Perhaps, you are aware of this seasonal concept for small children, the “Elf on the Shelf”. I had not been, until a month ago when my lovely Kath sent the “Elf” package to her daughter, a mother of a six year old and twins, aged 3. Reading the theory behind the “Elf”, I was torn - was this mind control and behavior modification or simply a means to highlight the excitement and days leading up to Christmas and Santa’s largesse.
The idea is that parents introduce the “Elf” as a Santa’s helper, a direct line to the big fella about who has been good and who has been naughty. The “Elf”, a typical doll-like figure, is moved by parents surreptitiously around the house nightly, so he has an eye everywhere – there is no escape the ubiquitous review of a child’s behavior. Matter of fact, children seek him out first thing in the morning, his eminence growing throughout December. There is risk and reward on the 25th.
As a child always alert to coal in my stocking, I thought if this can work for children, why not companies and their employees. We are always looking for ways to improve productivity, cut costs, adjudicate our policies and procedures, recognize contributions and detect shortcomings. Has our workplace become too casual? Maybe, we need some watchers and reporters out there, such as:
- The On-line Ogre – this deformed icon shows up on a screen when your employees are enjoying those web sites or communication, which have nothing to do with work (from porn to Facebook); or
- The Litigious Leprechaun – this jolly icon appears on the screen when our e-mail correspondence steps over the line with a poor choice of words or inappropriate commentary; or
- The Time Troll – ugly by nature, the Troll questions where you were from 8:55 am to 9:37 am – early break or just late to logging-on; or
- The Goal Gnome – this cone-hatted figure compares your schedule and “to do” list to completion status – much better that an “atta-boy” or Travelocity ad; and, lastly
- The Fashion Faerie – reference above with our casual workplace, this icon can “tsk, tsk” and comment on attire, ever beholden to your company Dress Code.
You get the idea – maybe a stretch or, perhaps, just around the corner. Anything which beats that awful Smiley Face is an advance for mankind. We know that technology is always springing forward with new adaptations and iterations. So much of our opportunity for excellence is tied to behavior. If “Elf on the Shelf” can work for children, why not something similar for adults? You be the judge, ever mindful of control versus privacy.
John Hendrie is the author of the LRA blog 'A Guy Walks In'. LRA is a leading research and consulting company in the emerging discipline of Customer Experience Management (CEM). We work with our clients to help them design and deliver consistently exceptional customer experiences in order to drive customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy, and company growth and profitability. We have built a range of quality assurance, mystery shopping, research, training and consulting solutions to help them do so.
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