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Companies told to empower workers at Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce dinner
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GREATER MADISON CHAMBER OF COMMERCE | ANNUAL DINNER

Companies told to empower workers at Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce dinner

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Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce dinner

Zach Brandon is the president of the Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce.

In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic, companies should be encouraging their employees to take care of themselves, find friends on the job and even make mistakes for the sake of growth.

Those are some key takeaways from last week’s Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce annual dinner, held for the first time since 2019 at the the Monona Terrace convention center in Downtown and attended by more than 920 business executives, investors and entrepreneurs.

Chamber president Zach Brandon said the dinner’s theme was “resolve” — defined as the firm determination to do something — because after a year of facing health and economic crises, Madison is destined to emerge “better.”

“The work is ours to be better and better, but never done,” he said.

The workplace advice came from dinner keynote speaker and social psychologist Ron Friedman, who is the founder of management consulting firm ignite80, and has served as a faculty member for three universities.

During his presentation, Friedman discussed research from his book, “The Best Place To Work,” as well as what today’s workplaces can do to better engage and retain employees.

Promotions, nicer offices and higher salaries make people happier in the short term, but that’s not going to last, Friedman said. When employees are happy, passionate and engaged, they are more creative.

Higher employee engagement results in lower turnover, as well as less illness, better-quality sleep, greater life satisfaction and a happier home life, he said.

What adds to that is the chance to grow one’s skills, being able to relate to co-workers and having a sense of autonomy. Many companies struggle at offering those things, he said, as well as rewarding failure.

“Mistakes are the tuition you pay for success,” he said.

Friedman offered tips for increasing worker engagement, which included giving employees the flexibility to work from home amid the pandemic, as well as encouraging them to scan industry blogs, experiment with new solutions, suggest training, make friends, exercise and to take time to recharge — especially when screens are hard to escape nowadays.

In his talk, he outlined some ways companies could better encourage employees to take time off:

  • Adopt an auto-deletion policy for emails when a worker takes a vacation.
  • Flag employees who don’t take vacation.
  • Get rid of vacation limits.
  • Pay employees time and a half when they are away.
  • Have cash bonuses for people who can put their phone and laptop away during their entire vacation.

Friedman, a New Yorker who specializes in human motivation, founded ignite80 in 2014. He is also CEO of New York-based consulting company Friedman Strategy Group, founded in 2012.

From 2007 to 2008, Friedman served as an assistant professor of psychology at New York-based Hobart and William Smith Colleges. He’s also been a faculty member for New York’s University of Rochester and Nazareth College.

The social psychologist is also a contributor to major publications like the Harvard Business Review. His latest book, for which each dinner guest took home a copy, is titled “Decoding Greatness: How the Best in the World Reverse Engineer Success.”

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