Keami Lewis came to Rosenbluth eight years ago as an executive secretary. After holding various jobs in corporate communications and learning and development, she was named manager, culture development in 1995.
That means that she now functions, more or less, as the company spirit captain. She orchestrated a series of "Associate Appreciation" events through 1996 and culled the best morale-boosting techniques from Rosenbluth's far-flung offices into a loose-leaf notebook entitled "Salmon Spirit Guide: Rosenbluth International's Corporate Culture Initiative." The book has been distributed to all company leaders (the upstream-swimming salmon is an unofficial Rosenbluth mascot). Here are four examples of how she makes sure the fun pays off:
Suggestion: A "goodies bag" to welcome new arrivals on their first day, including lunch coupons, "cheat-sheets" that introduce coworkers, office supplies, and gag gifts like balloons.
Payoff: "When people start a new job, they start with a very positive attitude. We want them to maintain it. If they're happy, they'll contribute more, they'll make better decisions, serve clients better, and be better to work with and better to work for. This is a way to say 'Welcome to the team,' to continue that good feeling. When you put together a new team, or change the dynamics of a team, you have to address trust, involvement, and friendship — so they'll immediately start to feel part of the team."
Suggestion: Role-switching. Pick a day when you can swap duties for a couple of hours without crippling operations.
Payoff: "Having our leaders and the people who report to them see what the other person is going through. Everyone has their own perceptions, based on their own frame of reference. This is particularly true for our leaders. We want them to understand the consequences of the work they're handing out."
Suggestion: Movie day. At the Philadelphia headquarters, associates can bring lunch to the Rosenbluth "Thought Theater" and eat while watching a video selected by Lewis.
Payoff: "Each movie has a message — for example, Dead Poets Society suggests leadership themes, The Birdcage says not to be pretentious — that associates can discuss later and relate to their own work."
Suggestion: Contests. One example, from Rosenbluth's Bay Area outpost - Oasis of the Day Awards. Submit a detailed example of elegant service, and the best entry gets a prize.
Payoff: Makes everyone in the office concentrate on what the company sells - in this case, great service. "It's also for morale and recognition. It's to showcase ideas about model Rosenbluth behavior."
A version of this article appeared in the Feb/Mar 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.