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Employee Engagement in Canadian Theatre

What is employee engagement? It’s not just about having happy employees, it’s about having employees who are motivated and engaged in their work and feel connected with the theatre’s mission. Think of it as an emotional commitment to your company.  Engaged employees look forward to coming to work and take pride in what they do. We often think that theatre professionals’ drive is related to their love of theatre (we’ve all heard it – “low pay but high job satisfaction”) but there are some extra steps we can all take to ensure our staff remain both happy and committed.

Employee engagement initiatives do not have to be expensive – each company has its own budgetary restrictions and likewise employees have different needs and preferences! Remember it’s not always about an event or food, it can simply be creating a positive work culture or recognizing your staff, their work and making them feel that they are a valued member of the team. An extra “thank you”, or “good job” can go a long way!

Here are a few ideas that you might consider in order to increase employee engagement or company connection:

  • Have an extra studio that’s not always in use? Consider yoga in the workplace!
  • Keep your staff informed – host staff meetings so that everyone is in the loop about goals, budgets, and where their peers are with current projects.
  • Consider a “Job Switch” day/afternoon – Have employees spend a day in someone else’s shoes, or shadow someone else – it can help break down departmental misunderstanding and give a greater sense of being part of a larger team.
  • Consider enhancing your group benefits with an Employee Assistance Plan that offers support such as simple legal advice, a crisis line, a list of medical specialists etc. – This can help staff can focus on their work, not what they’re bringing to work.
  • Send “thank you” / recognition emails
  • Plan potlucks
  • Staff outings – from escape rooms to bowling. (Will Production win over Patron Services?)
  • Host a staff picnic and BBQs to celebrate your employees.
  • Holiday parties or gift exchanges
  • Host contests such as a scavenger hunt, or a weekly trivia competition – get a plastic trophy from Dollarama that can rotate through departmental teams!
  • Monday emails from the AD or GM
  • Start a learning club – set aside time for employees to share their knowledge and engage in conversation with each other that isn’t just about that difficult patron or thorny production issue. These can be open or targeted conversations.
  • Take staff photos throughout the year (not just at openings or galas) and create a slideshow that celebrates the completed season and the staff’s work.
  • Standing Four Square tournament (which went over gangbusters at PACTcon2018!)
  • Send traditional employee surveys (this can tell you what your employees think of the workplace, and management). A word of caution, don’t send a survey unless you plan to act on the feedback.
  • Create a company sports team – does your staff prefer baseball or soccer?
  • Take everyone to see another company’s production.

Want to discuss further? As always, feel free to send me an email or give me a call anytime!

Interested in discussing this topic? Register for our upcoming Hot Topics call Keeping Employees Happy, Identifying and Avoiding Burnout, hosted by Alicia Cachia, PACT’s HR Specialist, and Vicki Stroich, Dramaturg and (recent) Arts Administrator. Taking place on Thursday December 6th from 1:00-2:00 PM ET. The call is open to PACT member companies and PACT colleagues. Click here for details and registration.

Until next time,

Alicia Cachia
HR Specialist

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