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Whether you’re in the tech industry or just fighting to retain your employees in a tight labor market, engagement is more important than ever.
That means different things to different organizations, but one theme is common: Employees should consider your firm a rewarding place to work.
Qualcomm, an American multinational semiconductor and telecommunications giant headquartered in San Diego, must find ways to connect with 30,000 employees in more than 40 countries, says Christi Gilhoi, who leads global employee engagement.
Qualcomm, Gilhoi says, is a future-oriented company full of the kind of high-skill innovators no company wants to lose. After a recent meeting, someone noted a colleague in the room and told Gilhoi, “He invented airplane mode.”
In a recent Ragan Training session, “Get your workforce behind the mission: Rethink everything about employee engagement programs,” Gilhoi explained how Qualcomm keeps its global, multilingual workforce happy.
1. Invite your staffers to share their lives away from work.
“We’ve talked a lot about bringing your whole self to work,” Gilhoi says. “Who are you outside of work? And we like to highlight this.”
For a “U Outside the Q” feature on the intranet, Qualcomm invited employees to submit photos of what they do in their personal life. This united the team worldwide, as people submitted pictures from as far away as Taiwan and India.
2. Celebrate the World Cup with a worldly workforce.
Qualcomm’s employees love soccer and cricket. For the World Cup, the company opened all the auditoriums and showed games on big screens. Employees brought their laptops and cheered their favorite teams while they worked.
Several years ago Qualcomm held a “World Cup” of its own, flying in teams of employees from as far away as Bangalore and Singapore—even from exotic New Jersey—to compete in an on-campus soccer tournament.
“It was fantastic,” Gilhoi says. “We really engaged employees from those far-flung offices … Each one of those employees went back with that seed of excitement of being part of a global program.”
3. Keep the kids happy.
Qkids is Qualcomm’s version of “Take your kids to work day,” and every year it draws 1,000 young people to the main campus.
“These 1,000 kids are the children of engineers who are inventing the next generation of tech,” Gilhoi says. “They have really high expectations.”
Last summer Qualcomm created a robot city and had a robot soccer game. The kids learned how to build their own robots. The activities are tied to philanthropy: The children also assemble science, technology, engineering and mathematics activities in bags, which are donated to nonprofits such as a robotics camp or library.
4. Sponsor clubs.
All you need to start a club is “five people and a cool idea,” Gilhoi says. Under Qualcomm’s aegis, employees participate in 250 clubs around the world.
“We have a cigar appreciation club,” Gilhoi says. “We have a beer-brewing club. We have a club that does hula-hooping in the hallways at lunch.”
Board games, Indian music, dance: the list goes on. The company gives each club an annual budget of $600 (there are minimal restrictions; for example, no spending it on alcohol and no gift cards with a cash value). This did not turn out to be the budget-buster that some people feared: Most clubs spend only half that allotment.
The return on investment is “amazing,” Gilhoi says. Comms has worked with the analytics team to measure it, and they have figures they can show executives to prove the positive results.
“If you’re in a club, you’re much more likely to get to know people in other titles,” Gilhoi says. “You’re much more likely to like your job, and you’re much more likely to just feel good about your workplace.”
5. Help staffers support charity.
Various offices have a pool of money that they can allocate to local charities under what’s called the Qcares program. In Singapore, volunteers helped people with disabilities enjoy a live show, using props and puppets to interact with the audience.
6. Hold summer events on campus.
Qualcomm hosts Summer on the Lawn events in which it brings in in food trucks, subsidizing the cost of the chow so that food items are $1 or $2. The company also hires entertainment, such as bands and even a hula group.
All this “just gave people a chance to decompress and to connect and to relax,” Gilhoi says.
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