The University of Washington Dances Their Way To Employee Engagement

by Dora Wang on Feb 20, 2015 8:00:00 AM

University of Washington logoThere are plenty of innovative and unusual ways to boost employee engagement, but the University of Washington takes the cake with a 2,000-person choreographed umbrella dance.

The event was sponsored by The Whole U, a program that promotes engagement and wellness for the UW community. And while it might seem a little weird to translate umbrellas into engaged employees, that’s just what this event was all about.

An Educated Approach To Employee Happiness

The Whole U was launched in 2013 to promote engagement, partially in response to Gallup’s report that 70% of employees in the U.S. are disengaged at work. By incorporating wellness and work-life balance into their approach, The Whole U is taking the people-first approach that’s needed to get your workers really engaged.

And it can’t just be about telling employees what to do to be healthier, says Vice President for Human Resources Mindy Kornberg. “It has to be driven by the employees that want to be leaders in their community.”

The Whole U also recognizes that engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. Kornberg explains that a simple solution like offering yoga classes won’t work for people who are interested in running. So the program promotes healthy lifestyles with a variety of events and interest groups.

Record-Breaking Engagement

The umbrella dance isn’t the first innovative activity that The Whole U has organized. Last year, they brought members of the University together to set the Guinness World Record for Largest Kettlebell Workout.

Umbrellas? Kettlebells? What does this have to do with feeling engaged while you’re sitting at your desk?

Employee engagement isn’t about your specific tasks on the job, of course. It’s about feeling interested and invested at work. So creating a common goal for the community to accomplish is about engaging people, regardless of what their job titles are. By physically bringing people together for the umbrella dance, UW allowed employees to connect across school and department, faculty and staff.

The Whole U’s Wellness Propagandist, Marti Young, who choreographed and led the dance, “can't think of a demographic that [they] are not touching” with the event.

This community-based, wellness-centered approach is working for UW. Last year, they were named to the Chronicle of Higher Education’s 2014 Great Colleges to Work For.

What is the “umbrella dance” for your organization? Find a purpose that will bring your workforce together. It doesn’t have to be public or Guinness-worthy—a strong company vision and mission will bring your employees together in the same way. All you need to do is create a goal that unites and motivates the company to make a push for your own record.

 

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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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