The Joys of March Madness

March 1, 2018

It’s finally March, one of the most important months of the year — for basketball fans anyway. As the name implies, March Madness is when both the NCAA Division I men’s and women’s basketball tournaments take place. (The men’s games start on March 13 while the women begin on March 16.)

My tournament interest started when I was playing high-school basketball in packed gymnasiums throughout Ohio’s northern Miami Valley. Our varsity team was No. 1 in the state, and crowds arrived early for the games. Unfortunately, at this time, I was playing junior varsity, and we were bad — bad as in we had a 1-19 final record. So fans would have to patiently sit through our “warm-up game” before the main attraction mercifully took the court.

Still, it was an exciting time, and I enjoyed being part of the team, regardless of how we played.

Boosting employee morale with basketball

Last year, global outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., conservatively estimated that each hour of unproductive work time for the March Madness bracket-producing workers cost employers $615 million.

Most managers/HR personnel that I’ve talked with through the years have advocated for making March Madness part of office culture as opposed to reining in workers’ basketball-related proclivities.

“Any attempt to do so would most likely result in long-term damage to employee morale, loyalty and engagement that would far outweigh any short-term benefit to productivity,” John A. Challenger, CEO at Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., said in a post on the topic last year. “Employers should embrace March Madness and seek ways to use it as a tool to foster camaraderie.”

For example, he suggests that employers create companywide office pools that are free to enter and offer lunches or gift cards for the winners.

“By installing a TV in a common area or lunchroom, workers can check games throughout the day. This option has an added benefit of eliminating the need for workers to stream games, lightening the burden for your IT staff,” he said. “Consider giving employees longer lunches or offering longer breaks at other times throughout the day to allow them to catch games that interest them.”

These actions, he says, will go a long way in developing an inclusive corporate culture and boosting employee morale.

Making brackets with help from the cloud

This column aside, there’s more March Madness in this issue. We report on Google’s new role as the NCAA’s official “cloud sponsor,” starting with the men’s tournament this month.

As part of the sponsorship, Google is providing its analytics and machine-learning tools to NCAA bracket-makers. Fans will have the ability to get really dorky, and run advanced queries to compare how teams perform in different conditions, such as away games.

Sounds like more lost productivity to me. See you in April!

John Elsasser

John Elsasser is the editor-in-chief of Strategies & Tactics. He joined PRSA in 1994.



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