning debates with AT&T over cellphone bills. Big successes are celebrated with champagne — we write the occasion on the cork and keep all these marked corks in a jar.” (Source: Minneapolis / St. Paul Business Journal)

Healthy competition

If you’re interested in not only building up employee productivity, but encouraging a greater sense of community among your staff, hosting a friendly office competition is a great way to go about it. Your employees will be racing each other to the finish, but they will also be pulled closer together in the process.” (Source:

snagajob green goldfish #62 office olympics

At Virginia company Snagajob (#62), the Culture Squad organizes the annual Office Olympics, during which Snaggers are divided into competing nations—and dress the part.

Every four years, Allianz (#841) holds an international Olympics for its sports teams. The company covers the athletes’ expenses and has an opening ceremony; in 2010, the games were held in Budapest with over 70 countries participating. (Source:

For its hockey addicts, PriceWaterhouseCoopers Canada (#458) hosts a unique national “PwC Hockey Tournament” with office teams gathering every spring for friendly competition and the chance secure bragging rights for the year. (Source:

Importance of Play and Pranks

It’s not all work and high purpose at OBS (#349). Each office has a Chief Fun Officer whose responsibility it is to ensure that fun is also an important part of the business.

The company is big on fun. We don’t take ourselves too seriously.” (Source: BRW)

Hit them with your best shot. When things get hectic and she gets that “I just want to scream feeling” about something or someone, Jennifer Callies of Shazaaam! Public Relations (#28) simply opens fire. Granted it’s with a Nerf gun, but the release is very gratifying.

We have a pretty small office and everyone gets along well and has a fun-loving spirit, so it was no surprise when our creative director went out one day and brought back Nerf guns for everyone,” Callies says. “We take our frustrations out via Nerf wars.”

They shoot at walls, computers, phones, the damn copy machine and “from time to time, when the urge becomes contagious, we have it all out,” she says. “It’s an ‘everyone for themselves’ kind of war, using cubicles as hideouts and chairs as shields until all of our foam darts run out. After five to 10 minutes of heated battle with Nerf guns and childish fun, we are refreshed and ready to get back to work.” (Source: Keith Hein)

Coyne PR (#754) employees work hard, but they also know how to play hard together. The agency has a practice of harmless but hilarious pranks. (Source:


At McNeill Designs for Brighter Minds (#29), they take the time to just crack open a board game and play. “Maybe it’s because we’re a game development firm, but we find on a Friday afternoon, nothing beats playing a game,” says CEO Donald W. McNeill. “We check out the competition and have a little healthy competition. We typically get a pizza and throw in a prize for the grand winner of the afternoon.” Prizes vary from a “late morning start pass” to “party money.” (Source: Keith Hein)

godaddy green goldfish #110

Offsite Activities

Each month GoDaddy (#110) places money toward off-site employee activities — held during work hours — to boost team morale. Recent activities for employees include whitewater rafting, gold panning, competitive cooking courses, and trapeze classes. (Source:

Burton (#178) holds a “Fall Bash,” an annual party for Jake Burton’s team, friends and family at his home, complete with a band, food, drinks and more. An annual day when the entire company gets on snow and rides together, BBQs and has a few beers. (Source: Mashable)

According to PC Magazine, Google’s Conference Bike (#692) is used as a team-building exercise for new employees. It has four wheels and five riders who work together to move it around. (Source: HuffPo)

Mentor Program

At Allen & Gerritsen (#736), even CEO Andrew Graff has a mentor: the youngest person at the agency, 22-year-old emerging-technology strategist Eric Leist. Of course, Mr. Graff is a mentor to the strategist, too. Every new employee is assigned one at the Boston-area agency, but senior folks aren’t supposed to do all the talking. The arrangement makes even the most junior employees “reverse mentors,” so everyone knows they can learn a thing or two.

Don’t just assume because you’re more senior you’re the mentor — you could be the mentee,” Mr. Graff said. “We strive for balance. It’s a young-person business; tech is taking the business in new directions, so we need to listen to the young and fearless.”

So Mr. Graff gets schooled on why to check in to restaurants on Foursquare (for the tips) and how millennials use their phones (all the time). In turn, Mr. Leist gets sage marketing lessons from an exec with decades of experience. (Source:

Today’s Lagniappe (a little something extra thrown in for good measure) – Here’s another hilarious, but harmless prank from Coyne PR.

All of the examples in this post were taken from the Green Goldfish Project. The Project is a quest to find 1,001 examples of marketing lagniappe for employees. Green goldfish are the little signature extras given to employees. They help differentiate a company, reinforce culture, increase retention and drive positive WoM. The book, “What’s Your Green Goldfish?” will be published on March 29, 2013.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stan Phelps
Stan Phelps is the Chief Measurement Officer at 9 INCH marketing. 9 INCH helps organizations develop custom solutions around both customer and employee experience. Stan believes the 'longest and hardest nine inches' in marketing is the distance between the brain and the heart of your customer. He is the author of Purple Goldfish, Green Goldfish and Golden Goldfish.


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