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President, Brand Strategy
VI Marketing and Branding
Originally uttered as a warning to the illfated Julius Caesar, the phrase now can be a forewarning to company executives across the U.S.: Yes, March Madness is upon us.
As you read this, publicity-seeking researchers will be cranking out the daunting numbers of worker productivity going south to the tune of, in 2011, up to $4 billion.
We would all agree that productivity in most of our businesses can flounder, especially during the opening week of the tournament, which features 32 games, each starting at 11 a.m. local time on Thursday and Friday.
But Challenger, Gray & Christmas, who conduct the yearly research and garner reams of publicity in the process, practice some pretty fuzzy math. Their research doesn’t acknowledge that there is wasted time (non productive) built in to every employee’s workday. People send personal emails, take extended coffee breaks or long lunches, talk to or text friends, shop online and any number of other daily distractions.
But on to the madness we go. The latest numbers show there are 58 million college hoops fans and that more than 45% of all Americans would enter some kind of NCAA tournament pool.
There is also much evidence to support the theory that says embracing the tournament, having office pools, talking about it and, yes, even watching can add to workplace productivity.
Most of the support for this theory is based on camaraderie, team-building, bonding and a fun, non-business activity. I am one who subscribes to this theory.
Culture in our workplace is nothing like it was even a decade ago. Workplaces are open and vibrant, energy is evident, communication and ideation is encouraged and constant. Many offices have TVs on regularly, streaming content is available online, on your phone, on your tablet. Many people work remotely, office hours are individual and flexible. We live in a 24-hour news cycle and global financial markets that often render the clock obsolete. This isn’t your father’s March Madness. More importantly, your culture is where your brand begins. And if you believe that your brand is your most valuable asset, you understand how important your culture is to your success. It greatly influences your deliverable, and not just in the service industry.
If Apple’s culture wasn’t about innovation, would we have the iPod? If it wasn’t about perfection, would 25% of the population pay 10 times what they have to for a phone?
At VI, we have people with varying interests in the NCAA tournament. But just because its March 15 doesn’t mean we don’t have deadlines and due dates. Our people have lots of freedom in how they work, when they work and oftentimes where they work.
Our culture demands that the work is creative and strategic. It also demands that they participate in life so that they can reflect it in their work. Participation in pop culture drastically improves our company culture.
Our unofficial motto is, “Work hard, play hard.” And just like any other week of the year, we will give our people the freedom to manage their time and respect that their jobs will be done. If that allows for some game viewing, an inner-office pool and some water cooler smack-talk, then I believe March Madness will only apply to the brackets and not our clients.
And because we have this type of culture, we won’t worry about nonproductivity or missed deadlines. Because we find a playful culture to be very productive. And when people enjoy what they’re doing and where they’re doing it, they do it on time.
With local teams not likely to even make the field for the 2012 championship, interest surely will wane somewhat. So surviving March Madness may not be such a difficult task this year. Your director of operations might like that. But, if you had a director of corporate culture, they probably wouldn’t. How long does it take to finish a boring book? Now, a thrilling page-turner? An energized workplace is productive as long as the expectations are in place.
If you missed the opportunity to make March Madness work for you this year, take note. With the Oklahoma City Thunder being picked to win the Western Conference Championship and advance to the NBA Finals, the playoff madness and interest in every game from late April to the end of June may dwarf anything March has to offer.
Beware a midsummer night’s dream. At least there are no afternoon games.
Photo by Mark Hancock