The best employers use a variety of creative and novel ways to attract, inspire and engage their people. Here are 21 proven ideas to get you started:

  1. Start a “lunch roulette” – encourage employees to have an in-person or virtual lunch with someone they’ve never met yet so they can get to know them better.
  2. Put in place a “bungee program” to encourage people to engage in cross-department project work and short-term assignments.
  3. Allow people to take the day off on their birthday, or if it falls on the weekend, allow them to take the Friday or Monday off instead.
  4. Introduce a generous referral program with attractive prizes as well as cash payouts for referring new candidates into the company. Most referral programs are as dull as dishwater, make them fun and engaging!
  5. Introduce a “Take 3 stretch project” program enabling employees to apply to be assigned to work on new, high-value projects for up to 3 months.
  6. Arrange an individual or team-based “moonshots program” for employees to come up with radical and creative ideas that will improve the business. Hold a “Dragon’s Den” style pitch event so top management can evaluate the ideas and award people/teams coming up with the best ideas. Award prizes to the winners and provide stretch opportunities to people to participate in implementing their ideas.
  7. Ensure that at least 80% of key vacancies are filled internally.
  8. Invite customers to in-person or virtual meetings to share their stories and explain their changing preferences and needs. Nothing beats an inspirational client story to create a more purpose-driven and customer-centric culture.
  9. Run brainstorming or brainwriting workshops or “hackathons” to promote creative thinking to overcome challenging problems or come up with new opportunities.
  10. Give employees the opportunity to ask the CEO (or another representative from the top team) any question by arranging a monthly online or in-person “Question Time with Top Management” Q&A sessions. Ensure questions are sent to a Question Time email address or WhatsApp group in advance of the session. Record the session and upload the recording on the company’s Intranet site.
  11. Arrange “lunch and learns” or “success in 60” sessions for staff where staff can share their expertise and talents in a broad range of topic areas, not just work-related skills. You’ll be amazed at how many gurus across a wide range of subject areas such as cooking, yoga, mindfulness, hiking, dog training, etc. you have in your team!
  12. Start Friday mornings (every fortnight or once a month) with a voluntary breakfast get-together. The Scandinavians have this ritual down to a fine art and it works wonders! Believe me, nothing beats coffee, a few pastries and informal conversation with your co-workers to start the day on a high note.      
  13. Arrange a simple networking evening so people across different areas of the business can get to know one another better. 
  14. Stage an internal “work fair” or “work festival” so people from different business areas can get to know one another’s work and achievements better.
  15. Host fun in-person or online “innovation labs” to encourage employees to come together to generate breakthrough ideas and solutions. 
  16. Invest in a flexible and advanced online learning solution like https://degreed.com/ so employees can develop their own skills in a way that suits their schedule.
  17. Gather regular employee feedback on how they view their day to day experiences and how engaged they are using user-friendly platforms like https://www.cultureamp.com and https://www.officevibe.com. This will enable you to build a better culture by listening to your employees’ voice.
  18. Encourage all managers to start each team meeting with a lightening round of everyone’s successes and achievements since the last meeting. This never fails to get a meeting off to an energized start that grabs people’s attention.
  19. Start a company volunteering and social giving program. Invite employees who are most motivated about making a positive difference to get involved in co-ordinate your program. Allow them to organize volunteering and fundraising events (e.g., walks, runs, cycling events, skills-related direct support, etc.) for your chosen charity/charities. The key to the success of these programs is to build a strong partnership with your chosen charity/charities and get as many people involved as possible. Check out https://wearematchable.com/, a brilliant new organization that matches employees with innovative volunteering opportunities around the world.  
  20. Give your office space a refresh after the long Covid crisis. Welcome staff back by inviting them to come up with ideas to improve and redecorate their office space so it is conducive to great teamwork and productivity. Some of the best offices I’ve visited have been designed with the involvement of employees.
  21. Run career development workshops to help people plan and implement a focused and achievable career development pathway after Covid. Use a talent assessment tool like www.talentpredix.com to help them discover and optimize their unique talents, career motivations and values. 

We’d love to hear about creative things your organization does or practices you’ve seen work elsewhere, to add to this list. Please share your ideas and comments with us and we’ll circulate these so everyone can cultivate better, more positive and fun workplaces.

About the Author

James is a leadership and talent consultant, business psychologist, and executive coach. He has over 25 years’ experience working with leaders, teams, and organizations to optimize their talent, performance, and future success.

Before moving into consulting, James held corporate leadership roles in People and Talent Management in the UK and abroad with companies such as Yahoo! and Novo Nordisk Pharmaceuticals. Since moving into talent consulting and assessment design, he has supported leaders and teams globally across many sectors and geographies. Clients he has worked with include Allen & Overy, Commvault, Equinor, Graze, LVMH, Facebook, GSK, Hilton, John Lewis, Novartis Pharmaceuticals, NHS, Oracle, Sainsbury's, Swiss Re, Tesco, WSP and Yahoo! James has founded and run several ventures, including Strengthscope®, an international strengths assessment and development business, that he sold in 2018.

James has a Master’s in Organizational Psychology, an MBA, and an Advanced Diploma in Executive Coaching. He is a regular writer and speaker on talent assessment and development, leadership, and the future of work.