Incandescence (Part I)

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Let the Games Begin

I had emailed all employees on Friday about the Staff Retention Event and asked that everyone keep an eye out for an SMS that would be distributed Saturday morning. There was a degree of excitement about this Event as I had deliberately maintained a shroud of secrecy over it. As the event was limited to 4 people per department, I managed to turn it into an exclusive, invite only event; and because places were limited, it turned out that everyone wanted an invite!

Bradley followed up my email to all staff and advised that anyone in receipt of the SMS invitation was to reply confirming their attendance. Bradley also reminded everyone that attendance was mandatory. I was glad he sent this email as it showed all staff I had the support of our Directors.

Saturday morning was finally here and after breakfast I started messaging invites to all attendees. One by one I received replies and by midday everyone had rsvp’d. I got all my activities and questionnaires ready and spent the rest of the day making sure every little detail was organized.

Sunday morning I headed over to my parents for brunch. Our conversation was the usual, work and romance. They were obsessed with the notion of me finding a soulmate. I understood where they were coming from, but I was only 29 and I had my career ahead of me. There was plenty of time for romance, it just wasn’t my priority.

Leaving mum and dads I headed to Frankies Oceanfront. Frankie’s was a popular function center that belonged to Amelia’s family. Amelia met me there and she spent the afternoon with me, helping set up for the event. Amelia asked me a few questions about work before shifting the conversation to Jacob. Her sudden interest in Jacob caught me off-guard.

‘Tori, what really is your relationship with Jacob?’ Amelia questioned

‘Amelia, he’s my friend. I’ll always love him as a friend, but I’m not in love with him. You know I’ve just spent the morning with my parents and they pestered me about finding love, I don’t want you to start on me’ I said while rolling my eyes

‘So, are you saying you wouldn’t be bothered if you saw him with another girl’ Amelia continued with her questioning

‘It’s been over 4-months since we broke up. Just because I’m not in love with him doesn’t mean I don’t want him to fall in love. I want him to meet someone that makes him happy’. Amelia smiled at my response, she really seemed happy with my answer.

‘Why the sudden interest in Jacob?’ I asked and she blushed before telling me that she had been in contact with him quite a bit since the night at my place, but she hadn’t wanted to act on her feelings until she knew exactly how I felt. I dropped what I was doing, gave her a giant hug and told her to follow her heart; she knew she had my blessings.

We worked and chatted for the rest of the afternoon and when we had finished, the venue looked sensational. The atmosphere I was trying to create was perfect, I was so proud of what I had achieved and now needed to get home and rest so that I would be ready for tomorrows big day.

Waking up early Monday morning I made my way straight to Frankies Oceanfront for last minute touch ups. When I arrived, everything looked better than how we had left it and I couldn’t help but wonder if Amelia went back afterwards for some last minute adjustments. I quickly pulled out my phone and sent her a thank you message.

Looking up I realized I wasn’t alone, most of our employees were arriving an hour before the official start-time. I greeted everyone on arrival, encouraging them to have something to drink and mingle. I was in my zone, working the crowd and doing my absolute best to make everyone feel at ease.

Leonard was the first Director to arrive, and not long after Mr Salvatore arrived followed by Bradley. I lead them out the back to where everyone was happily sitting and enjoying their tea, coffee and pastries.

Before the Directors could sit I asked everyone for their attention. ‘Good morning everyone and thank you for arriving nice and early. I see most of you have spotted your colleagues and you’re all looking comfortable. Whilst I want everyone to have a fun day today, I do want to shake a few things up a little, so if I can please ask everyone to stand up. If your name begins with the letters A – F, please make your way over to Bradley. Those of you with names beginning G – M, please make your way over to Leonard. Everyone from N – S please head over to Mr Salvatore, and everyone from T – Z is stuck with me.’

After a few giggles, everyone did as requested. The Directors greeted each person in their team and everyone chatted for the next 20-minutes getting to know one another.

At 9.00am I was ready for the first activity of the day, ‘What If’. Each team was given a hypothetical scenario where they were responsible for a different department within the Company. It was up to the team to cohesively come up with the best way to manage that department. I asked the Directors to sit back and observe, guiding their employees where needed, but not interfering. The purpose of this activity was for the Directors to listen and see if any employees commented on inadequacies in their department. After 45-minutes I asked my team to stand up and address everyone.

Team T-Z were representing the Sales Department. The team came up with sales techniques and initiatives that the Company wasn’t utilizing. When asked by Mr Salvatore why these initiatives weren’t being implemented, the Sales Division staff advised the software they had wasn’t capable of handling the recommendations. I asked employees from the IT Department if updating the CRM system was viable and they advised it could be achieved, but would require time and would result in disruption and increased expenses. Leonard and Bradley looked at one another, making notes.

I stood up in front of everyone saying ‘Thank you Team T-Z. As you’ve all witnessed, by working together and thinking outside the square, we all have the ability to come up with solutions. This is why we selected each of you today. We believe you all have the ability to help us implement change and I’m really looking forward to hearing from our other teams. Team A-F, over to you’.

