Company leaders are trying harder than ever to attract and retain employees post-pandemic, but having a healthy company culture these days takes a lot more than just being flexible about where people work. Companies all over the world are adding surprise company culture and spontaneity to the mix to help burned out employees, who felt overworked during the pandemic, put pep back in their step.

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LinkedIn and Google have led the charge by giving thousands of employees impromptu days off including long weekends and paid holidays. However, there is an art to executing the surprise element within a company to cultivate an exquisite culture. When you’re the leader of an organization, what you’re after is inspired action by those you manage because it is far more effective than professional action and dutiful action.

Zanzibar Vermiglio is an author, corporate trainer, and the founder of Zanzibar Enterprises.

There are several ways to implement surprises within your organization to invoke inspired action including days off, cash bonuses, field trips and even lunches. The act can be big or small, but it must be well thought out and appropriate for your own culture.

First, choose a surprise that is specific to a person or unique to their situation. For instance, maybe an employee has been running late due to car problems. A gift card to their auto shop would be appropriate and heartfelt. The gesture says “I see you, I understand you’re having problems in this area and I really hope this helps.” The surprise feels far from corporate because it’s personal, shows a true sense of loyalty and emits empathy.

Next, collaboration is key. When planning a surprise for an employee, make sure to meet with other team members to get help. They might know something you don’t, and that missing information is vital when attempting to make a meaningful impact. Even if you’re planning a surprise for another person, you’ll get inspired action from the employees that are in on it. Once the surprise is delivered, the employees who helped feel a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Remember to keep your company mission in mind when executing surprises. If “work hard, play hard” is part of your vision statement, make sure to implement outings that support your company’s purpose and people. Team building activities are always a win. If you really want to inspire people, get them out of the office for a day of creating, experiencing, and trying new things. From ropes courses and scavenger hunts to cooking classes and coffee tasting, unique outings strengthen team rapport and ultimately your company’s mission.

Lastly, don’t overdo it. The culture of your organization should be great without surprises, and you don’t want people to start expecting them. While surprise company culture is an effective way to show your team that you’re actively thinking of their well-being and will stop at nothing to make sure they feel seen, leadership, communication and commitment are more important now than ever. By promising less and giving more, you leave employees in the overall experience of being wowed and appreciated because good leaders are always looking for an opportunity to leave people in an inspired place.


Zanzibar Vermiglio is an author, corporate trainer, and founder of Zanzibar Enterprises. After skipping college at age 18 to manage companies, he has since led training programs for over 20,000 people in hundreds of businesses. He has also doubled the size of over 100 companies. The three aspects of business he focuses on are value proposition design and execution, operation scalability, and sales planning. Learn more by visiting