Every October, KI Industries Inc. of Berkeley, Ill., commemorates Employee Ownership Month, recognized by the ESOP (Employee Stock Ownership Plan) Association, with contests, games, barbecue cookouts, prizes, food, fun and more. According to the ESOP Association, there are roughly 10,000 ESOPs in the U.S. with 10.3 million employees.
"We have activities maybe not every day, but several per week," KI Industries President and CEO Dave Goltermann said. "We have silly things like paper airplane contests, end-of-the-day parties — just trying to give back to the employees and make it fun.
"A couple of years ago, we did, instead of a paper airplane contest, we did a catapult-building contest where people were given these kits to build catapults from, so we had a contest to see which ones could go the farthest. I think that was one of the funnest things we did," he added. "It's just getting people together — different groups and different types of activities — so that there's the high level of energy and a fun thread to everything that month."
KI Industries, which has around 85 employees in the United States, designs and manufactures decorative plastic and die-cast components for appliance and automotive markets.
Goltermann said the company has revamped its employee satisfaction survey, which is now focused on worker engagement. Overall, feedback has been positive. From there, focus groups brainstorm and help make recommendations for change going forward.
The company also highlights individuals through a monthly spotlight where employees can learn about their coworkers through a questionnaire: What kind of music do you like? What famous people would you like to have dinner with? Who are your mentors in life?
"Just the facts that you might not normally hear about someone," he said. "It's done really light. People interject a lot of humor into those, so they're fun to read. It also gives a chance to learn about a person in that manner."
Around the holidays, there's a company party that's held at a local restaurant. Goltermann said the office closes early, and the party usually takes place 1-5 p.m. The party includes food, raffles, employee recognition awards, a trivia contest and a grand prize.
Health is also a priority at KI Industries. There's a newsletter provided to all employees, full of healthy recipes and methods to address certain wellness issues; a smoking cessation program; a walking club for a daily break from work; free screenings for biometrics and a flu shot; a physical activity challenge in October for the most steps taken during the month; and a four-week-long weight-loss challenge.
"I think we give the people a rewarding place to work and a good sense of satisfaction that their work matters and that they're contributing to help build something," Goltermann said. "I think that's the spirit of the ESOP, the employee ownership program, so people feel that their work is contributing to the work as a whole, and it makes a difference because they're able to impact the direction and the results of the company."