Thanksgiving – The First Employee Engagement Event

Paul Hebert Employee Communications, Employee Engagement, employee experience, Employee Relations, Paul Hebert

In a couple of days many of us will be pulling our chairs up to a table full of food that seems designed to turn on every single memory cell in your brain. From the look of the jiggly cranberry sauce with the indentations from the can wrapped around it to the smell of the turkey that sits waiting to be carved into unrecognizable pieces by whomever thinks they are the WORLD’S.BEST.TURKEY.CARVER. All of us have memories of Thanksgiving and the meal to end all meals. Some are good. Some not. But Thanksgiving is not a beige event. It is remembered.

We moved a lot when I was a kid, sometimes overseas (Japan/France) so we didn’t do the normal “all family gets together” meal with Aunts, Uncles, Grands and Great-Grands. We just did the family. Granted we had 6 kids so it was still a crowded affair. My father also invited an inveterate bachelor to dinner each year since he had no family to spend the day with. It was our Thanksgiving. It was fun. It is missed.

And of course I need to link today’s post to Thanksgiving – what else do you do when everything in the world is either a help or hindrance to employee engagement? Turns out, food is a pretty good engagement driver.

At least Google thinks so. And I am not ready to argue with Google just yet – though some of its results this election season have influenced my almost fanatical trust of their results.

cheezyIf you don’t know it, Google offers a boatload of food options for their employees. And not just free Crunchy Cheddar Jalapeno Cheetos (try them you will be an addict – Oh my!) but stuffed quail, lavender pecan cornbread, aloo gobi, fresh fruits and vegetables, Gruyère mac and cheese. The stuff that would make employees in 7 states now very, very happy. But Google didn’t just focus on the food. They actually focused on the process of getting food. What Google knows (data being their forte in all) and what we all know from every Thanksgiving… eating together builds relationships. As stated in an article in Fortune Magazine over a year ago:

Data-obsessed Google measures the length of the cafeteria lines to make sure people have to wait a while (optimally three to four minutes) and have time to talk. It makes people sit at long tables, where they’re likelier to be next to or across from someone they don’t know, and it puts those tables a little too close together so you might hit someone when you push your chair back and thus meet someone new—the Google bump, employees call it. And now we begin to see the real reason Google offers all that fantastic free fare: to make sure workers will come to the cafeterias, where they’ll start and strengthen personal relationships.

What Google really knows is that people connecting with people is the real reason for engagement and success. I’ve stated over and over that conversation is the employee engagement killer app and that companies need to have more conversations to really get over their engagement hiccups. You don’t need more systems. You don’t need more studies. You don’t need more surveys (pulse or other).

You need more conversations.

Conversations at lunch.

Conversations over coffee.

Conversations between manager and employee.

Conversation between employee and employee.


So this Thursday if you celebrate Thanksgiving watch what happens as people gather around for appetizers and when they sit at the table and start passing around the plates of memories masquerading as stuffing, beans, potatoes and turkey. Listen as the conversations ebb and flow. Watch the relationships get deeper – or in some instances – begin.

Just don’t watch that one drunk Uncle everyone has who insists on talking politics this year. Regardless of leanings – it will not end well. Trust me.

Everyone – be safe – be present – be you!

Happy Holidays!