Orange Fridays – engagement through learning

Tessara Smith, PayScale

Disengaged employees. We all know who they are, or even worse, maybe some of us know that we are the ones who deserve this dreadful title. Time and time again companies watch as their workers fade from bright shining new hires to dull office zombies. What gives? Most employees don’t purposefully come to a job they hate, clock in, clock out and then leave without making any progress. However, it seems many of them are quick to lose that initial spark they had when you first welcomed them aboard. Coffee carts, company events, and countless other perks don’t seem to be helping to boost employee motivation either, so what is the solution here?

You have probably already heard about “High-Five Fridays” an engagement strategy where employees get to take off early for the weekend if all of their work for the week has already been completed. However, I doubt you have yet to learn about the new motivation tactic in town that goes by the name of “Orange Fridays”. 

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Basically, instead of going about business as usual, employees devote one day a week to learning new skills that will help them to get better at their job. This could be anything from taking time to research market trends to attending work seminars. Learning in the workplace is something that continuously gets swept under the rug when it comes to keeping employees engaged and motivated. We are often quick to make the assumption employees dread having to master new skills and take on more tasks but the contrary is true – this is actually a great way to keep your workers engaged in their work a rekindle their passionate for their careers. Think about it, constantly acquiring new skills and being challenged to learn fosters advancements in ones skillset as well as new developments within the company.

In addition to employee’s personal development, there are many benefits to the company as a whole that incorporating Orange Friday into your weekly work schedule could bring to your organization. Mainly, people are able to more effectively manage their time when they know they only have four working days, and then they get to look forward to the end of the week. Having one day dedicated to learning also creates a work environment that attracts employees who want to learn and move up within the company. Furthermore, this helps to support employee retention because it gives workers opportunities to try new things and explore business topics on their own time. Although it may seem like devoting an entire day to non-work tasks may result in the loss of productivity, it is actually a win-win strategy.

One New York based company called Targetprocess, which produces project management software, has had great success with Orange Fridays. They allow employees to devote this time to development activities. Many have speculated that such a strategy would cause the company to be less productive than their competitors, but executive Michael Dubakov doesn’t seem to think this is the case. According to him, giving employees the opportunity to acquire new knowledge on their own terms helps their business to thrive. Most employees take Coursera online courses, look up news articles, or research the latest technologies. Others have created teams that meet each Friday to work on a special project of choice. Basically, this is time at the end of week that people can be fully dedicated to learning or to interesting projects that they normally wouldn’t have time to do. More importantly, it works. The company has had new and interesting ideas and products come to light as a result of Orange Friday.

Do Orange Fridays seem like a good idea for your office?  Engagement through learning is a strategy that we will see more of as companies work to stay competitive in the market. Employees that are continuously developing new skills are likely more committed workers and therefore better workers.

Read more about the subject in this whitepaper: Creating a Culture of Learning

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