4 New Ways to Celebrate Your Employees and Boost Culture

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Avoid the cookie-cutter approach.

Your team’s had a major win – how do you celebrate?

“We’ve all been guilty of mindlessly sending out a group email, or booking a pub outing in hopes this will communicate how much we value the work we do as a team,” says Claudia Barriga-Larriviere, Head of People at start-up accelerator BlueChilli. “As a workplace culture expert, I think the biggest mistakes a company makes when it comes to team celebrations is going for the cookie-cutter approach.”

There’s a great divide in the workforce, she says, between the ‘partyers’ and the ‘party-shy’. “Don’t get me wrong – I love parties. But I also work with people who dread crowds, for whom being forced into open celebration and public recognition is a chore rather than a reward.”

The answer? Make your celebrations as diverse as your culture. Here, Claudia shares her tips for rewarding employees, without blowing your budget…

1. Throw ‘free range’ days

Creativity is great for accelerating a company’s growth, but it’s fuelled by connection and you need ample doses of inspiration to keep it going. So, when a team member comes up with a creative solution, or has an innovative approach to a project, celebrate by providing them with a free day of inspiring exploration. For example, set a day aside for them to visit a bookstore, an art gallery or a museum. That helps spark up all our connective tissues.

2. Reward results with rest

People joke that I should have a tattoo that says, ‘Recharging is part of the gig!’ I say that several times day, mainly because I truly believe that a healthy mind makes for a creative one. To instil that mantra in the BlueChilli team, we encourage people to take time off between high-performance periods. We instituted chill spaces around the offices, and endorse taking late mornings after rollouts. In lieu of having rousing celebrations after a deadline is met, a practice of rest can be more effective in producing the results we want!

3. Give the gift of new skills

When an employee looks to stretch outside their abilities by trying a new skill or lending a helping hand to another team member, reward them by helping them to upskill even further. Offer to finance a course – within reason – or suggest they shadow a senior employee. Commoditising learning is a great way to normalise this behaviour – it affirms that you’re willing to celebrate learning, with both your company’s time and money.

4. Praise goes a long way

The most important celebration of all, in my opinion, is shining light on the act of (calculated) risk-taking, rather than on the end result. This helps your team grasp the significance of going out on a limb for your organisation. Verbal praise trumps digital (according to a Japanese study it even stimulates the same neural pathway receiving cash does). Research found 82 per cent of employees think it’s better to give someone praise than a gift. Good leaders celebrate behaviour instead of outcome.

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