A few weeks ago, Root employees perpetrated a conspiracy against our president, Rich Berens. After our beloved ping pong table was irreparably broken, word got out that our awesome company was buying us a new one and Rich would be making the announcement at the next All Company Meeting. Being the jokesters that we are, we wanted to turn the surprise around on Rich … just for fun. Obviously more fun for us, than maybe Rich.

The day before the All Company Meeting, an email circulated to everyone (but Rich) with instructions to go totally crazy when Rich revealed the news—think “you get a car! You get a car! You get a car!

You can see what happened here.

Surprise & Delight Doesn’t Create Lasting Employee Engagement

Fun, right? Perfect, since one of our company values is Fun! And we do have a lot of fun at Root—all while delivering amazing work for our fantastic clients. If you think fun doesn’t directly factor into our business’ success and the ability create engagement you’re wrong. But, was the act of surprising Rich engaging? Is playing ping pong at work engaging? Nope and nope! Not for a minute!

Here’s the Truth About Employee Engagement Strategies that Last

You know what was engaging? The fact that we felt part of something bigger. Every single person at Root was all in on playing this small prank on Rich. We all had our role in the big picture plan—do something that is “authentically you” and go bat-s%!t crazy when Rich announces the new ping pong table. We all knew what we were striving for—discombobulate Rich momentarily with our explosion of excitement. It was a mission. We had a purpose.

What Does Engagement Look like?

While our little trick didn’t have a direct impact on the day-to-day business per se, it was a simple and effective way of uniting us … which really isn’t such a simple thing at all. In fact, creating a feeling of team unity is essential if you want your organization to be full of people who are engaged, committed and excited about their work. It’s because of small things like this joke—along with a list of other activities, behaviors and culture-driven practices—that each of the 150+ people here at Root is highly engaged in the big picture of helping our clients achieve success (remember that amazing work that I mentioned earlier?).

Everyone understands their role in helping our Fortune 2000 clients create unprecedented levels of engagement across their organizations—some of which have tens of thousands of people they need to get engaged. Whether it’s our production department that prints the Learning Maps, accounts billable’s commitment to sending out invoices that are 100% accurate or our consultant teams that manage the day-to-day work with impeccable dedication, we all know how our work impacts the experience that clients have with us.

Engagement isn’t Pizza Parties or Freebies

Despite common misperceptions fortified by multiple news articles reporting that engagement looks like ping pong tables, pizza parties or free swag, none of this creates real, lasting employee engagement. Sure, while we at Root love our ping pong, it’s not what gets us out of bed in the morning and excited to go to work. But, boy, do we love being a part of a team and putting in our best efforts for the benefit of something much bigger than our individual selves.

The People Have Spoken

I just conducted a very scientific poll of the five people in my immediate work area and asked them why they are engaged or what makes them feel engaged in their work, and here is a sampling of what they said:

  • Consultant: “I have a very clear window of how my work makes an impact on my clients through focus groups and rollouts. Not many of my friends can say that they know how the work they do makes an impact.”
  • Graphic Designer: “I get the chance to creatively solve problems and make things that are effective in delivering business.”
  • Website/SEO Expert: “Meaningful work. When I feel like my work is meaningful to the business.”
  • Demand Generation Leaders: “When I can clearly see that what I’m doing is helping (or not helping) the business.”
  • Manager Development Expert: “I get to see first-hand that I’m helping change people’s lives!”

I think you can see a pattern here. Everyone believes his or her actions make a difference to clients or can see how their work really influences the outcomes of the business. Not a person said the ping pong table upstairs. And that is the truth about creating employee engagement strategies that last.

BTW, this is the ping pong table we got, in case you were wondering.


April 13, 2017


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