Six Ways to Improve Social Capital on the Cheap


Improving social capital (friendships between employees) has a big impact on innovation, engagement and retention. Plus, it’s something you can do on a budget. You just need to get creative and empower employees to take the lead.

Let Them Play: Give employees the time, encouragement and a small budget to plan social activities that interest them. You'll be amazed at what they come up with – a cycling club, beer tastings, board game nights. . .the possibilities are endless. 

Personalize Birthdays and Milestones: Approach some employees a few weeks before their coworker’s birthday. Give them a small budget and let them plan a surprise. They could all dress like characters from the birthday boy's favorite movie, treat the birthday girl to coffee at her favorite cafe or bake their favorite flourless chocolate cake.

Use Volunteering for Team Building: Using philanthropy as team building isn’t about making a big donation, it’s about employees getting their coworkers involved in volunteer activities they love.  Put the onus on them to set-up a day of home building, soup serving, dog training, whatever gets them excited about giving back. Provide a way for them to recruit others, offer them a few hours a month to volunteer and don’t forget to recognize them for their efforts.

Leverage Wellness Dollars: Many companies are realizing that one of the biggest benefits of wellness is that it can improve your culture. Tweak your wellness program to pull double-duty by engaging your most active employees. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Limit Expensive Events: Some companies spend their whole budget on a fancy holiday party . . . and what usually happens?  Cliques get magnified because people feel most comfortable talking to people they know. Instead of spending a bunch of money on an expensive event, build smaller events around a fun (and cheap) activity like a scavenger hunt, Wii bowling tournament or lip-sync battle.   

Add a Few Friendly Competitions: Competition goes a long way in getting employees to talk with coworkers they don’t normally interact with, especially when you intentionally mix up the teams. On a small scale, track points in Excel and update a centrally-placed leaderboard. As you grow, enlist the help of someone like. . . Rumblesum. 

As you can see, there are creative ways to boost social capital without breaking the bank. Find ways to encourage employees to engage their coworkers in the things they love.

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