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Keep Your Biggest Assets Smiling

A “chief fun officer” shares secrets for year-round employee satisfaction.

Shamrock pancakes

TriFactor COO JJ Phelan (right) serves shamrock pancakes to Deena McCardle as part of the company’s St. Patrick’s Day celebration.

Everyone here at TriFactor (formerly Advanced Handling Systems), a material handling company, works very hard every day, so we take advantage of every opportunity to play hard as well. We have amassed lots of traditions around here, and most involve fun and food!

Our entertainment calendar begins with Super Bowl week. For those who choose to participate, we have daily games, such as “finger-flickin’ football” or possibly a word search. There is always a prize for the winner. On Friday, we set up for our football-throwing contest. Three Hula Hoops are attached to ladders and set at various distances outside. The game is based on a point system—the farther away the hoop, the more points that are scored. Everyone gets three throws and their scores are tallied. The highest score wins the grand prize.

“Final Four TriFactor-style” coincides with March Madness. For those who wish to participate, there are games in the conference room every morning, and on Friday we have our “shoot-out” contest as well as lunch for everyone.

On St. Patrick’s Day, we hide four-leaf clovers around the office, each associated with a prize. This has gotten so popular that we don’t even need to make an announcement anymore; employees come into the building looking for them!

Field goal contest

Super Bowl week gives TriFactor employees a chance to showcase their football skills and win prizes.

The Easter Bunny comes to TriFactor every year, bringing eggs filled with money, gift cards and candy. The eggs are usually hidden (sometimes outside) and everyone is given a basket or a decorated paper bag to gather their eggs. I can’t remember the last time that every employee didn’t participate.

Summer here in Florida isn’t all heat and humidity. We celebrate the start of the season with either a “Welcome Summer” bash, or we’ll wait a while and have a “Kiss Summer Goodbye” day. Recommended dress for those days is shorts and T-shirts. We have water balloon tosses, ice cream eating contests, bubble gum blowing contests, Hula Hoop contests, and usually a tug-of-war too. Bratwursts and Bubba Burgers are mandatory!

Fall comes to us with lots of little ghosts, goblins and princesses. We invite all the employees’ spouses to bring the kids over for Halloween, in costume, to trick-or-treat. Also dressed in costumes are the employees, who pass out company-provided candy to the youngsters. It’s a fun afternoon enjoyed by all.

Turkey bowl

The annual Turkey Bowl at TriFactor draws a crowd and puts a smile on employees’ faces.

Thanksgiving isn’t forgotten either. “How,” you ask, “do you celebrate Turkey Day?” Well, we have a special afternoon dedicated to the famous bird. It’s our annual Turkey Bowl. We set up a bowling alley in the shop, using Visqueen plastic as our lanes. Large water bottles are set up at the end and used as pins. Participants have their choice of throwing either a small or a medium-sized frozen turkey. Each person gets two throws, and the scores are totaled. The person with the highest score using the medium frozen turkey gets his or her choice of a 15-pound or a 25-pound turkey to take home to the family. The highest scorer using the small frozen bird takes home a capon. (Lunch is usually ham.)

Finally—and it is true that the best is saved for last—comes our annual “Decorate the Tree” evening. I know, without a doubt, that the TriFactor tree is the prettiest tree in the whole world! All of our employees’ children and grandchildren come over in the afternoon and make decorations. They paint, color and decorate them, and then they hang them on the tree. Now that the kids are getting taller, the ornaments are not all on the bottom branches anymore!

We also have a mom who always bakes cookies and brings all the important ingredients needed for the kids to decorate their own. Most are eaten before dinner is served, but for those with an appetite left, the dinner menu features chicken nuggets, peanut butter and jelly, and juice boxes. After we eat, Santa comes. He has a sack of gift cards that he gives the children, even the teenagers.

Tree decorations

During December, employees’ families help make decorations for the office Christmas tree.

The holidays are not just for the kids, however. TriFactor holds an annual party for the adults as well. Yes, we have a dinner along with an open bar, but that’s not all! What party could be complete without “Reindeer Races”? We set up our “reindeer track” earlier in the day, and the fun begins after we eat. We give everyone lots of “reindeer money” to start the show. Six people are chosen to wear the famous “reindeer antlers” and blinking red noses. Their reindeer names—Rockin’ Rudolph and Jingle My Bells are a couple of favorites—are hung around their necks so we know who to bet our “reindeer money” on. Odds are set according to how much is bet on each reindeer. The dice are thrown, and the reindeer advance until one reaches the finish line. We hold three races, and then auction off lots of gifts, some of which are wrapped so you don’t know what you’re bidding on. We can’t have a party around here without games and prizes!

Courtesy of my husband Jack, our resident photographer, we document all of our events, so there are lots of pictures. Those among us who have been participating in our “parties” for a few years have gotten older, a little grayer or a little wider around the middle, but our enthusiasm has not lessened. As our newer employees begin their careers here, they are told about our traditions. I think I speak for them as well when I say that working in material handling can be fun too!

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Ilene Phelan Meet the Author
Ilene Phelan, aka chief fun officer, is the graphic designer at TriFactor, located in Lakeland, Florida, and on the Web at www.trifactor.com.


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