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“CONTRIBUTION” IS THE NEW BASEBALL

Posted on March 1, 2016

I mentioned in my last blog the importance of getting feedback from your organization, from the bottom to the top, about what’s important, and letting those insights drive your cultural evolution.  One insight I gathered last year helped shed some light on what motivates Millennials in particular. The need for contribution.  Many of our team members already were involved or desired the opportunity to get involved in their community.  In fact, a recent study by Monitoring the Future revealed that nearly 70% of Millennials listed “contribution to society” as being very or extremely important to them.

During one conversation with a group of team members, someone asked about the opportunity to be able to do volunteer work during office hours, as they heard that other companies embrace this philosophy (damn you, Google!)  A reasonable reaction from a manager might be, “why can’t you ‘give back’ on your own time?”  But the idea of creating experiences during business hours which lead to job satisfaction isn’t unique.  Sales teams have been taking boondoggles together for generations.  Cupcakes and pizza parties celebrating weddings, babies and birthdays occur in thousands of conference rooms every day.  Finance versus Operations baseball tournaments happen every summer, with Ops winning at a 10-1 ratio (sorry Finance).  Everybody shows up and puts on a smile because that’s what’s expected.  They, too, have a little fun and then the “company bonding” box is checked for another quarter. But what if you took all those 15 minute birthday celebrations and counted the collective hours spent doing something that really isn’t contributing significantly to your culture, harnessed that time and redeployed it in a more constructive way that actually met the emotional needs of your team and strengthened your culture, while driving real value to society?

In order to support this effort, our first step was to institute “summer Fridays” last year.  The concept isn’t new, but after it launched, I suggested to those who had previously expressed interest in contributing to our community, to consider “donating” some of their new-found free-time to support the causes that are important to them.  One volunteered at a pet shelter and another started giving painting lessons at an assisted living complex.

We then took it a step further and in December launched our Blue Sky Ticket program.  Blue Sky Tickets allow the recipient to take a day away from the office to pay-it-forward in some way.  Two tickets are available each month to those who request them.  Tickets have been redeemed to do things like working at soup kitchens, collecting donations from colleagues to do holiday shopping for Toys for Tots, organizing charitable cancer runs, and even teaching blind people photography.

My ever-clever team who, like me, looks for every opportunity to bend the rules, has occasionally taken the liberty to extend their Blue Sky Ticket to cover multiple colleagues to join them on these outings.  Sure, this takes people off of projects for a few hours, but the work always gets done and the payoff is significant.

Is this a reason someone will leave a job they love and come work for us?  Probably not.  Is it a reason someone who is ready to fly the coop will stay longer?  Doubtful.  But while they’re here, my team knows they are heard, they are supported and they are empowered.

My next blog will bounce back to my previous topic, which is the desire for more personal time.  That study I referenced earlier showed that nearly 80% of Millennials said that “time for recreation” was very or extremely important, so I’ll share how we “dim the lights” at Brand Connections.

Sherry Orel

Sherry Orel is the CEO of Brand Connections, an independent global media and marketing company that specializes in Making Marketing Easier for Marketers™, providing tailored solutions that link critical marketing disciplines to help marketers connect the dots to deliver a better business outcome. She has 25 years experience in working with Fortune 500 brands to develop strategic, multi-channel solutions, integrating disciplines from out-of-home, digital, mobile, social, promotion, sponsorship, experiential, CRM and retail activation.

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