“I’ve been asked to develop ideas to encourage the 4th and 5th floors to interact. We came up with a Where’s Wally? concept, whereby people from the 5th floor would have to come down to the 4th floor and look for a picture of one of my team. However, this hasn’t been working well. I was wondering if anyone had any better ideas for a competition that would better encourage interaction among staff?”
Michael Berger, Plan B:
Food is the answer! In my previous company, we branched off from the traditional ‘morale-building’ potluck lunch and created an Omelette Friday. It started out as a prank, but soon became a highly anticipated event. Every Friday the 12th (yes, 12th), my staff would bring in all the fixings and equipment for the best homemade omelettes you’ve ever tasted.
By our third Omelette Friday, it was so popular we were selling tickets to people on the other floors. We raised money for the food bank as well as encouraged donations of canned food. We set up a little seating area with tables and chairs. People would put in their order for a customized omelette and, while they waited, listen to music and chat with others in the department.
It gave staff on all four floors something to connect to each other about, and my staff were constantly getting questions about when the next one would take place. From talk about omelettes, staff throughout the building were soon connecting on a different level. It was a very popular event with my staff as well as with others in the company.
Iain McDonald, ERA Canada:
Peer-to-peer interaction is only something that can be encouraged, not forced. If the 4th and 5th floors are disparate groups, your questioner might never succeed. When I worked in a design group, we rarely mixed with the accountants and so on.
However, you can promote interaction with a common activity such as a one-hour brainstorming session each week to look for solutions or efficiencies where there is a common goal. If there isn’t a goal like that, then try what thrills or bugs the 4th floor most about the 5th floor and vice versa. I suggest looking at Edward De Bono’s books for ideas on how to run such a session, or bringing in a facilitator.
Above all, it cannot be personal, and comments must be completed without a defensive attack being made by the other floor. Small prizes could be awarded, especially if they are awarded by a vote.
Milton Friesen, Billy Graham Evangelistic Association of Canada:
If people aren’t interacting the way you’d like them to, chances are the systems they inhabit are predisposed to keep them separate. The thought of introducing a game that gets them out of their usual paths is a good idea, but if it is outside of their work demands or usual habits, it will be a low priority.
One thing we do periodically with the 70 or so staff in our offices, which includes two organizations sharing the same space, is organize lunch-hour floor hockey or basketball games, barbecues in the summer and other events that level the playing field between people and departments.
Also, if leadership sees the mixing of your two floors as a priority, projects and teams should be envisioned that get them working together on meaningful projects, including both social events and work-related tasks. You could design your teams and projects to include an ongoing mix of people who are well-connected on both floors, and these people can in turn act as ambassadors for further interactions. If all of this builds toward larger organizational goals, such as increased productivity, customer service, teamwork, etc., the alignment can yield great results.
You can’t legislate people into meaningful relationships, but you can do a lot to create the conditions out of which genuine contact can occur. The better you know your staff, the more successful your strategies for encouraging their interaction will be.
For his answer, Milton Friesen will receive a copy of Negotiate This! by Herb Cohen.
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