4 Pillars of Cultural Engagement

This guest contribution comes from John P. Hudson, a Senior HR Professional out of Chicago, IL, currently with Slalom. He is very active in the HR community, contributes to SHRM’s We Know Next blog and is an avid runner and father who loves cooking pancakes for his girls.


Every other week, my daughters are dressing up for a special day at school. There’s 80s day, crazy hair day, door decorating day and the list goes on. While they have a string of rules and a ton of homework in the learning process, they are having a lot of fun doing it. While I get a kick out of the smiles on their faces, on these days, there is a part of me that feels sad inside. Sad because I know, one day, they will go to work in an environment where all the fun has been sucked out of it.

For the most part, our employees grow up in an environment of rules and regulations. Many took college courses on creative writing and marketing and were told how to be creative. The first day on the job, they are handed an employee manual with all the do’s and don’ts of the workplace. While there needs to be some structure and guidelines for the workplace, what is wrong with allowing your employees to have some fun? Do you give them room to create and innovate? You would be surprised, this may yield a better work product and a more engaged workplace. Isn’t that what we are all after? At least this year? This is not a post about creating a “culture.” I’ll leave that to the experts and gurus of culture. I’m just talking about loosening up and allowing your employees to do something a little different and letting them have fun within the confines of their job.

So what does having fun in the workplace look like? I can speak from experience. I am fortunate to be an HR Business Partner for Slalom, a consulting firm that designs and builds systems and strategies to help our clients solve their most complex and interesting business challenges. Every day, our consultants are giving all they have for our clients. Recognizing the amount of time and effort they are giving, Slalom has created a workplace and environment built on having fun and creating amazing experiences.

One example, in our Chicago market, is the Slalom Experience team. This team’s mission is to passionately engage Slalom Chicago in fun and fulfilling experiences that positively impact our community, enhance our professional lives and strengthen the Slalom brand. This team was formed by our consultants because they wanted a way to have fun and spend time with their colleagues outside of the time spent on client responsibilities. The team focuses on four main pillars: Community, Career, Brand, and Fun. Each pillar provides experiences for our employees to get involved in events like running races, cooking classes, book clubs, and Toastmasters. They also spend countless hours working with local schools to teach coding classes, and volunteering with other community initiatives. We have formed neighborhood supper clubs to check out some new and exciting restaurants.  And guess what. This is not an HR initiative, it is an employee initiative. Our employees are passionate about giving back, doing what’s right, always, and having fun!

What can your organization do? It’s simple and it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Find out what your employees like to do. Encourage them to come up with some ideas to lighten up the workplace. Don’t be a barrier to some groups wanting to have a “Super Bowl Friday” day where they all wear their favorite team colors. Quit leaning on silly policies, creating the “Fun Police.” If you have an employee who can’t play along or does something inappropriate, deal with that person and don’t create a guideline punishing the rest of the team.

Many times, as leaders, we have a tendency to want to put too many guidelines in place for our employees to follow. We think if they have a little fun, they will get sidetracked and be unproductive. We get stuck in our ways and think there is only one way to get to a desired outcome. Why not loosen the reigns?  We will spent a majority of our lives at work. Let’s have fun doing it.


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