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Insights and Intuition: Culture initiatives that can help morale

What are some culture initiatives implemented at your organization that didn't cost much but were appreciated by employees?

When it comes to higher education, there is a lot of pride around institutions. Northern State University is no exception. At NSU, we have created an unofficial mission – the Northern Way. The premise is to treat our students, families, guests, fans and prospective students to the best possible experience in higher education.

This initiative involved framing and giving out Northern Way postcards to faculty and staff, and also providing everyone on campus a cut-out of our mascot to display proudly. These are inexpensive ways to encourage and equip the campus community to show pride in our institution – as well as constant reminders of how we strive to go above and beyond for our students.

Justin R. Fraase

Director of communications and marketing

Northern State University

Aberdeen, S.D.

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We have a 12-week wellness challenge that addresses the eight dimensions of wellness; physical, financial, social, environmental, intellectual, emotional, spiritual and occupational. Employees form teams, encourage one another to participate and log activities throughout the challenge. Weekly activities include Motivation Mondays, Walking Wednesdays over the lunch hour and Lunch Seminars with a local health expert or enthusiast.

We have found that some friendly competition has a way of bringing people together around a common goal, all while having fun and getting to know one another outside of our normal business functions.

Stacey Stenehjem

Compensation & benefits administrator

First International Bank & Trust

Fargo, N.D.

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Our S.M.A.R.T. (Small Miracles Are Reached Together) fund was established by employees to benefit a fellow employee or an employee’s immediate family member with a special need. The fund is maintained by fund-raising activities and employee payroll deductions; requests are approved by a committee comprised of employees throughout the company.

Employees who have received money through this program to help cover medical expenses, pay for emergency travel or recover from a fire are immensely grateful. The intrinsic value of employees helping fellow employees in truly special.

We’re always amazed by how generous employees are in chipping in a few dollars knowing it will help other employees.

Teresa Wasvick

Director of human resources

Alerus Financial Corp.

Grand Forks, N.D.

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At Dacotah Paper, we incorporate family business values into our everyday culture. Fred Mohr, second generation owner, was quite fond of popcorn, so during his birth month of February we keep our popcorn machine full in his honor. The cost is minimal, so we encourage employees and visitors to eat as much as they would like.

The philosophy of “never throw good product away” also plays a role in our culture. Unsellable product, including paper products and chemicals, are offered free to employees.

When employees can repurpose portion cups – one of our paper products – into free paint cups for their home, it can be a real morale booster.

Berea Mohr

Advertising and marketing specialist

Dacotah Paper

Fargo, N.D.

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Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota is strategically investing in and prioritizing cultural initiatives. Employee communication is a one of the most inexpensive and yet effective tools, accomplished through consistent all-employee and management meetings, surveys, monthly messages from the CEO and daily updates through the internal corporate website.

BCBSND also has a rich development program through an internal training program and external tuition reimbursement program. In addition, great emphasis is placed on having an engaged employees’ committee, career achievement recognition and community volunteering program.

Overall, BCBSND is ever-increasing as a great place to work.

Daniel Klug

Vice president for human resources

Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota

Fargo, N.D.

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At Microsoft, our culture is who we are and how we treat one another; it’s what allows us to make a difference in the world.  

We focus on growth mindset, customer obsession, diversity & inclusion and One Microsoft.  

A new way we have embraced culture locally is our new speaker series, titled Beyond the Limits. This gives our team members the chance to hear both from those on our campus and externally, to unleash their potential and think “beyond the limits.”

In addition, we have new hire events that cultivate conversations and connections. These events give our campus groups and local nonprofits/community organizations a platform to connect with our new hires and experience our company culture.

Star-Ann Schank

Site programs and communications manager

Microsoft

Fargo, N.D.