From Bane to Gain: March Madness is an Employee Engagement Tool
Early March is basketball time in corporate America. Next week at this time, whole squads of people, many of whom barely know the rules of the sport, will take their attention off work to fill out brackets for a March Madness basketball office pool. Then, with smartphones in hand, they will spend a good chunk of the first two days of the tournaments stealing glances at the results scroll to see how their teams did. Viewed from your manager’s perspective, this seems to drain a measurable percentage of productivity from your otherwise hard-working staff.
Our advice? Go with the flow! Leverage March Madness as a chance to build employee engagement.
- You can’t fight American culture – Filling out a bracket for the office pool has become a fixture as one of the “things teams do together” at work. Even non-sports fans enjoy it, because total novices usually do better than avid fans.
- It really only lasts one week – Once the first weekend of games is over, most people’s brackets are busted and they are ready to change the subject!
- Even better, it is actually just Monday (bracket research day) and Thursday-Friday (The round of 64) that truly impact work.
Here are some suggestions for turning these activities into employee engagement opportunities:
- Swim with the tide: Make it clear through your actions that you recognize the coming distraction, and want to be as accommodating as possible.
- Fill out a bracket! Participating in the fun sends a great signal. It also gives you more leverage to keep people working, as in “I know we all are checking the scores, but let’s get A and B done today, please!”
- If you have themes at work, make basketball the theme for the week.
- Find out who “pool management” is (aka those who are managing the process) and have a heart-to-heart with them about your expectation that their management time should fall outside of work aside from collecting brackets. Get their agreement on this point.
- Create a statement that you and your own managers can deliver to his or her teams. Here is an example:
“We understand the excitement that some folks feel about March Madness. It is a big deal for sports fans, and fun even for non-fans. We know that the first week of the tournament can be a bit distracting from work, and we like your enthusiasm! We encourage you to follow your favorite teams as they compete.
We only ask that you keep getting your work done between updates! We are all working on achieving great things this year, and each of you has a powerful role to play in that success. Keep an eye on your task and project lists and keep the momentum going. Indeed, translate some of that March Madness energy to everything you take on this week!”
One element of building a fully engaged workforce is finding ways to celebrate together. Usually those celebrations revolve around work-based events, but it is useful to work in activities from the rest of the world, too. March Madness is the perfect chance to do that.
Naturally, you must fit this general advice into your particular work situation. But recognize and accept the week-long distraction, give those folks who choose to participate permission to share their excitement, and get their active agreement that they will still get their work done.
Have you used the inevitable distractions of March Madness as a positive opportunity to build engagement and a positive team culture? Share your story with us!