Case Study: Radio Flyer — Success Should Be Fun

wagon-416066_640It is bright, shiny, new, and it can take you places you never dreamed possible. Although I could be alluding to a certain little red wagon, I am actually referring to a career with Radio Flyer. Many people around the world know that Radio Flyer has been making children happy for generations, but people may not know the same holds true for its employees. With more than 10 awards in the past few years for being a top employer, including HR Solutions’ Best-in-Class Award, the organization is attracting attention by simply understanding that adults want to have fun too.

On their first day at Radio Flyer, new hires receive a welcome wagon that goes far beyond a typical meet and greet; they receive an actual Radio Flyer wagon to take home and play with so they can reconnect with the fun-loving child within.  Senior Leadership understands feeling valued and appreciated is a Key Driver of Employee Engagement, so making employees (a.k.a. “Flyers”) feel immediately welcome is essential. Receiving a literal welcome wagon also connects Flyers (and their families!) to the brand, which fosters strong employee and family support from day one.

The fun does not stop for Flyers after the first day on the job. Creating a fun and rewarding culture for staff members at all seniority levels is a top priority. Flyers are shown that their hard work is recognized through various events and awards. Radio Flyer parties and celebrations are held regularly to encourage camaraderie. Celebrations occur about once a month and range from the December Holiday Party where all Flyers receive their choice of a honey baked ham or a fruit basket to “Maya del Sol,” the surprise celebration where Flyers find out they can leave work early to enjoy food, drinks, and a mariachi band. The Halloween Party is a Flyer favorite, as it is one of the biggest celebrations of the year. Flyers look forward to participating in a highly competitive pumpkin-carving contest and costume contest. Robert Pasin, chief wagon officer of Radio Flyer, believes providing activities that serve as a creative outlet is beneficial to a Flyer’s well-being and helps shape a fun company culture.

Fun even finds its way into company businesses cards, which show a composite of a cartoon body on a scooter with a photo of the Flyer’s head to personalize each card. See the image below.


These special efforts consistently earned Radio Flyer Best-in-Class scores on its employee engagement surveys, showing the organization was competitive even within the top 10 percent of all organizations surveyed. Radio Flyer’s lowest scoring survey items were still seven percentage points higher than the norm and by many standards, worthy of celebration.

Even though these survey scores were well above average, Radio Flyer still made an effort to improve. As a direct result of great Management and direction, Radio Flyer’s most recent Employee Engagement Survey results showed 92 percent of Flyers look forward to coming to work every day. (And it is not just because of regular company tricycle races!) Radio Flyer’s best practices in creating an environment that attracts and retains top talent serves as an example for organizations across all industries.

Even if your organization doesn’t specialize in making toys, there are still plenty of opportunities to incorporate elements of fun that will shape the culture and act like a magnet for top talent. A great way to draw people to the organization is through the brand itself. By creating positive experiences for customers, organizations will manage and shape their brand. When an organization is known for its fun and lighthearted attitude, Engaged employees will be attracted to become part of such an environment.

Interestingly, you will not find “Fun” on any employee engagement survey vendors’ Key Driver Analysis (a formal statistical analysis that identifies the drivers of engagement in order of importance).  The reason fun as a driver of engagement is missing is because none of these vendors are asking about it in their employee engagement surveys.  Leaving this driver out of the employee engagement solution is a critical mistake because it’s one of the most impactful means of creating world-class engagement and attracting top talent. Nearly every high-engagement organization makes a proactive effort to leverage fun. I saw this success time and time and time again over 30 years of offering management consulting advice to hundreds of best-in-class organizations.

So what else can human resources do to create more fun in the workplace? First, you can carefully look at corporate policies that may be confining and restricting fun and laughter in the workplace. Remove or relax those policies.  Specific fun activities that I successfully implemented at the last company I founded include:

  • Take a break to play “MarshmallowDodgeball” – it gets the blood and laughter flowing and no one gets hurt! And only $1.87 for a 16 ounce bag.
  • Bring the entire team or a department to an early afternoon movie. Buy popcorn and candy for everyone.
  • Encourage employees to make a workplace video to Pharrell William’s “Because I’m Happy” song.
  • Create “Personal Fact Sheets” for each team member and post them in the break room – these sheets enable team members to become closer by knowing more personal information about their coworkers, including their: hometown, favorite TV shows, secret little-known trivia facts, accomplishments, and what most engages them at work.  Sample attached.
  • Buy ice cream for every team member and take a walk.
  • Shut down three hours early on a Friday afternoon and encourage teams who don’t often interact to “mix it up” and play charades, Pictionary, Apples to Apples and the like.

The reality is we spend way too much time at work toiling away without laughing enough or having much fun.  Given the fact that the number one reason people quit is the combination of job stress, work load, and a lack of work life balance, what better antidote for curing this costly turnover than fun. What better magnet for being able to hire the best talent than showing them a culture that promotes fun.

Kevin Sheridan

Kevin Sheridan
Kevin Sheridan is a New York Times best-selling author, a frequent keynote speaker and the chief engagement officer of Kevin Sheridan LLC. He can be reached at kevin (at) kevinsheridanllc (dot) com.

Kevin Sheridan

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