Team A-F made recommendations that revolved around communication and management techniques in the Accounts Department. Leonard, having some background knowledge on my concerns relating to Jackson asked questions relating to leadership attributes. Bradley continued to make notes whilst the other teams presented their ideas.

We stopped for morning tea and I pulled the Directors aside, telling them my plans for the following activity. This time teams would be broken into Departments, and the Directors would be asking staff for a critical overview of their own department. Mr Salvatore would handle PR and Marketing; Bradley was assigned Accounting; Leonard in charge of Sales and I was working with IT. I gave each Director a questionnaire specific to the Department they were assigned, each questionnaire listed areas that could impact the Department and it was up to the staff to rank each item.

After morning tea I introduced all staff to our next activity. I encouraged everyone to speak openly and honestly, whilst maintaining a level of respect towards one another and to the Directors of the Company. This activity was important as we needed to know what was impacting each Department and what our employees really wanted.

IT staff were open and shared feedback relating to their department, we started creating a flow chart to determine issues and possible solutions. It was becoming evident that the IT Departments greatest frustration was communication. Up until a few hours ago, they weren’t aware of any system issues with the Sales Department; yet they were expected to come up with instant solutions. Sensing the frustration, we worked on developing a system for effective communication and reporting.

As this activity was department specific, we didn’t present the feedback with the group. I collated responses from each group with the intention of sharing it with the Executive team at a later stage.

‘I hope everyone is enjoying the activities. If I can ask everyone to return to their original teams that were sorted by names’ I announced in preparation for our third activity of the day.

‘Our first few activities revolved around improving our workplace. This next activity focusses on our people. Your team leader has a questionnaire that we’d like everyone to complete. This questionnaire is two pages long but we’re only giving you 5-minutes to complete it. I don’t want anyone dwelling over any questions, go with your gut and move onto your next answer. I don’t want anyone second guessing their answers, this isn’t an exam. Any questions?’ I said with a smile, looking around before continuing ‘Oh, I almost forgot the fun part.’

I knew I had everyone’s attention 'each Director has been given Gift Vouchers. The first person from each group to complete the questionnaire will be given $100, 2nd place will receive $75, 3rd place gets $50 and everyone else that completes their survey before the 5-minutes is up will receive a $25 Voucher. NOW WHO’S READY?' I yelled trying to rally everyone up.

Everyone ran to their team leaders to get their questionnaires. I rang the bell and everyone was busy answering questions. The form was basic, it asked

1. Name:
2. Department:
3. What factors impact your Department (select as many factors as relevant): Poor Leadership, Mismanagement, Bullying, Sexual Harassment, Poor Communication
4. What factors would contribute to leaving your job (number in preference, 1 = most important, 5 = least important) Pay Rate, Harassment in the workplace, bullying and intimidation, career change, Promotion
5. What Department do you believe is the best run department in our Company and why?
6. Do you intend to stay with BL Corp over the next 12-months? Why / Why not?
7. What do you love about your job?
8. What do you hate about your job?

Watching everyone complete their forms at a frantic pace had me laugh. Knowing everyone at BL Corp was well paid, I was surprised at how hurried everyone was, wanting to be first to complete a form for extra money. Hopefully my plan was working.

The 5 minutes were up and everyone in the room had promptly completed their forms and received their vouchers.

With everyone excited, I used the opportunity to stop for lunch. I deliberately avoided arranged seating, instead allowing everyone to sit with whomever they pleased. We spent an hour enjoying the break and I used the opportunity to move from table to table; briefly interacting with everyone.

After lunch, our next activity was called 'Friendship'. I teamed each person up with someone from a different department and asked that each person spend 15minutes talking about themselves before swapping. At the end of the 30minutes each person needed to speak for 5minutes about what they’d learnt about the other person. But the catch was that each team would join with another. Therefore 3 colleagues would learn new information about each person.

While this activity was taking place, I sat with the Directors and started going through the surveys.

‘Why was the last activity so rushed?’ Bradley enquired

‘I needed to know exactly what was bothering each person, I didn’t want anyone answering what they thought we wanted to hear, I wanted their honest truth’. I said as I quickly sorted the forms by Department.

With the Directors next to me we started going through the responses, ranking them per department.

Q3. Main Departmental Factors
Sales: Mismanagement and Poor Communication
PR & Marketing: Poor Leadership
Accounts: Sexual Harassment, Bullying and Poor Leadership
IT: Poor Communication

Q4. Resignation Factors (top 3 reasons)
Sales: Promotion, Pay, Career Change
PR & Marketing: Promotion, Pay, Career Change
Accounts: Harassment, Bullying and Intimidation, Career Change
IT: Promotion, Pay, Career Change

Q5. Best Run Department (in order as voted by staff)
IT, PR & Marketing, Sales, Accounts

Q6. 12-month Intentions
Stay: 20 employees
Leave: 5 employees (3 from Accounts, 1 from Sales, 1 from Marketing)

Q8. What do you hate about your job?
‘My boss and the constant harassment I receive’ Mandy, Accounts

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