Best approach for celebrating worker birthdays

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Rey Elbo

In The Workplace

Our current human resources (HR) practice is to release printed birthday cards to those who are celebrating their birthdays during the month. The cards contain the best wishes and greetings of the boss and their department colleagues. However, I find it a bit corny, if not a robotic exercise for me as the new HR manager. Is there a better way? — Yellow Rose.

A boy went to the movies with his smaller brother and after they seated themselves, the older boy asked: “Can you see the screen, Willy?” The little boy replied: “Nope.” The older brother said: “We can’t do anything for now. Just laugh when I laugh.”

That’s what happens when HR managers simply follow the current policy without challenging the status quo and without looking for ways to maximizie the policy’s impact on the organization. I’ve seen it happen in many companies that don’t want to spend money to improve the system. It becomes worse if your department settles on copying and printing greeting card templates from the Internet that somehow contributes to the demise, if not the slow growth of Hallmark.

Really, what’s the point of issuing birthday greeting cards to the workers? Without you realizing it, that question is enormous in scope. Some would say it’s the best thing that an organization can do, in addition to issuing an announcement on the bulletin board. Others say that if you can’t pay a competitive salary, at least treat the workers well enough so they feel good that their colleagues remember their birthdays.

Sure, to some people, receiving birthday greetings have a positive impact. However, in our culture, many of us feel pressured to reciprocate. At times, office colleagues are bold enough to ask to be treated to a meal. But what if the person doesn’t celebrate that way or is hard up?

Somehow, it’s one of the reasons why celebrants avail of their birthday leaves so they are not pressured to accept the one-day heckling of their office colleagues.

More than the heckling, the question is — what do birthday greeting cards have to do with good people management, when such an exercise becomes mechanical and meaningless? Have you measured its positive effects, if any, on the morale of employees? I mean, after receiving their birthday cards, what happens next?

To measure the effectiveness of birthday greetings, either by the traditional method of sending colorful, beautifully-designed cards or copy-paste template jobs from the Internet, the best thing is to organize a Birthday Club. Here HR takes the lead in scheduling a merienda cena for employees, to coincide with a town hall meeting be presided by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), President, General Manager or alternatively by other high-ranking corporate officials. The process is simple and easy to do with HR taking into consideration the following:

One, announce the birthdays for the month via the Intranet. Depending on the capacity of the room, the celebrations may be divided into batches to accommodate as many as 50 workers per batch. Announcements may also be made through a posting on the company bulletin board. In this case, you may discontinue issuing birthday cards to all concerned.

Two, limit the celebration to two hours maximum. This is to ensure the efficient use of company time and resources. You can schedule it in the morning or afternoon and may follow the following schedule: Reception and fellowship for 30 minutes. Brief three-minute welcome remarks by the HR manager acting as the moderator followed by merienda cena for 30 minutes.

Three, focus on the basic message and plans of the CEO. Give him the chance to say his piece for about 25 minutes. After that, whatever is left of the two hours should be dedicated to an open forum where questions can be asked anonymously and displayed on a screen. This allows the HR department to sanitize impertinent, incoherent, and off-tangent questions, ideas, or complaints, including those would malign certain company officials or employees.

Four, the celebration may be held at the company’s cafeteria. This minimizes the cost of serving expensive food and drinks to all and reduces the administrative nightmare of organizing the event. To many people, the office canteen gives off a homey atmosphere and makes it easy for all workers to immediately report back to work.

Five, summarize and circulate the key points of the meeting. This must be done by the HR department. If necessary, additional comments by the CEO or any top official in attendance may be inserted in the minutes of meeting even after the event with the result also announced via the Intranet and posted on the bulletin board.

Last, issues raised during the celebration must be resolved promptly. This does not mean, however, that the resolution comes on the spot or management must give in to the employee complaints. In most cases, if management appears sincere in explaining the reasons for a certain issue or corporate policy, many will accept it under certain circumstances.

In examining the objective of having a Birthday Club alongside a town hall meeting, it is enough to understand that all workers, even supervisors and managers, are keen on regular interaction with top management. As part of good proactive communication with employees, a Birthday Club becomes a monthly, if not a semi-monthly opportunity to engage employees.

The suggested pointers are not complete and may be adjusted to suit organizational taste and capacity. But they go above and beyond the mechanical act of sending birthday cards, while raising the complication of satisfying each and every question of the workers. Whatever approach you take, don’t forget the biggest obstacle in improving organizational communication is for all line executives to possess active listening skills.

ELBONOMICS: The single, most important management skill is active listening.


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