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You Don’t Need Pool Tables to Have an Engaged Marketing Department

You Don’t Need Pool Tables to Have an Engaged Marketing Department

Explore some things that are more important than pool tables that you can use to build great culture and engage your marketing department.

A pool table — or a ping-pong table. A fully stocked kitchen and Friday afternoon happy hour.

Perks like these have become the norm in many of today’s offices, and they’re used to attract talent and help build a culture of innovation and togetherness.

It’s great that company culture is finally getting the attention it deserves. According to a study by Britain’s Social Market Foundation, having happier employees really does equal better work.

As a result, a record numbers of pool tables and mini-fridges are making their way into offices. Workers aren’t complaining: Everyone likes free food, and a pool table can be a great place to gather for casual brainstorming sessions, or even just take a break from work. But we know these perks alone don’t add up to a great company culture. Eager to innovate and draw new talent, today’s companies are at risk of looking for success in the wrong places.

As a CMO, here are a few things that are more important than pool tables that you can use to build great culture and engage your marketing department.

2016 State of marketing. New research based on 4000 marketers worldwide. Get the report.

Realize Good Ideas Can Come from Anywhere

The best thing about startups isn’t the free beer and ping pong. It’s the feeling that everyone is contributing.

The company is still small enough that someone from human resources can come up with a marketing idea that actually sticks, and a software developer can have a quick meeting with the CEO. Everyone is working together, everyone is valued, and they understand great ideas can come from anywhere.

As they get bigger, companies tend to lose this quality. In response, many are trying to grab a piece of the startup magic with exciting break rooms and interactive work spaces. But as Wealthsimple CEO Mike Katchen points out, mimicking a startup won’t make you innovative unless you mimic what’s on the inside.

To engage your employees, Katchen suggests empowering them to “ship-it.” That’s a startup term for acting when needed, without always having to get permission. Share information throughout your company and let employees know their ideas are welcome. By empowering people to make decisions, you let them know they have a meaningful impact. That’s the best way to unleash anyone’s creative drive. By giving decision-making power to the people closest to the information, you increase efficiency and unlock hidden potential.

Give People a Mission They Support, and They’ll Give You Their Best

Your company’s mission is what brings people together: It’s a common goal to rally behind. That collective push is crucial to making your employees want to do great work.

Facebook’s goal, for example, is to “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.” Nike wants to “bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.” Outdoor gear brand Patagonia not only has a mission statement, but also a Reason for Being. That works, because why else does your company exist but to solve a problem? By making their values known and having a clear mission, companies can attract the right people and rally them behind a common goal.

Patagonia could try recruiting people with an office climbing gym. That might attract great climbers, but not necessarily people who want to make great products for climbers. Unless you’re scouting for billiards champions, having a mission that attracts the right people and motivates your employees should always come before a pool table.

The Right People Help Define the Right Culture for Your Company

When hiring new talent, make sure you bring in people who fit into the culture you’re building. Aim for team players who perform, but who can also relate with the goals of your department. Avoid what Eric Sinoway of Axcess Worldwide calls vampires: high performers who actually hurt your culture. At Zappos, culture is so important that the company has a second interview solely to test for a cultural fit, and turns away talent who doesn’t align.

Look for people who will represent you well even outside the office. If an employee is a creative who rarely meets customers, chances are they still tell people where they work. The impression they make on others impacts the public’s perception of your company. If you’re helpful, they’ll imagine your company is, too. If you’re a genuine person, you’ll be more likely to inspire a chain reaction of referrals and faith in your brand. The effect is even greater for small companies, where you may literally be somebody’s first impression of the brand.

Once you’ve got an excited team who’s on board with your mission, you can decide whether a pool table adds to your culture. It could be just the right thing to tap your team’s competitive streak.

Maybe you’ll take Susan Cain’s advice and set up a book lounge, which is great for engaging introverts who use their quiet time to get exceptional work done. Or perhaps a monthly breakfast organized by employees (with rotating duties) can build a sense of community. Then again, you could follow the lead of Scotiabank’s new Digital Factory, which has its own bowling alley.

So buy a pool table, offer food, give your employees free gym memberships: These perks help engage employees, and more offices are doing what they can to keep people happy. Just remember, the point is not to let perks define your culture, but to let your culture define the perks.

For more insights into best practices in marketing today, check out our free state of marketing report.

2016 State of marketing. New research based on 4000 marketers worldwide. Get the report.

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