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Team-building activities foster healthy, productive working relationships within a department. Photo: City of San Juan Capistrano
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Don't underestimate the role of organized employee activities—both serious at-work ventures and less serious after-hours activities—in employee bonding.

Since its inception, the Employee Participation Team has met monthly to work on each initial issue as well as others that have come up since. Team members look forward to the meetings, where they kick around ideas and refine implementation plans. The following is a short list of their accomplishments to date:

  • Two department-wide staff satisfaction surveys reflected that employees are largely satisfied with their jobs and work environment.
  • A recognition program in which employees nominate each other.
  • Quarterly lunchtime potlucks.
  • Three game and bowling nights.
  • Creating an Employee of the Year program.
  • Creating and publishing a quarterly employee newsletter (issue 8 of our quarterly employee newsletter was published in January).
  • Uniforms with department logos for all field personnel.
  • The development of customer comment cards to provide input on the quality of service citizens receive from the department and individual staffers.
  • The development and distribution of a department brochure.
  • Monthly “Theme Thursdays” when staff can dress up in fun ways.
  • The meetings are fun-filled as different thoughts—including off-the-wall concepts—are proposed and considered. At the end of each discussion, the team always makes sure it has an action plan to implement or promote something tangible that will benefit the entire department.

    “In my previous workplaces, I had not experienced any organized method for promoting teamwork, so this is a new and exciting opportunity,” says Hill. “It is an excellent method to establish and build team spirit among coworkers.”

    Another benefit is that areas of the department that had felt left out are now feeling included. “The personal interaction that happens at activities held outside of the workplace allows people to know each other in a more open and unstructured environment,” says management analyst II Jill Thomas.

    As for our idea of developing and using a department mission statement: Staff members worked on an encompassing statement to make sure it touches all the service areas for which our department provides. The mission statement now accompanies staff signatures in the outgoing e-mails:

    “To enhance the quality of life and preserve the city's heritage and charm through timely response, effective design, environmental sensitivity, quality construction, and neighborhood improvement.”

    — Abbaszadeh is engineering and building director for the city of San Juan Capistrano, Calif.