March Madness – A Company’s Own Big Dance

The month of March carries a lot of weight in a calendar year. Depending on a company’s quarterly cycle, March is typically the end of the first quarter where revenue analysis is in the spotlight. Time change and the official start to Spring attempt to bring more light, literally and figuratively speaking, after the dreariness of the Winter months. March also brings an unofficial “holiday” season – college basketball’s March Madness!


Even if basketball is not your jam, it is hard not to get into the hype of March Madness. Hard working teams arrive with an all-or-nothing goal of winning the national championship. Small colleges compete against large, renowned basketball programs in games that yield unexpected victories. Teamwork can solidify victory in close games, as how teamwork drives business operations. Leadership is tasked to make the best decision for others when they are under pressure with limited resources and information during challenging situations which mirrors real-life business functionality. Basketball, especially in competition crunch time, reiterates that there is no “i” in “team”. Hmmmm…that also sounds like life as a Human Resources professional…


Top 3 ways that an HR Professional has skills like a basketball player


  1. Assists – HR spearheads the growth and development of employees. They help others be the best they can be.
  2. Rebounds – Not every initiative within an organization is going to succeed. HR helps departments regroup and rebuild when challenges occur.
  3. Leadership –  HR is the go-to for employee centered questions and guidance. HR professionals seek to find talent to help teammates grow professionally and even personally.


How to incorporate March Madness into the work culture


HR stars, time for the tip off to set up a slam dunk March Madness experience within your organization. Use your coaching and leadership experience to motivate your team and impact your company’s culture. Company culture makes a big impact on employee retention and the recruitment of new employees. Organizations need to embrace the madness. Instead of prohibiting the viewing of tournament games, encourage employees to discuss and view the games when appropriate for the industry. Healthcare professionals can’t watch games while with patients, but why not have the television on in the breakroom?  It is not conducive for manufacturing employees to watch games while ensuring products are safely flowing down the lines, but team leads and/or management can communicate updates along the way.

If viewing games is prohibited by an organization, odds are some employees will find a way to watch them on non-company devices so keep that in consideration when setting the tone for what is accepted prior to the start of the tournament. Instead of prohibiting March Madness, embrace it by setting a time for the group to watch part or all of a particular game together. Every organization is different so what works in one place will not work exactly the same in another. Keep in mind that the competition for talent is fierce. People want to work where it is fun so find ways to diffuse March Madness basketball into the environment. While there might be a dip in productivity over a couple weeks, think of the long term benefits of improved employee morale leading to higher retention and productivity for the long term.


Make March Madness fun! Remember, there are two March Madness events – men’s and women’s basketball – so focus on both events. Official disclosure by the referee:  ExactHire does not provide legal counsel so please check with your company’s legal team when crafting a March Madness competition. Grab your highlighter! Have a bracket competition that is free for any remote and onsite employee to enter. For smaller companies, consider including your employees’ families in the competition. Think of the humor if a seven year old turns out to be the best predictor of victories on the bracket!

If possible, have tiered prizes such as small gift cards, larger gift cards and company swag. Check your state laws on gambling as monetary prizes are prohibited in some states. If your organization wants to acknowledge the winner(s), consider some company swag as a prize or even a nifty certificate that the winner can proudly post in their work area. Make it an annual tradition by having a trophy that the March Madness bracket winner keeps for the year. Post a large bracket on the wall and list employees whose alma maters are competing. Make a virtual leaderboard that can be viewed by remote and onsite employees to see who is in the lead.


Bracket time should not create undue stress on employees who do not have interest in the competition. If employees do not want to participate, find other ways to include them. March Madness is for team building and camaraderie.  Have free, basic activities like a word search, word scramble or bingo focused on the March Madness theme that employees can complete for a chance to win a prize. A gentle reminder that not all employees are college graduates so encourage employees to wear clothing that represents their favorite team, whether or not the team is in the tournament.


If the budget allows, cater lunch where all employees can socialize whether they watch the televised game or not. Catering is not the only way to share a meal together. Organize a pitch-in where teammates bring their favorite food and eat while tournament games are played. Some organizations are still hesitant about pitch-ins due to COVID which is understandable so invite employees to meet together in the breakroom or at a nearby restaurant for lunch together while taking a break to watch the game.


March is here, and the madness has arrived. Inbound and keep control. Work together as a team without fouls or turnovers. When employees, HR and leadership play together, assists will lead to scoring productivity with a win at the buzzer!

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