It’s Halloween, and most of us are anticipating work parties: we’re excited to overachieve our steps-per-day goal for the day while trick-or-treating with kids, and also dreading how all that candy that will undo our steps-per-day goal. We might not think about the employees involved in our Halloween celebration, and I’m not talking about the clerks working in pop-up costume shops or restocking candy shelves.
I’m talking about the overlooked employees in our favorite Halloween movies. A few small changes might have led to better employee engagement – and maybe a happier ending or two.
Employee Engagement in Halloween-Town
The quintessential Halloween film employee is Igor, introduced in film adaptations of classic horror stories. As a lab assistant to Dr. Frankenstein, Dracula, and others, he’s a character who is focused on finding an employer invested in relevant social values, namely, research in prolonging life. But I’m guessing he could’ve benefited from an employer-sponsored wellness program to improve his own health. Unfortunately, they likely didn’t cover health benefits during his onboarding.
On the other hand, summer camp counselors are often the victims of poor employee engagement, like the ones in Friday the 13th. Without effective leadership training to foster a compassionate leader who keeps counselors’ individual needs and priorities (like safety) in mind, they often ended up in hostile work environments and scrambling for an exit out of their job.
Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde had a clear and definitive work arrangement, something important to many employees, by splitting their work tasks in an even fifty-fifty. But, the lack of clear communication and trust between the two of them led to some obvious managerial mistakes.
And let’s not forget about the upper levels of the workforce. Norman Bates was a manager of the famous Bates Motel from Psycho. As he veered away from the duties of his job description, receiving more feedback about his managerial style might have led to some positive changes. A better balance between his family and work responsibilities could’ve helped, too.
Engaging in the Real World
Employee engagement is, of course, a bit more important for modern workforces as it is for the undead. Let’s take some real-world ideas from our spooky examples to improve employee engagement.
Halloween parties are a classic example of traditional engagement. Engaging employees often means making the office a place they look forward to coming into each day. That could mean anything from ordering in lunch together, celebrating holidays, birthdays, and other events, or recognizing individual employees for their accomplishments. But, the idea of what engages employees has broadened and includes more ideas than just the perks that make the workday enjoyable.
Millennials Aren’t So Scary
Millennials are a bigger percentage of the workforce than ever, and their views on work and its place in modern society are shaping the ways companies interact with their employees. More common values include:
Generally, millennials emphasize the importance of open communication within a team and with leaders. Incentives and rewards for excellent performance can motivate on an individual level, but a modern company struggles to see meaningful engagement from employees until there is trust between employees and the leadership team.
Social responsibility and believing that their employer “stands for something” are also critical values of the millennial workforce. It’s not enough that they’re paid. Employees also want to work for a company that engages in controversial social issues in meaningful ways that reflect their personal values. Companies that value diversity and inclusion are often sought out by the modern workforce. Conversely, companies see the value in employees who align with their vision for social impact and often turn to them to be advocates for the company in social media and other settings.
The grind of the classic 9 to 5 doesn’t fit within the priorities of many modern industries or their employees’ work-life balance. Technology allows more flexibility than ever, and many jobs are evolving to allow employees to work from home. Flexible hours and perks like vacation days and holidays have long been staples of employee engagement, but companies are recognizing that some jobs don’t require being in the office every day. Moreover, when companies honor the other priorities in an employee’s life (i.e., childcare, maternity and paternity leave, mental health etc.) an employee is better equipped to be effective at work when faced struggling with their personal life.
When employees are compassionately valued as individual people, they’re more likely to engage with the company as team players, committed workers, and advocates for their company.
A Few Words from AllenComm Employees
Employees at AllenComm shared a few insights into what employee engagement means to them. Their responses about working at AllenComm highlight some of the same trends seen across the workforce in general.
For instance, one artist said employee engagement means an environment that “motivates [employees] to contribute and better themselves and the workplace.” An AllenComm programmer said, “It means having employees who are excited about the work they are doing.”
When asked about what perks and benefits personally engage them at AllenComm, an employee said, “Our weekly Lunch-Based Training (LBT) is a time and place for all to step away from work and come together as a workforce to listen and engage in meaningful discussion and training. It also doesn’t hurt that we get free lunch.”
Touching on the role of leaders in setting the tone for engagement, one instructional designer said: “Working relationships and interactions with a positive manager increase morale, improve work satisfaction, and by doing these things, ultimately create strong working relationships, and a finished product that all are happy and excited about.”
So, whether you’re a fictional character punching your timecard in a Halloween movie or a real person looking for a fulfilling job, there are a variety of ways to increase employee engagement at your company. The younger generations entering the workforce and transitioning into positions of leadership have a vision for a more inclusive, open, and purpose-driven work life that is exciting. And though we may be too old to trick-or-treat ourselves, it’s worth looking at the younger employees around us for their ideas for engaging employees.