At Halogen Software’s annual customer conference, I learned about a unique way the company builds engagement. It’s over a game of euchre.
If you’re not familiar with the game, euchre is a trick-taking card game. It’s played with four people in two partnerships. You can read more about the game here. Since all you need to play the game are people and a deck of cards, I was curious how the euchre game became a part of the culture at Halogen and what kinds of results the company realizes by supporting the game.
Braden Box, manager of technical solutions for Halogen, is part of the company’s social committee and the official organizer of the euchre tournaments. Braden shared that the weekly tournaments got started after a brainstorming session focused on new ways to create more conversations among employees. “It’s a game that many obsessed over in their high school or college days, but had since forgotten. Because I’ve loved the game since I was young, I volunteered to organize it and see what would happen.”
Over 2,000 games have been played at Halogen
Playing euchre isn’t mandatory but every employee I talked to really looks forward to their weekly game. Braden started the first tournament expecting maybe a dozen or two to sign up, and was floored when he got over 50 entrants. “It was clear we found something special, so I started the weekly league and word spread around the company. We now have over 100 active players and, since its inception in 2010, over 2,000 games have been played at Halogen!”
How the games work (i.e. scheduling, location, keeping the appointment, etc.)
Given the number of people playing euchre each week, Braden decided to write a little software program that randomly matches people up, with a bias towards pairing up people who haven’t played against each other before or recently. This is a great way to introduce employees who don’t necessarily work together on a regular basis.
People sign up for the league in pairs or by themselves. Then every week Braden feeds all the names of players into his program and publishes the schedule on Fridays. Each foursome is responsible for scheduling their game for the following week, which is usually done using their Outlook calendar. Games are played all throughout the day. This isn’t an “only during breaks and lunches” activity. And most games take place in one of the lunchrooms. A game lasts 15-20 minutes.
If you win, you move up in the ranking system and down if you lose – but Braden explained there is handicapping system in place to create balance between new players and the veterans.
If you didn’t grow up playing euchre, not a problem. Employees are very friendly and glad to play a teaching game. In fact during the conference, an employee went to the gift store, bought a deck of cards, and gave a group of us a Euchre 101 lesson. Braden says euchre is a fairly simple game that can be learned in about 30 minutes. Employees are patient with new players, and it’s not long before they are competing on even ground with the rest.
Euchre isn’t just a game; it’s a commitment
The thought crossed my mind that because euchre is a card game…well, you know, it would be a low priority for some during the busy work week. And what started out as an effort to create more camaraderie would tick people off when their colleagues cancelled at the last minute, etc. Braden assured me that euchre is a more than just a game. “People keeping the appointment is no problem – in fact most look forward to their game all week and will rush to make sure they are there on time!”
So, employees are doing more than playing a game. They are demonstrating commitment, punctuality, and a spirit of teamwork.
The benefits of a euchre tournament
Braden says the best benefit is that euchre breaks down walls within the company. “You never know who you’ll be sitting down to play with – it could be the new guy in accounting, or it could be the CEO. And by the way, he’s VERY good!”
Halogen’s weekly euchre game is a fantastic, no pressure way for employees to get to know people they might not interact with in other ways and learn how they contribute to the company. Braden says it’s not unusual to casually mention some challenge you’ve been facing and your opponent just happens to know someone or something that resolves it. Euchre is not only tearing down silos but it’s creating new working relationships.
And of course, it is nice to have a little planned break that you can look forward to throughout the week.
Senior leadership support
When Braden mentioned that Halogen CEO and President Paul Loucks regularly plays euchre, I couldn’t resist asking him how employees feel playing a card game with the company president. Paul’s reply? “I hope that they have as much fun as I do. It is a wonderful opportunity for me to interact with employees in a casual environment in a quick 15 minute game. They get to know me better; I get to know them better.” And on a side note, it’s my understanding that Paul almost never plays euchre on the floor where his office is located. He always schedules his game around the building.
Oh and if you’re wondering if employees let him win? Paul says, “It doesn’t matter who wins. It is a great social break in a culture that is all about ‘Work hard, have fun’.”
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My thanks to Paul, Braden and the team at Halogen Software for sharing the details of their weekly euchre game. While euchre might not be the answer to every corporate challenge, this case study does show that creating engagement and opening the lines of communication can be as simple as taking a short break for a card game.
Image courtesy of Halogen Software0