HR Leads Business

Dec 23, 2019 | Clare Chiappetta

All I Want for Christmas is Employee Engagement: Unusual HR Requests That Worked

When you’re in business, it’s really tempting to just play it safe. But, the most successful businesses are willing to take risks to reap rewards. TOMS founder Blake Mycoskie took a risk when he utilized the one-for-one concept in his business — and it worked. Thinking outside of the box and experimenting with new ways to conduct business can produce incredible results in unexpected ways.

This is true when managing your organization’s human capital, too. One of the best ways to develop human capital is by occasionally taking a calculated risk and giving credence to some of the more unusual requests that cross your desk. And, what better time than the holidays to reflect on what employees really want — and how granting those requests can help improve employee engagement and productivity.

“There’s great value to be derived from being open and amenable to employee requests and suggestions,” says Robin Schooling, managing partner at the Peridus Group.

Here are some unusual — and slightly risky — HR requests that paid off in big ways.

Let Employees Make a Difference

Corporate social responsibility offers several benefits to your organization, including increased engagement and greater leverage when attracting and retaining employees. This is especially true when the request comes directly from your employees, as Yaniv Masjedi, chief marketing officer at Nextiva, found out. When approached by an employee one October and asked about plans to support breast cancer research and awareness, Masjedi admitted the company didn’t have anything planned.


By acting quickly and collaborating with the employee, Nextiva’s C-suite colleagues partnered with the Mayo Clinic to support research. “We raised a total of $27,000, which was then matched by our CEO Tomas Gorny through his Gorny Foundation — and we gave a total of $54,000 to Mayo Clinic by the end of the month,” Masjedi says. This initiative evolved into Nextiva Cares, the company’s corporate social responsibility branch.

Act on Employee Wellness Needs

It’s hard for anyone to achieve optimal productivity if their health and wellness needs aren’t being met. And, there’s a significant ROI for employers who listen to their employees’ needs and provide additional wellness programs. Dmytro Okunyev, founder of Chanty, discovered these benefits by listening to the needs voiced by his employees. “My employees kept complaining about how they don’t get enough exercise during the day, and I started noticing it, too — we didn’t move enough,” he says.

The C-suite worked with employees to coordinate 10 minutes of physical activity at the beginning of each work day, and the results proved better than anyone anticipated. “We generally feel happier, much more energized, and the atmosphere is much more lively,” Okunyev says. “I can’t believe something so simple made such a major impact on how we perform and feel at work.”

Empower Employees to Set the Schedule

Offering flexible scheduling and paid time off policies can significantly improve outcomes when attracting new talent and helping your employees to become more focused and productive. This is especially true when employees are empowered to take control of their schedules. For example, Schooling worked with one organization with an online employee forum. One employee suggested the company offer birthday PTO, and the sentiment was echoed by colleagues.

The initial HR response was that this PTO wasn’t necessary, but Schooling and the HR team gave it serious consideration and rolled out the extra PTO day within a few months. “There was no disruption to productivity, and the resulting goodwill was massive,” Schooling says. “Employees felt like they were heard, and their requests were not only evaluated but also given thoughtful deliberation.”