By: Peter Limone, President & CFO of Innovative Employee Solutions

Published By: Entrepreneur.

From Google, to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, to HubSpot, Glassdoor’s annual list of the  best places to work– 2018 all bring something a bit different to the table. The one thing they all share? A culture and value set that employees can’t get enough of.

One of only three employers to land on Glassdoor’s top 100 list for 10 years and a runner-up this year, Bain & Company, demonstrates “an impressive consistency and ability to keep their workforces engaged and satisfied,” Glassdoor CEO Robert Hohman told CNBC. “What’s more, they offer a company culture that their employees truly believe in.”

Bain, and doubtless other firms on the list, realize that recruiting and retaining top talent requires a vibrant, people-first company culture. But great cultures don’t happen by accident; they’re built and maintained through regular get-togethers, friendly competitions and community events.

Growing your cultural garden

Just as spring brings new life to the natural world, it’s the perfect time to liven up your company culture. With winter over, your team is itching for everything from basketball games to barbecues. To help your company culture blossom this spring, here are some “seasonal” tips:

1. Plant seeds: Discover what your team wants to do. What’s your team’s idea of a perfect day together? Not only does letting employees choose events ensure that they’re appreciated and well attended, but it tends to improve collaboration and retention. Teams that play together stay together.

Once, during a strategic project that had our team working long hours, an employee suggested a St. Patrick’s Day event where everyone could share green libations and blow off steam. By letting our team off early that day, we showed team members that we value their ideas and want them to enjoy working together.

2. Let your garden grow: Support community outreach programs. In an age when three-quarters of the workforce’s biggest demographic segment (millennials, of course) would take a cut in pay to work for a socially responsible company, community outreach is key. Beyond team-building benefits, giving back to the community instills a sense of philanthropy and goodwill in employees.

Because giving back is critical to our own company culture, we set up a community outreach committee with a chairperson and team captains for each organization we sponsor. A perennial favorite is the San Diego Humane Society, which puts on a Walk for Animals each May that we assist with. Our employees volunteer by setting up a water station and handing out bottles to walkers, giving them time to bond while benefiting homeless animals. For events like these, we let employees volunteer during business hours and even pay them for their efforts.

3. Feast on the crops: Host an outdoor social event. Who doesn’t love to get out in the warm weather when spring comes? Take a page from Petco, where my wife works, by hosting an employee picnic, complete with games like sack races and water balloon tosses. Consider letting employees’ spouses and children in on the action, with a bouncy castle for the kids or an ultimate frisbee game. Make this an annual event, and you’ll give employees’ families something to look forward to when winter ends.

If budget is an issue, throw a potluck. At Petco’s picnics, employees often bring food, chairs and other supplies. Instead of hiring a catering company, do what my former employer, Quest Diagnostics, does at its annual barbecues: The testing company’s executives cook and serve the food, saving money while exemplifying servant leadership.

4. Celebrate together: Create or join a league. As the days get longer, everyone wants to enjoy the sunshine after work. Promote physical activity and teamwork by encouraging employees to join a local sporting league. Softball, soccer, basketball and cricket are all great team sports for the spring.

League sports also bring out employees’ competitive nature in a healthy way while building team morale. If your company is large, like GE Capital, consider creating multiple, cross-departmental teams so participating workers can network outside of their traditional circles. League players gain additional touchpoints within the company, all while learning more about how other departments work. Truly, it’s a win-win.

Just like the seasons, company culture isn’t constant. It must be continuously renewed through engaging, employee-driven events and initiatives. While culture-building may seem all fun and games, it’s critical to instilling in team members a sense of community and belonging.

So, “spring” into the season at your company: Spend spring building a world-class work environment, and you’ll more than make up for the effort in improved collaboration and productivity. And, who knows? By cultivating your culture this spring, you just might earn your company one of those coveted spots on next year’s “best places to work” list.

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