06 AUG, 2014

How to Boost Employee Engagement with Crossfit Principles

A group training push ups, hang ups and squat at a crossfit center.

Yes, I do Crossfit. No, I’m not one of those “cultish” people, but I do see what makes the culture and structure of the workouts so addictive. It occurred to me that many of these same techniques can be used to motivate and engage employees and build a better company.

Establish an Rx:
Every workout of the day or “WOD” has a prescribed or “Rx” weight or form associated with it. For many participants these weights are quite challenging. If you are able to accomplish the WOD at the Rx level, you feel fantastic and know that next time you can work on better form or timing. If you don’t, you know what you have to work towards and can concentrate on incremental improvements. The same goes for workplace goals—benchmarks and objectives are essential to drive better performance.

Put it on the white board:
When a WOD is done the instructor has everyone write their results next to their names on the white board.If you had a good day you can feel proud to put your numbers up there and others in the class will likely compliment you on your performance. If not, that’s just more motivation to work harder next time. At work publicly recognizing the achievements of others ensures that employees will be engaged and motivated to keep up the good work. A little friendly competition never hurt either!

Create a team environment:
One of the biggest reasons regular people subject themselves day in and out to the grueling Crossfit workouts is the feeling of comradery. Classmates encourage each other to push harder and get through the workout, and often the last person to finish the WOD is the one with the biggest cheering squad. Not only that—if you’re doing a partner workout you’d rather collapse than let your teammate down. A feeling of belonging and “we’re in this together” helps any workplace boost employee engagement. And if you are unwilling to let your teammates down, you’ll push that much harder to make sure you’re doing your best to move the company forward.

Give notes and encouragement:
A good Crossfit instructor will walk around for the entire duration of the class giving advice on better form along with words of encouragement. The best of them also know how to motivate you to pick up that barbell one last time even when you feel like you want to give up. A good manager is no different—he or she should be around to offer guidance when needed, praise when earned, and a verbal kick in the butt when warranted.

Record your progress:
Crossfitters are constantly encouraged to record their daily results so they can benchmark them for the next WOD, monitor their progress, and identify weaknesses. When it comes time for an employee’s annual review their manager should be able to point to actual metrics during the evaluation. If they can’t, it’s possible that their job objectives are not clearly defined, and/or not being measured properly. Not everything can be measured numerically, but there should be at least qualitative results to point to. If you haven’t established that Rx mentioned above, this step will not be nearly as meaningful—how will the employee know if they won the workout?


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