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A friend of mine is a director of an international company and recently hosted a lunch for colleagues who had been with the company for forty years or more. Each table was hosted by a director and they reported that it was absolutely humbling to meet people with such commitment and dedication. They all had great tales to tell and the odd grumble and that was both ends of the working spectrum!

In another area of the same company, they are taking the Big Bake Off very seriously! Teams of twelve who want to take part, assign names of the contestants to each other and when one is voted off, that team member has to bake something and bring it in to work. Both men and women have surprised themselves in their abilities and coffee/tea breaks are very yummie!

This is a great example of workplace involvement and integration. I believe that this is a key factor to developing an engaged workforce as it can be a relaxed opportunity to discuss issues and get to know each other. It is important that interactions are not forced as this can have the opposite effect. An example of this was one workplace where a whole area was told they had to dress up for Comic Relief. This proved extremely challenging for the introverted staff who were employed because they were right for the job but not very good at “making a fool of themselves”. Others loved it and were very innovative.

In one organisation, I heard of a great idea where people were asked to talk/show/demonstrate their hobby, resulting in a great lunch time jamming session , a video of a colleague playing a 4 manual organ, demonstration of crochet and tatting as well as explanations of yoga, pilates and Qi gong.

The result was interest and respect for the variety of skills, knowledge and fitness of their colleagues.

Acceptance of individuality is a key part of engagement, increasing commitment, productivity and personal satisfaction. The whole is only as good as the individual parts. If the individual parts feel valued and respected it is easier to build a cohesive organisation.


Ann McCracken is a Director of AMC2 and the vice president of the International Management Association (ISMA UK) – the professional body for stress management Practitioners.

She specialises in developing a positive and resilient working culture in organisations by introducing effective strategies in performance and wellbeing at all levels. The effectiveness of such a positive working culture is measured and assessed using AMC2 Corporate Diagnostic innovative surveys which include measurement of psychosocial factors, stress and wellbeing. Having initially trained as a scientist, she carried out research with DEFRA and consultancy in the NHS.

She spent 10 years in Education before retraining as a stress management practitioner in 1996. She is the author of Stress Gremlins©, regularly writes/broadcasts and is an external lecturer at Westminster University. She is also a Key Note/Motivational speaker/Conference Chair.

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