Cultivate Blog

Engage employees: Start a book club

Posted by Jenny McGee on 2/17/22 1:00 AM

If you want to create a consistent, stellar employee experience within your organization (and why wouldn’t you?), then finding ways to foster personal and professional development should be an integral part of your plan—in addition to appreciating employees through gifting, of course. Our idea? Try an employee book club! Rather than just asking a group of employees to read the same book voluntarily, combine reading with a regularly scheduled discussion (yes, during working hours!) for everyone to share feedback and key takeaways from the book. Couple this with refreshments, and you’ve got a win-win engagement strategy all employees will enjoy.

In this week’s blog, our experts outline tips for starting an employee book club, explore how implementing an optional book club is a fantastic way to encourage people to try something new, improve themselves, and connect. Plus, we’re sharing book recs you don’t want to miss. Grab your reading glasses, and let’s dive in.

Tips for a successful book club at work

When planning your office book club, think about how your culture will impact the level of formality in your discussions. Should people approach this book club the same way they approach meetings and deadlines? Or will a more casual approach work just as well? Other things like whether you should use consistent discussion questions or switch it up every time, which genre of literature, and how to make the book club completely inclusive should all be considered during the planning process. Here are five tips to help you get started:

1. Generate interest: The catalyst for your club may begin with a group email, a post to your company Slack channel, or an agenda item in a company meeting. Don’t write a novel of expectations for how it will operate initially, but do emphasize that the club is optional and should be educational and fun.

2. Select books that have a broad appeal: For a book club open to feel inclusive to all company employees, select books that offer something everyone can relate to. And since the objective is centered around employees, we suggest finding books related to professional and career development. Several books that have been popular in recent years in book clubs include:

  • “First Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman
  • “Good to Great” by Jim Collins
  • “Freakonomics” by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
  • “The Success Principles” by Jack Canfield
  • “The World Is Flat” by Thomas L. Friedman
  • “Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond” by Jay Sullivan
  • “Buy.ology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy” by Martin Lindstrom
  • “Competing Against Luck: The Story of Innovation and Customer Choice” by Taddy Hall, Karen Dillon & David S. Duncan
  • “Contagious: Why Things Catch on” by Jonah Berger
  • “Building a Story Brand” by Donald Miller

3. Inclusivity is a must: Invite new members to the book club each time a new book is started. You don’t want the group to become an exclusive team that other employees will feel uncomfortable joining. The current employee book club members can also recruit new readers by talking about their positive experiences.

4. Decide on a timeline: Whether you plan on hosting meet-ups in-person or via Zoom, plan your book club discussion for a day when many people already have free time on their calendars. Be mindful that the day you schedule isn’t too packed with other meetings, and consider serving a light refreshment or caffeine boost to help stimulate conversation.

5. Prepare for discussions: Be intentional and thoughtful about the questions you ask, and be sure they relate back to work and or your organization in one way or another. Here are a few questions to help get the discussion flowing:

  1. What did you encounter in this book that you weren’t expecting when you first took an interest in it?
  2. What’s your favorite passage/story, and why?
  3. Did you experience an “aha” moment while reading this book?
  4. What is one thing you will implement or do differently now that you’ve read this book?
  5. What was missing from the book, in your opinion?

How a book club can benefit your organization

Company-sponsored book clubs are an employee development opportunity. A book club provides benefits for the employee and the employer when it is implemented with care. Studies show that a company-approved book club can help employees:

  • Build culture, camaraderie, and teamwork.
  • Connect on a personal level with others.
  • Apply new ideas and concepts to their work routine.
  • Step into leadership roles by guiding a group discussion.
  • Continuously grow and develop professionally.

The great thing about a book club in which people contribute is that they naturally start applying the concepts from the books to their work environment. With internal trust, people can reflect on what has worked well (and what hasn’t), and explore ways to improve or sustain practices and processes as a group.

There are multiple ways you can engage employees, but how you help them develop professionally can be limited by an organization’s budget, size, and or resources. Starting a book club is an easy and affordable way to increase engagement, have meaningful discussions, and help people improve career-wise. Implementing a book club alongside a gifting program is a great way to reinforce how much you value employees and appreciate their contributions.

Topics: Inspiration

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