Why the race that stops a nation is vital for staff morale

Melbourne Cup madness: Four headline-making horse race marketing stunts

As another Melbourne Cup approaches, reports show the race that stops the nation will likely be stopping businesses too – and that’s a good thing.

Recruitment consultancy Robert Half has conducted a survey of 100 human resource managers around the nation, finding that 42% say hosting company events to watch sporting events like the Melbourne Cup increases employee engagement.

A further 40% believe watching sporting events with staff increases employee morale and motivation. Thirty one percent believe the sense of camaraderie experienced by employees watching the cup will increase employee loyalty.

General manager at WattsNext HR Ben Watts is surprised at the 42% statistic, telling SmartCompany he thought it would be higher.

“Everywhere I’ve worked has always stopped for the Cup, it’s an Australian tradition,” Watts says.

“Not only is it a tradition, it’s one that can be shared in workplaces. Schools stop and watch it as well, so most of us have grown up with it.”

Watts believes these sorts of celebrations can bring workers together.

“It’s a fantastic way to build company culture and show camaraderie between workers. Management can also use it as a way to show some care back to the employees,” he says.

Watts advises all businesses to take advantage of the Cup watching tradition, believing “ignoring things like this can be dangerous”.

Director at Robert Half Nicole Gorton agrees, telling SmartCompany businesses should turn on the race tomorrow, but workers shouldn’t feel obliged to join in.

“In my opinion businesses should be turning on the Cup tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that all employees should have to watch if they don’t want to,” Gorton says.

“Statistics support that if companies allow these events in office, workers are more likely to stay at work on the day and attend the event.”

Gorton also believes this approach can boost worker morale, along with fostering better staff engagement.

“Watching the Cup at work or at school has been happening for years, the difference is that now companies are being more visible about it,” she says.

“It’s also useful to connect with more than your employees, as companies could invite their clients as a way to engage with both them and their workers.”

Both Watts and Gorton agree in-office sweepstakes are a “bit of fun” for employees, but Watts warns to keep the stakes low.

“As long as it’s a 50 cents buy in, not a $50 buy in, it’s just a bit of fun,” he says.

“There is, of course, the gambling implication that businesses need to be careful of, but anyone born in Australia would have grown up around this tradition.”

The survey also shows 87% of HR managers expect at least one employee to call in sick the day after Cup Day, which Watts says is fine, as long as the employee has a certificate.

“Interstate this is not so much of an issue, it’s more the people in Victoria,” he says.

“There’s also the risk that people take the Monday off and make it a four-day weekend. It’s best to have some policies in place, or encourage workers to notify you in advance so they can put it on leave.”

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