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How to Make Purchasing More Fun


Mark S. Miller C.P.M., C.I.R.M.
Mark S. Miller C.P.M., C.I.R.M. Senior Director Purchasing, CNH, 700 State Street, Racine, WI 53404, 262-636-6565,
Thomas M. Graddy, C.P.M., C.I.R.M
Thomas M. Graddy, C.P.M., C.I.R.M, Manager, Supply Chain Management, CNH, 700 State Street, Racine, WI 53404, 262-636-7975,

86th Annual International Conference Proceedings - 2001 

Abstract. Do you have fun at work? Do the buyer's in your department enjoy their jobs? At a recent department meeting we asked buyers to fill out a survey that described the level of fun they were having at work. They reacted to our survey with frowns and puzzled looks. The survey results also showed that many of the buyers did not consider work as being fun. These results were disturbing to us and it started us thinking about the relationship between work and fun. We enjoy our jobs, so we know that these two are not mutually exclusive. It has been shown that promoting fun at work does work:

  • "People who have fun on their job are more creative, more productive, better decision-makers and get along better with co-workers." (Abramis)
  • "Research has shown that a 13 percent increase in morale can lead to a 40 percent increase in productivity". (Still)
  • "98 percent of 737 CEO's preferred job candidates with a sense of humor over those without" (Hodge-Cronin & Associates)

The following are our suggestions on how to make your work more fun.

Fun at Work. We separated our suggestions into two categories: fun at work and fun with work. Fun at work deals with the climate in your purchasing department and the environment in your company as a whole. The culture and climate of each company is different, so what works in some companies will be inappropriate in others. These are ideas that you, as a manager, can use to make work more fun for everyone.

  1. The Pep Club — Many companies have an employee, volunteer group whose mission is to organize fun events in the office building. Activities of the Pep Club can include:
    • An ice cream social during noon hour on the front lawn
    • Leave a Halloween/ Valentine treat on each desk
    • A Christmas luncheon pot luck buffet with a visit from Santa
    • An Easter pot luck buffet with a visit from the Easter bunny
    • A summer luncheon cook out, with the management staff doing the cooking
    • A monthly raffle for a reserved parking spot in the first place in the lot
    • Decorate the fork lifts and have a parade in the factory
    • Junk food days
    • An annual golf outing
    • Contests- baby pictures, trivia, ugliest driver license photo, ugly tie contest, ugly shoe contest, pumpkin carving, paper airplane flying
    • Hold a talent show with prizes
    • Dress-up days: beach days, Halloween costumes, sports team, pajama party

    The company can provide a limited budget to the Pep Club, but most of these ideas require no or limited budgets. The team can meet to plan activities during the lunch hour.

  2. Make meetings fun — Meetings are often dull with agendas that review financial statistics and speeches on technical subjects. The following are ideas to make your meetings more fun:
    • Good news — Everyone likes to be recognized in front of their peers, so we look for reasons to have employees stand and be applauded. We recognize people for birthdays, company anniversaries, training courses completed, promotions, and engagements. We have a traveling trophy that is presented to the employee who is expecting a new arrival. We also give awards for people who don't bring a treat for their birthday, and give a "sandbag" to anyone who reaches their annual cost reduction goals too quickly. Celebrate everything possible.
    • Contests — We have a contest at each meeting with a silly prize for the winner. I have had a spelling bee, brainteasers, word games etc. A good source for these is "100 Training Games" (Kroehnert)
    • Hats — Wearing a silly hat (cowboy, cheese head, cat in the hat), tie or outfit can liven up a meeting.
    • Jokes/ cartoons — Jokes or cartoons (Dilbert, Born Loser) are good ways to make your meetings more fun. Extreme care must be taken to avoid off color, offensive jokes. We have found that telling jokes that are not very funny and having the audience "groan and boo" can be more fun than truly humorous jokes.
    • Bring food — Bring popcorn, candy, fruit, rolls, Cracker Jack to your next meeting.

  3. Fun with community service — Many fun events can also promote community service. The following ideas have used by General Casualty Insurance Companies:
    • Blue jeans for donation — For a one dollar donation let employees wear blue Jeans on select Fridays to benefit beast cancer, toys for tots, etc.
    • Miniature golf — Set up a miniature golf course in the office, play at noon with donations going to the United Way.
    • Build a house day — Give employees time or one day off to help build a house in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity.

These are just some of the ideas that can be implemented so the environment in your office is more fun.

Fun with work: These are things an individual can do have more fun doing your day-to-day job regardless of the environment. Fun with work is a personnel attitude versus the earlier section that dealt with the environment in the office. The following are three tips that will help you personally have more fun with work.

  1. Make time for # 1 — Many of us get trapped by the piles of daily work. Take some time to analyze which day-to-day activities you like to do the most (writing letters, reading articles, talking to suppliers, reviewing quotations). Then plan your day so you do some of your favorite tasks each day. Financial advisors tell us to pay ourselves first. When you plan your day use this same principle. Make time for the things that you want to do. You'll enjoy your job more. The following are two of our favorite job- related tasks that we make time for each day:
    • Learn something new — We try to learn something new each day. We may establish a new spreadsheet program, read a chapter in a professional book, map a process we don't know much about, attend a seminar or cruise the Net. We always feel that we had a successful day if at least one new thing was learned.
    • Network — We like to talk to co-workers, suppliers, engineers, or customers. Some mornings we spend fifteen minutes visiting other buyers' offices just to chat. Other days we take a supplier out to lunch. Other days we call a customer and talk to him about business.
  2. Have an adventure — Be an adventurer. Look at each day as an opportunity to do something different. Some adventurers we have had include: hold supplier workshops, start a supplier advisory council, visit a major customers, work on a cross functional team, or organize a talent show. An adventure can advance your career and make your job more fun.
  3. Remember this is a great job — There is a buyer in our department who tells us often that: "This is a great job and a fabulous place to work. Thank you for letting me work here." We should all have his attitude. Try to start each morning telling yourself that you love your job and that you can't wait to face today's new adventure. A positive attitude is contagious and we'd have much more fun at work if we remembered this is a great job.

Have fun at and with work — Successful companies have found that the attitude of its employees is the key to financial success. Southwest Airlines carefully screen its employees and looks for an employee with a profile that is happy and fun loving. They have found that this profile of employee is more productive, plus makes flying more fun for Southwest's customers.

As a manager, make your office more fun by trying some of our fun at work ideas. As an individual, try the fun with work ideas. It is each person's responsibility to have fun at work.

  • Form a Pep team and start having some fun events in the office.
  • Make your meetings more fun by having good news, contests, wearing hats, telling jokes or bringing food.
  • Plan fun events that also encourage community service.
  • Leave time in your days to do the tasks you enjoy — make time for # 1.
  • Try something new- have an adventure.
  • Remind yourself each day that you love your job and have a positive attitude.


  • Abramis, Dr. David, "Does Fun at Work Work?" Internet:
  • Hodge- Cronin & Associates survey, "Does Fun at Work Work?" Internet:
  • Kroehnert, Gary, 100 Training Games, McGraw- Hill, 1992.
  • Still, Tom, "Laughing It Off", Corporate Report Wisconsin, August 1998, Page 12, Quote from Mark Moffett.

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