In today’s digital-first culture, how we communicate in our personal lives on social media blends into how we communicate professionally in our virtual office. From exchanging emojis over Slack to using a gif as an email signoff, it’s no surprise that memes are the perfect medium for an employee engagement strategy.
According to a 2022 Gallup study, 60% of workers will opt for remote work flexibility moving forward and many are “extremely likely” to switch jobs if this isn’t an option.
So, with the digital-first office here to stay, it’s up to companies to invest in the right tools to create thriving, engaged employees.
But...how does this tie back to memes, again?
Memes are highly influential, easy to adapt, accepted as authentic, and perfect for niche communities— like your specific organization, in your specific industry. With that, utilizing memes is the secret sauce for engaging your digital-first teams.
Granted, as with anything born on the Internet, its good to exercise caution when bringing it into a professional setting. Also, be mindful not to utilize memes as a medium for forced fun (which screams inauthenticity).
The fact is, memes work. In a blog post, Emily Dose, an employee engagement committee team member at the University of Iowa, shared how she uses memes in internal communication:
“Personally, I’m a meme girl, so I always try to include a meme or two in our messages [...] we really just try to include funny, uplifting stuff.
It can be easy for people to feel disconnected in today’s world. Our work as a committee is a fun way to let them know that we’re here, we’re thinking of them, and we want them to have a good day.”
Now that we’ve dug into the importance of memes, let’s break down why and how you should include them in your employee engagement strategy.
Why We Love Memes
In a world dominated by social media trends, memes are like fun, cultural shorthand. They are made from images, videos, gifs, or sounds and are pulled from pop culture, current events, or even personal experiences.
Strikingly, memes feel like an inside joke shared among millions, targeting specific niche fan groups or demographics.
And if you know, you know.
Funny, niche, and achingly familiar, memes add authenticity to mass communication, enticing more and more people to double-tap or re-share.
Memes have a tradition of being used in professional circles, and when done properly, they add the perfect touch of humor and lightness. Just poke around LinkedIn for millions of posts with industry-oriented memes or relatable jokes about work-life.
A meme’s addictive, personal quality makes it perfect for generating engagement— that’s why sales teams and marketers use them extensively. In fact, studies show that millennials see an average of 20-30 memes a day, and memes on Facebook and Instagram can get 10 times more reach.
Fostering Workplace Culture in Our Modern Era
The Pandemic exacerbated employee burnout, and trends like The Great Resignation and Quiet Quitting continue to show workplace leaders the extent to which employees need support for their mental well-being.
In response, human resources and top executives are prioritizing workplace culture to engage their people and redefine work as a people-first experience. Examples include establishing Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to support diversity and inclusion or utilizing recurring employee engagement surveys to check in with team members.
Strong employee engagement correlates to high-quality work, not to mention increased productivity and better collaboration. It also instills a strong sense of purpose for individuals on your team, increasing employee retention.
However, with many teams committing to remote work or experimenting with hybrid models, building authentic company culture in a digital-first space continues to be an evolving process.
In-person offices made camaraderie and happy hours easier because of the physical environment. However, fostering employee engagement through Slack, Zoom calls, and emails requires more intentionality, which can come off as inauthentic.
A good employee engagement strategy utilizes employee survey responses to set goals and provide the needed programs and benefits, but a thriving workplace culture also needs personable, authentic unity in their every day too.
That’s where memes come into play.
How to Use Memes for Work
Start by taking a step back to learn why memes are so dang effective, courtesy of the tech blog Make Use Of:
- Memes offer another way to share a different perspective
- Memes can boost your mood
- Memes help us share our culture
- Memes help us cope with change
TL;DR memes work because they resonate with people on a very real level. We cry because they’re true, we chuckle because they’re cheeky, and we share them because they simply get us.
Memes also start taking a life of their own, so while we might not have seen the Netflix show or know the celebrity featured in the image, the clip itself has a shorthand or intended use— think of the Arthur clenched fist:
Source memes that catch your eye and use them to build an internal library of templates, or develop your own using meme generators and free design tools like Canva.
If you’re creating your own, think of situations that are unique to your department or work. Inside jokes work too— a personal favorite of ours were shirts Cooleaf created for a dev team that said “That’s not a bug! That’s a Feature”.
A good rule of thumb is to aim for messages that are funny, positive, or relatable but always work-appropriate.
And admittedly, not all memes will go viral—
— but see what resonates with your team. Ask what shows or celebrities they like or even start generally with some well-known references.
For example, one of Cooleaf’s partners told us that an employee made a meme about Cooleaf points that team members now use regularly on Slack:
If you need some ideas for where to use memes, check out some of our favorites below!
Examples of Employee Engagement Memes
Onboarding is not only one of the best places to kick off your employee engagement strategy but the perfect opportunity to utilize memes when communicating with a new hire for the first time.
We’ve all been through the universal awkwardness of being the “New Guy.” There’s a lot to learn, new people to meet, and plenty of paperwork to fill out. Memes can capture that feeling, making an overwhelming amount of information digestible while commiserating in a very real way
Try adding memes to your regular team-wide communications (decks, email flow, guides)along with engaging onboarding programs like Cooleaf’s own Welcome Challenge: Ready, Set, Go!
Employee Recognition & Spotlights
Employee recognition is a linchpin for about 80% of organizations’ employee engagement strategies. Incorporating memes into public recognition is a great way to bolster attention and create fun.
Make Employee Spotlights a part of your engagement strategy! Get started with our free guide:
You Try: Team building activity with memes
Create your own engage-meme-nt initiative and host a “Create Your Own Meme” Challenge. Ask your team members to submit their favorite memes or create their own from scratch to describe their workday! You can even use them later as templates for creating in the future.
You can reward your people for participating with Cooleaf points or have employees vote on the funniest meme to win a big prize.
Without Cooleaf: You can create a special Slack channel and manually track it yourself. Then reward each participant with a gift card. Be sure to track everyone so you don’t miss out on rewarding participation!
With Cooleaf: Create the challenge on the platform. Cooleaf automatically rewards team members for memes received and everyone can like their favorites.
Engage your teams with creative activities and team challenges through Cooleaf! Talk us about getting started
Find Your Own Meaning in the Memes
Using memes enables you to connect more authentically with coworkers while being funny and relatable, but still work-appropriate.
To misquote Madonna, we are living in an immaterial world. Memes add a material, personal, and warm touch to our digital-first spaces. So why not get started on something meme-ing-ful?