Leisure in the Workplace Can Help You Recruit

Written by Paul Marchildon, on July 24, 2013.

Millennials are misunderstood. It’s like being “really, really ridiculously good-looking,” to quote Derek Zoolander. People make assumptions about what it must be like to be really, really ridiculously good-looking, and those who are, are sometimes misjudged. Millennials aren’t lazy, entitled, or spoiled.

Here’s why you want them on staff: they are optimistic; they are motivated; they want to excel, and they want to make a difference. They just want to do all of this in a different work environment than we have been mired in over the past few centuries. And that’s a change that’s been a long time in the making.

A leisure ethic is a differentiator in any industry, and for any company. SAS, for instance, has invited leisure into every aspect of employee life. Your grandparents would walk onto the SAS campus and think they were on a different planet. Yoga breaks, aquatics classes and personal trainers? Wallyball, billiards, and golf leagues? At work? With your partner and family? What is this, a job or a vacation!

Employees Lacking Motivation?

Paul Marchildon, an experienced Leisureologist, can work with you and your team to increase productivity by incorporating leisure into the workplace.

SAS has implemented incentive programs to allow employees to earn RFC (Recreation and Fitness Center) dollars, which can be used to buy clothing, swim gear, and spa services. They can do this with onsite programs, such as RFC Miles (where they log miles walked, biked, run, etc. – and the walk from the car counts) or on their own time. Whenever they participate in a qualifying leisure or wellness activity – whether rafting, geocaching, art class, or even quitting smoking – they rack up the dollars.

It’s not simply the RFC dollars that make the program work (though try telling that to an employee who has earned enough for a relaxing massage!). It is the knowledge that the company cares for their wellbeing, health, and happiness; and values their participation. The dollars are a bonus. The real benefit is in creating a leisure culture that encourages camaraderie, teamwork, engagement, and fun.

Why do this? Two reasons: one, SAS, and other progressive companies, know that to attract and keep top talent, they need to treat their employees like assets rather than commodities. And two, they understand that when a working parent bounces over to the onsite preschool to see his kid at lunch, it does not make him unproductive. When an employee volunteers in the community, it doesn’t detract from her work. It makes her a tremendous brand ambassador. When employees work 8 to 4 instead of 9 to 5, or pulls a 4/10 week instead of a 5/8, they may be getting even more done. People are engaged in the organization, in its values, and in its culture – and it shows.

Jim Goodnight, SAS CEO, says, "You have two choices. You can spend money on employees or headhunters and training, and it's about the same amount of money. So why not spend it on the employees?" The software industry has a turnover rate of about 22 percent annually. SAS – 2.6 percent. They’re not only recruiting the right people; they’re keeping them.

This dovetails perfectly with the needs and goals of millennials, who value being part of something bigger than themselves and who don’t want a work/life balance so much as they want to extend life into their work. And we doubt any baby boomers or Gen Xers could argue with flex time, leisure rewards, and a culture of creativity and collaboration.

To scoop up the best employees, companies have to be really, really ridiculously attractive to recruits. It’s not just millennials, but by 2020, they will make up about half of the workforce. Implementing a leisure ethic creates a culture in which people come to work not because they have to, but because they want to. When leisure and engagement are integral in the workplace, productivity and profitability are right on their heels.

Paul Marchildon

Paul Marchildon

A self-proclaimed Leisureologist and Motivational Speaker, Paul Marchildon applies his vast expertise in human engagement to help leaders create more productive, effective organizations. Building on an influential career as a pioneer in employee incentive and loyalty programs, strategic creative communications, social media and mobile marketing, Paul provides insight into the advantages of incorporating a leisure culture in the "work" place. He is past president of Society of Incentive and Travel Executives’ (Site) Canadian Chapter and founder of Atlantis Creative Group (now part of Maritz Canada). He is one of a select group of Canadians who have received the Certified Incentive Travel Executive (CITE) designation.