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More Company Culture, Less Burnt Burgers: 9 Summer Outing Makeovers

Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan on July 20, 2017 10:30 AM

Dear Standard-Issue Summer Outing,

It’s not you. It’s me.  Year after year, you deliver on your promise of thanking our employees with a muggy afternoon of requisite horseshoes, volleyball and charred burgers.  But, we're always left wanting more. 

I need the chance to explore activities that will grab the interest of my diverse workforce, better connect them to each other and our community, and build our company culture.

So, I officially say goodbye.

-HR Professional

P.S. Please take the water balloon toss supplies on your way out - and read on for nine creative ways to revamp your offerings.

Gone are the days of the one-hit summer outing wonder (which wasn’t so wondrous after all).  The season of sunshine affords countless opportunities to build and reinforce your organization’s culture – in many ways, across multiple forums and formats - all summer long.

Here are nine ways to transform your old-school outing and add new programs to keep the fun going all summer long:

  1. Company Ice Cream Flavor Contest: Ice cream and summer. Need we say more? Try an employee contest to create your organization’s custom flavor.  Partner with a local, small-batch ice cream shop to produce your top-three winning flavors (determined by company vote). Schedule an “Ice Cream Flavor Reveal Party” after work one evening and invite your employees to bring their spouses, partners and families.  And for a giveaway: company-branded ice cream scoops.

  2. Pizza Truck and Outdoor Movie Screening: (Complete with wandering accordion player and twinkling lights). Invite the whole family to an evening of Italian-themed fun.  Take over the parking lot, set up the outdoor movie screen, wave in the pizza truck and pull out the gelato - just in time for opening credits.

  3. Outdoor Volunteer Teams: Assemble the troops and schedule outdoor volunteering opportunities throughout summer. Whether it’s building for Habitat for Humanity, hiking trail maintenance for organizations like the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, or helping local elderly with household repairs and yard maintenance, any volunteer efforts will go far - for all involved. Gather together at the end of the day to thank volunteers and hand out fun awards over happy hour. 

  4. Weekly Picnic Zone: Pull out the red checkered tablecloths and wicker picnic baskets. Each week, schedule a different team or department to descend upon the outdoor picnic zone where fully-stocked picnic baskets await. Utilize take-out from local eateries and give your teams a choice (or surprise them) of fun  food themes like sushi (on ice), dim sum, tapas, Indian buffet or “English Countryside.”

  5. Summer Book Club: Offer a summer book  club where members can suggest and vote on their selections.  Set up an outdoor area and designated meeting day each month.  Help fuel the discussion with company-sponsored snacks and drinks. Good Reads has endless "best of" and themed book club lists.  

    RELATED: HR Summer Reading List: 5 New Books to Raise the Beach-Reads Bar

  6. Corporate Garden Plot: Several big-name companies jumped on the corporate garden bandwagon years ago - with good reason.  Giving employees the opportunity to get outside to plant, weed and harvest for themselves, or for donation to local shelters and soup kitchens reaps big benefits - for everyone involved.  If there isn't a local community garden or space for a plot on company property, consider simple, portable garden boxes that can move in and out for the summer months.  Form a committee and make a schedule of garden caretakers. Celebrate the garden's bounty with an end of summer potluck.  

  7. The <Insert Your Organization Here> Summer Games: Alright, there’s nothing wrong with a good game of horseshoes. In fact, corn hole, croquet, bocce ball, ping-pong and ultimate frisbee are fun, too. Set up an ongoing summer games, culminating in a championship day, complete with fun, summer-themed prizes (flamingo pool raft, Tiki torch set and portable bug zapper). Encourage teams and departments to enter, and utilize online tournament tools like PongUp!, Konkuri or Rankade to keep everybody organized (and to avoid any disputes on standings).  

    RELATED: 9 Ways to Gamify Your Wellness Program

  8. Kayaking Club: This has become a fast-favorite at, where employees meet up after work for a beautiful evening on the water, followed by drinks and apps at a local pub. Make it a weekly, bi-weekly or monthly outing.  Consider investing in a fleet of company-owned kayaks (and maybe some SUPs and canoes) to allow individuals and groups to get out into nature on their own time, too.   There are several vendors that sell customized, company-branded water sports equipment. 

  9. Outdoor Cultural Outing: Take advantage of those special, outdoor cultural offerings available in neighboring cities and towns during the summer months. Purchase discounted or group tickets to local Botanical Gardens, an outdoor art installation or sculpture garden, summer concert series or “Shakespeare in the Park.” Mine the talents of your employees and invite any musicians and band members to perform in conjunction with, or as a stand-alone event.

Summertime is often billed as a time to regroup, reconnect and recharge as individuals, and as members of our individual families. Why not offer the workplace a spot in the summer inner circle? As work-life integration evolves, so should the summer outings – and corporate opportunities – that employers offer to help employees have fun, bond together and feel restored.

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Heidi Erdmann-Sullivan

As Director, Sales and Marketing at, Heidi is responsible for developing innovative, results-driven programs for Care@Work – a consumer-centered portfolio of family care for employers and their diverse workforce. Passionate about helping HR professionals improve the lives of their employees, Heidi follows and writes about the top trends and research impacting both employees and employers in the workplace, including the future of work, consumerism and HR, building employer brands, pay equity and paid leave policy, and company culture. Prior to joining, Heidi led marketing teams at a variety of technology companies including Constant Contact. She lives north of Boston with her husband Brian and their “daughter” Lexi – a 10 lb. Shih-Tzu therapy dog.