Sayagyi U Ba Khin, who was the Accountant General of Burma from 1948 until 1967, led his employees and other cabinet ministers in vipassana meditation for an hour every morning and evening until he retired.
As Gustaaf Houtman writes in Mental Culture in Burmese Crisis Politics, the introduction of vipassana meditation was transformational for the government of Burma. Since this mental culture drove employee engagement, levels of corruption in the Burmese government dropped while employee retention and productivity rose.
Although CCC does not goes as far as recommending that call centers mandate two hours of meditation per day, there is wisdom in Ba Khin’s professional and spiritual leadership: leaders who promote employee engagement—and, in turn, foster a positive work environment—can drive improved performance and retention.
Of course, there are the tried and true engagement levers that we have all pulled before. With all you have read and heard, you could create an employee engagement buffet of nonmonetary and momentary incentives, coaching, and development – not to mention a career pathing dessert to top it off!
Don’t get me wrong – traditional engagement initiatives are important, but I’m suggesting that in 2011 folks can get creative with their engagement strategies by taking a page out of Ba Khin’s book:
- As a post on the Customer Experience Discussions Forum shows, some members have built onsite fitness centers to drive employee engagement.
- Our sister organization, Iconoculture, recently wrote that adults are becoming just as excited as their younger cohorts to use yoga to improve health and achieve relaxation, so a weekly complimentary or subsidized yoga session for employees could improve engagement by alleviating stress, promoting mental well-being, improving concentration, etc…
- If you don’t have the resources for full-blown yoga class, there are smaller options: studies show that when people take short breaks throughout the day to sit quietly and breathe deeply, their productivity, focus, and problem-solving skills increase significantly. Maybe reserve a small conference room for this type of quiet meditation.
- Or, rather taking short breaks throughout the day (which could irk your WFM group!), have reps do a short meditation before they start the day. It is a little known fact that NBA coach, Phil Jackson, had the Chicago Bulls and LA Lakers meditate before games. Jackson currently holds the most NBA championship wins.
- Allocate some time for reps to let off steam with stress management games. Crossword puzzles, sudoku, solitaire, and even flash games on the Web can help employees relax and manage their stress productively – and have fun while they are at it! No web access for your reps? Print out puzzles for the break room.
- Eighty percent of employees in Fortune 100 companies say they’re having fun on the job—showing that a little lightheartedness can improve productivity and employee engagement. Find the humor in everyday situations, make a joke at your own expense, or send around the top YouTube video of the week.