The hidden benefits of running events
This is part 1 of my Work Events: More Than Organised Fun series. You can find the other sections here.
When you think of work events what is the first thing that comes to mind?
- organised fun... the worst kind
- waste of money
- time consuming
- maybe valuable but there's no way I could get budget
And the kicker: events need commitment and buy-in from the attendees. Getting this isn't easy, let alone maintain, especially if your team is suddenly remote. Yet as Assistants and Office Managers, we are in unique positions: we have unparalleled access to both decision makers and the team. Events provide positive outlets so we should use our position to help shape our company culture and maintain a sense of community.
In this article I'll explore the benefits of running events and dispel some common misconceptions.
Let's begin with misconceptions
Work events are... organised fun; the worst kind of fun
Work events get a bad reputation for forcing fun upon participants. The team building element is often shoehorned in and there is little option but to attend. This impression is only compounded when your team doesn't see any value attached to the event.
One way of getting around this is by offering a variety of events throughout the year. This way, your team will be less likely to complain if an event is mandatory, for example company updates, as every other event has been optional. It is also vital to find out what your team likes, instead of assuming. An easy way of doing this is by running surveys or keeping track of discussions on Slack/Teams/Workplace. By tapping into your team's likes and dislikes, your team are more likely to attend and work events are suddenly just "fun".
Work events are... a waste of money
According to Glassdoor, the average cost to onboard a new employee is 4,000 USD. If you're onboarding a few people a month, this cost rapidly increases, especially when you factor in churn. Compared to this, the budget needed to run a handful of events each year is a drop in the ocean. Furthermore, your budget doesn't have to be huge - I mean it! - but by incorporating it into your company's profit and loss statement (P&L) you are sending a clear signal that you value your team members. This is true whether you are a small company, already have a good level of employee engagement, or are a decentralised team.
Work events are... time consuming
Yes, putting together a calendar of events and executing can be time consuming. This is especially true if you don't yet have a calendar of events or a process. One way around this is by dedicating time to events each week. Another is by setting up a social committee to "do the doing" whilst you oversee. This has the added benefit of engaging team members who want to get more involved with company culture. Either way, you'll soon find you have a calendar that ticks over without taking up too much of your time.
Work events are... maybe valuable but there's no way I could get budget
Negotiating and securing budget can be daunting, especially if you're met with scepticism. The key thing is to treat this like any other project: create a proposal and a solid business case. Make sure to read this step by step guide to make it that little bit easier.
And what about the benefits?
Encourages team building and cross-team socialising
You know the expression "the right hand doesn't know what the left is doing"? Think about your teams, does team A know who is in team B, and do they know what each team is working on? In a small company this might not be a problem: everyone will know each other and their priorities. As a company starts to grow, closeness between teams will be inevitably be lost, with new joiners missing vital information on team iteration.
Hosting events is one way to encourage cross-team discussion. I've lost track of the number of times I've seen colleagues come up with solutions or new products outside of the office. Being in a different environment encourages creativity that meetings sometimes struggle to muster.
Events also create shared memories which in turn will strengthen teams. One of the very first events I organised in my previous role was an outing to Go Ape! in North London. We must have looked ridiculous in our harnesses, but scrabbling around trees with my colleagues is one of my fondest memories. That event fostered trust and friendship far faster than traditional meetings ever will.
In July 2019, Glassdoor released the findings from its Mission & Culture Survey 2019. The results are telling -
While the majority of adults place culture above salary when it comes to job satisfaction, the survey shows company culture matters significantly more among younger adults. Millennials(2) are more likely to place culture above salary than those age 45 and older in two of the four countries surveyed — U.S. (65 percent vs. 52 percent age 45+) and UK (66 percent vs. 52 percent age 45+).
It is disingenuous to suggest that events equate to having a strong company culture. Yet, they are one way of distinguishing your company from another. Hosting a variety of events, be that guest presenters, mixers or movie nights, demonstrates that you value your team's well being. It also shows that you are fostering an environment that encourages the team to play once in a while.
Listening to your teams and developing an active calendar of events makes you more likely to attract - and retain - like-minded candidates. Don't "be more Google", focus instead on becoming the best version of your unique company.
Let's face it: the reason for an event is to inject some lightness into the work week and bring people together. The same thing goes for you as the organiser: you will always find something to improve - and that's a good thing! - but make sure you're also having a good time. If your focus is ensuring your teams are having fun whilst either learning or doing something new, you're more than half way to success.