Blog Barista: Jessica Davis | July 15, 2020 | Workplace | Brew time: 5 min
KL&A has always encouraged employees to balance work and play. Our leadership even tries to strike this balance during the workdays as often as possible. We have various company clubs, ping-pong, team-based health challenges, chili cook-offs, gingerbread house building contests, exercises classes, and other fun activities. But one of my favorites is the KL&A book club.
While you might be thinking that clubs are just a waste of time and money, they offer benefits that are hard to quantify. You might be surprised at how a book club, or any club for that matter, can impact your company’s bottom line.
Small Expense, Big Value
Once a month, our book club meets over lunch and KL&A foots the bill for whatever yummy option the book club chooses. This small expense returns a big value for both the employees and the company. Employees learn about one another through a shared experience and a lively discussion about the book, resulting in new relationships that help improve productivity across the organization. When employees get to know each other, they are more willing to help each other throughout the business day, which leads to higher productivity and an increased sense of belonging.
We all tend to find our favorites and stick with them, reading the same authors or genres book after book. Joining a book club forces everyone to try something new, which is liberating and interesting.
Our book club reads a wide variety of content. From Stephen Hawking and Malcom Gladwell to Agatha Christy and Pierce Brown, just to name a few of the authors we’ve read recently. Some books are educational; some, directly relate to our professional growth; while others are simply for fun. Regardless of the chosen content, expanding horizons in the realm of reading stimulates cognition and increases innovation. It helps us to see things from different perspectives, which improves problem solving and creative thinking.
The lively discussions that occur during our book club meetings get people thinking, talking, and laughing. People share experiences that relate to the stories we read so we all get to know each other. Even the introverts share and laugh. Simply put, it’s fun! I always look forward to the next book club meeting.
Injecting fun into the workplace is a wonderful way to keep employees engaged and happy, which results in better health, higher productivity, and lower turnover—all of which translates into better profit margins.
Managing Our Club
While there are endless ways to manage a club, I wanted to share our approach. Some of our steps may be helpful in designing your own methodology.
Our club has been operating for three years and has evolved to incorporate member suggestions. We always look to find new ways to encourage participation.
Not all employees can come to every meeting, so we use teleconferencing for remote participation and Slack, a chat tool, for club communications. We also use a Google Sheet to track book selections.
We meet on the third Wednesday of each month. After grabbing our plates of food, we discuss the current month’s book. We talk about what we liked or didn’t like about the book, what it made us think or feel, and, for the more existential picks, how it relates to our lives today or the moral implications.
Toward the end of the hour, our book club founder administers our book selection process as follows:
Phase 1: Members make suggestions, which are written on a whiteboard, along with the runner-up suggestion from the previous month.
Phase 2: After we have five or so options on the board, we take a first-round vote. Every member can vote as many times as they like, which serves to identify the most and least popular options. The administrator then erases the least popular titles from the list, leaving three or four options.
Phase 3: We vote again, but each person can vote only once in this phase. The top two choices are then posted in our dedicated Book Club Slack channel for a final vote.
Phase 4: To encourage participation, we use the Slack channel for the final vote. Using the poll feature in Slack, all employees who wish to participate can vote. The poll is open for a set number of days, usually about a week.
This process ensures everyone has an opportunity to make a suggestion and that the selection process is democratic.
Our club administrator captures the top two picks from each meeting in a Google Sheet. Some of our more avid readers like to read additional books that were suggested by the book club members.
Finally, the person whose suggestion is selected becomes responsible for planning and ordering lunch for the next book club meeting. A few days before the meeting, they create a Slack poll to gauge head count for food.
Worth the Every Penny
While I expected the book club to be entertaining, I didn’t realize how much value it provides. Our book club is engaging. It breaks the boundaries to which our tastes confine us. It helps us build relationships with our co-workers. And most of all, it’s fun!
I encourage every employer to consider forming clubs to increase employee engagement, improve team cohesion, and reduce turnover. It may be difficult to calculate the ROI for forming a club but, as a member, I can say it’s worth every penny.
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