Why every company should embrace the World Cup

Ina Toegel
Maude Lavanchy
The best predictor of workplace satisfaction is the culture and values of the organization,while compensation and benefits were consistently rated among the least important factors
Ina Toegel
Maude Lavanchy

Whether you like it or not, football is invading your workplace. With the 2018 FIFA World Cup which started on June 14, expect coffee breaks, lunches and hallway chats to be dominated by talk of the game. Not to mention the people who will keep up with the latest scores during working hours — 10 games in the group stages will take place during European working hours.

But don’t fear: This does not have to be a big waste of time and resources. Yes, the time spent fussing about football may not be spent on finalizing a report, advancing a project, or analyzing industry trends. (Indeed, estimates suggest that employees watching the 2010 World Cup during working hours could have cost as much as US$10.4 billion in lost production time.) But there are multiple ways to make up for this by embracing the tournament.

According to Gallup’s 2017 global survey, the State of the Global Workplace, only 15 percent of full-time workers are truly engaged at work. Almost a quarter of employees surveyed by recruitment agency Adecco said they don’t think their employer tries to improve their happiness. And don’t expect paychecks to do the job: The best predictor of workplace satisfaction, according to the Glassdoor research group, is the culture and values of the organization, while compensation and benefits were consistently rated among the least important factors.

The true bane of an organization’s existence is lack of engagement and job satisfaction among its employees. The World Cup is a timely opportunity to engage workers. With an estimated audience of 3.5 billion worldwide, it is the most-watched sporting event in TV history. Beyond the excitement of the tournament, it brings people together and allows them to bond with colleagues outside their normal work tasks.

It can also help a company’s bottom line in the long run. Employees will be more productive because they return to their desks energized. Emotions are likely to run high during games, resulting in a more informal and relaxed environment. These environments are known to enhance employees’ intrinsic motivation — they simply want to come to work.

Committed employees perform better and are less likely to switch jobs: Gallup estimated that business units in the top quartile in terms of engagement are 17 percent more productive and 21 percent more profitable than those in the bottom quartile. There are also many studies showing that satisfied employees drive business results.

Companies may benefit from enhanced innovation since relaxed, friendly, and fun environments spur creative thinking and good ideas.

You may see an improvement in the execution of change initiatives as a result of bringing different elements of the organization together. A fun and pleasant work environment encourages employees to form connections beyond the people they mostly associate with, such as their specific team or age group. Football is a powerful icebreaker, allowing employees to transcend job titles and bridge silos. Alongside discussing semi-final results, employees can learn more about each other’s job functions and will, in turn, be better able to support each other, saving time and helping implement good ideas more effectively.We suggest three levels of boosting employee engagement through World Cup mania. The first is to encourage conversations about the event. Don’t monitor or try to stop watching games during business hours — this will just make your staff resent you. Instead, engage with what’s going on.

Second, you could organize a TV screen in the office. To see the culture benefits for your organization, keep it in-house and don’t allow external factors to interfere with the experience.

Third, get competitive and sponsor a sweepstake on the outcome of the tournament. A real competition within the organization will get people involved at a deeper level. Not only is making predictions fun and highly engaging, friendly competition can take place among staff, but also across departments.

Putting proceeds from the competition to charity can also increase employee engagement and sense of purpose and you might have an attractive prize to increase participation for those who are not football fanatics by default.

So, get cracking on those World Cup screens and create your in-house engagement. It’s a great way to effectively engage and inspire your organization — and have fun along the way.

Ina Toegel is Professor of Leadership and Organizational Change at IMD. Maude Lavanchy is Research Associate at IMD.

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