Meaningful moments to remember

How organizations may wish to refresh and intensify their employee experience.

Do you remember the last time you rushed home after work, drunk from endorphins, keen to tell your better half of a meaningful moment at work that swept you off your feet? If the answer is no, do not worry, there is nothing unusual about you. Over the past years we have engaged with thousands of employees and have realized that many individuals have disengaged from their employer and lost touch with their work. In fact, our conversations show that many employees have even accustomed to a monotone work experience.

There is a reason though why we do not remember every detail of the 8-10 hours we spend in the office every day. To keep us sane, our selective memory captures and saves significant and symbolic moments that are more meaningful than others. These range from the first over to the last impression in good times and in bad. A memory booster is the feeling of a joined experience. 

Where is the hiccup

The reason why we decided to write this article is that despite large investments in formalized workforce experience programs, organizations still struggle to create lasting emotional bonds. Our hypothesis is that organizations assume creating meaningful moments requires the same set of rules as designing (HR) processes from pre-hire to retire. In our humble opinion though, public appraisals, company dinners, welcome and farewell events, company trips or meeting senior members of the organization might have less weight than generally assumed. Even prominent tech companies that offer their employees incredible benefits such as free food all day long, a gym and laundry on site or a creative office designed like a spaceship suffer from serious employee fluctuation. 

To add some more complexity, technological and organizational progress have the tendency to further dehumanize the work experience. Large scale digitization projects replace bits and pieces of the organization with technology and favor mass communication tools while doing so. Daily life of many employees is centered around an end-device they already spend too much time with. Imagine sending future generations to digital summer camp where they spend days in their room staring at a virtual fireplace, learning knots with click & drag, studying nature with videos and testing their skills with multiple choice while the sun is shining outside. We guess their experiences and life lessons might differ significantly from yours.

Some impulses to get you started

While searching for directions and solutions we were sometimes puzzled by how people unconsciously switch personalities back and forth every morning and evening as they swipe their badge to enter the office. From one second to another we freeze parts of our being that make us great personalities in our private life. Warm gestures that come naturally to us after business hours we need to relearn and reinvent while physically located in the office. For what it is worth, we believe that everyone has all it takes by nature to give others of a meaningful moment and an eye to spot their abundance. For example, while looking for inspiration on how to plan and orchestrate a natural and, of course, purely coincidental moment there is no need to look any further than your grandparents, the very masters of meaningful moments. It is these experienced and humble specialists who turn an apple, story, picture, or a walk in the park into a gesture that has us rolling on the floor laughing or that leaves us deeply touched – not asking for anything in return. Either way, they genuinely highlight a moment of our life so dear to us that we neatly store it in our memories, waiting for the day we can pass it the next generation, again making someone’s day.

The rule of thumb is: first and foremost meaningful moments are personal and never formal. They connect two or more people. Homemade is more charming than perfection. They are never to be outsourced to HR or a third party. Do something nobody would expect. Write something by hand. Dare to be spontaneous, again - make it personal. Do not ask for anything in return. Do something in person. If you think it is the right thing to do, we do not mind you singing a song if you think it gets the job done. Favor smaller groups over mass events. Give more space for own ideas. Please stop celebrating individuals or management on stage. Instead think about how you deal with life events and states of temporary need. Spot opportunities to show and prove what your organization stands for. Some practical examples: quickly arrange with others to cover a colleague having private challenges. For once, pick lower performing or less popular colleagues and give them the gift of attention. Have lunches or offer them mentorship - you might be surprised. Put some heart and soul into your personal welcome ceremony: surprise new employees or co-workers in the lobby or the parking lot and walk them to their desk, organize relevant colleagues to say hello throughout the day, have the laptop and other materials already prepared to maximize time for something meaningful.

Final food for thought

You see, we believe that meaningful moments come from the heart, not the wallet or formal structures. We remember a project in which we ordered hamburgers and soft drinks in various styles for a management project kick-off with 50 participants of a conservative company. After years participants still remember the surprise and atmosphere created that day. In fact, that very day even the grumpier personalities and worryguts took themselves a little less serious. After all, meaningful moments do not correlate with amounts of effort invested to create them. A well-timed burger and soft drink beat a bottle of Christmas champagne or fancy toy anytime and anywhere. For those who found this article to be trivial, why don’t you practice it?