Serious Fun Might Just Save You

Serious Fun Might Just Save You

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Book review written by Barton Career Advisors President, Chris Barton

I recently had the opportunity to read “Playing It Forward” by Nat Measley and Nick Gianoulis of the Fun Dept. In business since 2005, the firm is making headway with their new book which does a fantastic job of getting the point across that “Fun” is damn serious business! In case you are not familiar with the firm, The Fun Dept. is based in the Greater Philly market and works with companies to inspire employee engagement through the science of fun.  Early in my read I was jolted by this fact-

Among companies noted as “great” in Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” a whopping 81% of employees say they work in a “fun” environment.

fun dept photoI reached out to Nick and Nat and asked if I could review their work because I run a company that is at the other end of the spectrum when it comes to the topic of employee engagement.  Specifically, my company is usually focused on the aftermath of severance and reduction in force situations.  Obviously our outplacement services are purchased by companies when they are in a time of grave need to protect their reputation, prevent litigation and hopefully maintain some shred of positive perception with their former employees.  While we get to do some proactive workforce consulting at Barton Career Advisors, we are often requested as the reactive equivalent of an emergency room. What the Fun Dept. and their team do is proactive.  They describe a prescription for fun and engagement in Playing it Forward that is akin to preventative medicine or a yearly physical. Yes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and the Fun Dept. has the prescription for employee engagement and enthusiasm.

Playing it Forward is an active read and is interspersed with key questions that leaders must answer if they are serious about improving and evaluating their culture and the engagement of their people at all levels.  Leveraging colorful tools like the “Fun for Me” listing exercise and some attention grabbing evaluation scales with rating points as high as “Big Fun” and as low as “No Fun” the reader gets a sense that they are starting a serious but enjoyable project. Authentic team building and fun takes leadership and that means that leaders and managers are an integral, if not critical part of the equation when it comes to creating an environment characterized by trust, enthusiasm and engagement.

I am not sure what could be more compelling than the statistic pointed out in the book that companies lose over $2000 per disengaged employee per year.  Lack of fun or silent attrition is a big killer for companies who seek to improve their value proposition in an increasingly competitive marketplace.  Nat, the proclaimed “Master of Fun” and his partner Nick the “Godfather of Fun”, suggest collecting ideas and getting feedback from your workforce on what they find “fun”. This is a strong way to keep the culture fresh and responsive to the changing needs of the workforce.  They explain that finding shared experiences and interests not only creates positive work relationships but endears people to your organization, their co-workers and leadership in a way that is nearly impossible for competitors to copy.

The authors lay out a seemingly simple formula for workplace engagement and back it up with stories of serious results.  One of my favorite stories in the book relates to Nat’s time working in minor league baseball marketing and entertainment.  He recounts that people really loved the free t-shirt giveaways and shooting t-shirts into the crowd at games made people wild with excitement.  Fans loved the activity and some would literally dive over seats to get their hands on the low dollar prize.  They dove for t-shirts!  The real question raised for business is, what is the figurative t-shirt that will inspire and excite employees in your company?

Playing it Forward offers sound advice for assessing where your organization lands on the continuum of “fun” and gives business leaders a roadmap for planning and integrating fun in a way that engenders engagement, productivity and profitability along the way.

To learn more about the Fun Dept. and Playing it Forward visit morefunatwork.com!

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