Whose Job is it Anyway?

“Nobody told me.”

Hearing that phrase from an employee or associate can be a little hard on a person. When your company communicates in meetings, via e-mail, in forums, on a website and in other materials, it’s a little disheartening to know that the resources weren’t used.

When talking about employee engagement, most thought leaders focus on management’s responsibility.  What does management need to do to increase employee commitment and excitement?

  • Clear vision, mission and strategy
  • Communication
  • A chance for employees to make progress
  • Pleasant work atmosphere
  • Interesting work and challenges
  • A sense of team
  • Participation in the outcome

You can do all of those things in your company – make all of them available to your people, and still not get to where you need to be.

Your people need to do some of the wagon-pulling to get to a state of employee engagement.

Kevin Kruse, author of Employee Engagement for Everyone: 4 Keys to Happiness and Fulfillment at Work, blogs that a great deal of the responsibility for employee engagement falls on the employee side. Employees need to:

  • Partner with their bosses
  • Identify and focus on areas that matter to them most
  • Be mindful of what their companies are already doing to communicate and drive engagement

And here comes the sales pitch.

Applied Improvisation training can support all three of those employee-side drivers. Our training humanizes participants, allowing them to become more than job descriptions to each other. We lead them to discoveries about each others’ skills and interests – even to their own skills and interests. Every well-executed AI training increases mindfulness – of our effects on others, on how we communicate, on how we listen and how we relate. Once people have fun together, it’s hard to use the phrase, “It’s not my job.” Our training makes engagement more likely.

“Everyone should have “driving positive engagement” as part of their job description.”

Here is Kevin’s blog piece.


Patrick Short is not a sole practitioner. His company, CSz-Portland has over 40 part-time employees; people get paid – in an industry (improv performance) where that’s rare. Half of our founding members from 1993 are still with the team – that’s astounding. He also coaches U-14 girls soccer. On the LSC Roaring Lions, player engagement is definitely a partnership – and our winning record over the last few years shows how well Applied Improvisation training works.




Engaged Employees Save Money

Fully engaged employees. It’s a dream for companies, right? A more pleasant workplace, fewer problems, better delivery of products and services and happier customers – these are all things we know can come from having our people completely “on board”.

Those things are all very pleasant, and may result in higher profits. Here are some ways that employers can actually benefit monetarily from engaged employees:

  • Employees with a strong emotional connection to their companies give more – sometimes far more discretionary effort to their jobs.
  • Likewise, engaged, thriving employees have fewer health problems and therefore lower healthcare costs to their employers. Compared with their struggling/suffering counterparts, they have 46% fewer unhealthy days as a result of physical or mental illness, are 39% less likely to be diagnosed with a new disease in the next year, and are 43% less likely to be newly diagnosed with anxiety and depression. These numbers add up to big savings for companies’ bottom lines in terms of productivity and medical costs.

Engagement ties to well-being, which ties to healthcare costs – with Affordable Care Act compliance looming (now set for 2015), EVERY large corporation is looking to save health costs because they’ll be paying for it.

Interesting. We assume that Applied Improvisation training helps engage employees. They learn to listen more actively, support each other, accept each others’ strengths and weaknesses, take competent risks and minimize the negative effects of mistakes. It’s good stuff.

So how does Applied Improvisation training help save you money?

We’re going to play some numbers games here.

  • An average employee (60k/year, say) is about a $250 loss for 1/2 a day of work taken to go to the doctor, fill a prescription, take a sick day, or even an “I don’t want to be here” day. For 100 employees, one half day taken per year costs the employer $25,000.
  • How much do we charge for our training? It varies, but a half day of applied Improv training for 100 people might cost $3000 to $5000, depending on the situation, goals, expenses, etc. In some cases it might be a little more; with fewer employees, it might be less.
  • If all of those employees took ONE less half sick day during the next year, that would mean a net savings for your company of $20,000 to $22,000.

Doesn’t training that saves you money and makes everyone happier sound like a good deal? It’s for real.

We had our eyes opened and our minds expanded reading this poll from Gallup.

We’ll talk more in upcoming posts about real savings in employee acquisition, engagement and retention.

Patrick Short (@patrickshort4) hasn’t had so much as a cold since 2005 because he has so much fun applying improvisation to business.

Courtney Pong (@courtneypong) works at keas.com, plays and teaches with ComedySportz-San Jose and is determined to share the benefits of Applied Improv and happy, healthy employees with everyone on the planet.


Keeping employees fully engaged saves money on recruitment; I can’t prove it, but intuitively, we also know that customers are happier dealing with employees who are experienced, knowledgeable and committed.

What puts employees in high gear and keeps them from jumping ship?

Terry Gillis posits that the two most important things in employee engagement are communication from the top and a chance for employees to progress in their careers.

Here’s a link to her blog post at CareerPartners International.

Yes, communication from the top is a no brainer; one thing I noticed in Terry’s list of communication items is a clear understanding of the vision, core values, strategy and mission. I’ve worked with lots of folks through the years who didn’t know the what’s and why’s, and their companies suffered for it.

Progress is an intriguing reason for employees to get motivated. And employees seem to value it above anything else. (Harvard Business Review)

Real progress is often a series of small victories, and if you can create a culture where everyone cheers on the small victories, big victories will occur.

Patrick Short was engaged enough to write this at 37,000 feet. And yep, he’s flying Southwest. The story on why is in Jill and Patrick’s Small Book of Improv for Business. The link to the book is in the menu at the top of the page.

Employee Engagement

I was chatting with a colleague recently. She had just quit a job at a law firm because the boss was crazy and horrible to work with.  She also commented that there is “complete turnover in the firm every year.”

That got me to thinking. What does THAT cost?

Aside from a happier workplace with more innovation and the tribal knowledge that accumulates when employees actually stay with a company, does it save money to keep employees?

Yes, it does. Let’s read from the Wall Street Journal:

“Integrated reporting is in its early stages in the U.S., but German software giant SAP AG released its first full integrated report in March, combining traditional accounting benchmarks with newer metrics on things like greenhouse-gas emissions, research and development “intensity” and staff turnover.

SAP reported, for example, that its operating profit is helped or hurt by about €62 million, or more than $80 million, by each percentage-point change in its employee retention rate.

‘There’s a lot of support for meaningful and robust HR metrics for use inside organizations,’ says Timothy Bartl, of the HR Policy Association.”

(Apples, Oranges and Outliers, Emily Chasun, Wall Street Journal, Jun 4, 2013.)

So, buried in this article about FASB and reporting metrics is a bombshell about how important employee retention can be to the bottom line.

Why aren’t we doing everything we can to keep the people we have? Employee engagement is critical – not just in soft, unproven areas, but to profitability.

What could help the beleaguered law firm?

  • Leadership skills training
  • Communication and listening skills training
  • Team building
  • Creating an atmosphere of fun
  • Celebrating victories
  • Altering a culture of blame for mistakes

Applied Improvisation could help with all of that. If only they knew to ask…

Is there a company that you know could use this help?

We’ll be exploring this topic over the next few weeks. If you have comments or resources to share, we’d be delighted to hear from you.