A Special Report is content that is edited and produced by the Special Reports unit within The Irish Times Content Studio. It is supported by advertisers who may contribute to the report, but who do not have editorial control.

How celebrating employees’ talents has long-term benefits for companies

Firms with talent shows and recreational activities encourage brand loyalty and pride

Great Place to Work is helping to put brand pride and loyalty back on the agenda, with the launch of a Talent at Work initiative. Photograph: iStock

Great Place to Work is helping to put brand pride and loyalty back on the agenda, with the launch of a Talent at Work initiative. Photograph: iStock

 

Two decades ago the nation regularly tuned in to RTÉ to watch staff battle for corporate supremacy in the John Player Tops of the Town. It wasn’t just musical theatre that was at stake but the pride competitors had in their company and the fun they had working there.

Great Place to Work is helping to put such concepts back on the agenda, with the launch of a Talent at Work initiative that celebrates employee talents.It’s already having a great effect at companies such as Version 1, one of Ireland’s biggest IT companies.

“I remember the Tops of the Towns, which was a great event and then disappeared. I think that with Talent at Work GPTW has managed to bring it back to the fore again,” says Jarlath Dooley, Version 1’s HR and integration director .

“GPTW told us that many companies have a choir, and our HR manager, who is passionate about choirs, set one up internally. It has been a tremendous success. To see them standing up and performing in front of the whole company is fantastic,” he says.

Version 1: their choir has been a “tremendous success”
Version 1: their choir has been a “tremendous success”

But it’s about more than just entertainment. “The real benefit is one of social connection, particularly for those who may be new to the city. It’s also a stress reliever – the benefits of singing together are well documented. For me it has been an eye opener just how much positivity has come from it.”

It has led to unexpected benefits too, namely a proliferation of socially minded groups. “We now have running groups, hill walking groups, groups that go to the theatre. I’m just delighted to see it coming back, because it’s the reverse of social media and, being located here in Dublin 1, we have access to so much around us for people to enjoy,” Dooley adds.

A bonded workforce is a better one, and social activities foster bonds. “A tight labour market forces you to raise the bar and look for every possible option to make your company a better place to be, and what really retains people is the social connection. There has been a loss of that in the past 10 years. We are seeing the benefits of bringing it back,” says Dooley.

Version 1 was set up in the west of Ireland in 1996 and today employs more than 1,200 people in Dublin, Cork and across the UK. “For us Talent at Work is a way to keep a bit of that west of Ireland feeling of social connection, and it is helping our retention rates. The more companies can engage in group activities around talent and recreation, the better.”

A bonded workforce is a better one, and social activities foster bonds. Photograph: iStock
A bonded workforce is a better one, and social activities foster bonds. Photograph: iStock

Claire McGeever of Great Place to Work agrees: “The best leaders and workplaces don’t just see their teams as cost items on a balance sheet, they work on fostering deep trusting relationships with their teams,” she says.

One of the key components that a leader needs to demonstrate to their team is “benevolence”, a sense of caring for their personal interests and drivers, according to McGeever.

“The best workplaces have leaders throughout their business that know, appreciate and celebrate the unique hobbies and interests of their team members. They understand also if there are any pressure points that their team members may be under when it comes to home or family stresses, and support their people during these times,” she says.

“The Talent at Work initiative is about encouraging organisations to learn and celebrate the hidden talents of their people. When we are aware of the “whole self” of the people that work for us we can foster deep connections and meaningful relationships and build sustained engagement levels.”

Another company immersed in improving recreational activities within the firm is DHL. The company, which employs almost 400 people in Dublin, has organised a number of events which help foster such bonds, including DHL Does Strictly and DHL’s Got Talent.

DHL Does Strictly: raised €5,080 in aid of Pieta House
DHL Does Strictly: raised €5,080 in aid of Pieta House

Not only are the events good for bonding, but they are also altruistic, with all funds raised from the events going to charity – in 2017 the DHL Does Strictly event raised an impressive €5,080 in aid of Pieta House. One of its Talent at Work events was a Dragons’ Den-style competition. The winning pitch had lasting consequences for the firm; leading to the introduction of a recognition scheme for those small acts of helpfulness internally, a way of measuring the moments that resonate with colleagues.

“When you’re customer-facing it’s easy to win plaudits, but if you’re in the warehouse making sure the customer’s needs are met, it’s harder, and we need to recognise that too,” says DHL HR director Trevor Murphy.

“Incorporating a fun element into an event gets you more buy-in. It’s fun with lasting impact.”