Don’t tell the U.S. Department of the Treasury, but Bahman Koohestani, the CIO of Orbitz, has created his own currency. He calls his cash Bahman Bucks, and the roughly 300 members of his IT department based at Orbitz’s Chicago headquarters use it at a restaurant across the street from their office, and soon will use it for IT group outings to concerts and sporting events.
Koohestani created the currency, which managers distribute to staff before a social event, to encourage members of his IT department to hang out after work. “The business that plays together works better together,” he says.
Indeed, “Socializing outside of work may help resolve conflicts and build trust,” says Thomas Harvey, author of Building Teams, Building People.
The teams that play together also stay together. Koohestani says Orbitz’s IT turnover is low, partly because employees don’t want to leave their coworker friends. He notes that the social activities he sponsors, which typically cost Orbitz between $1,600 and $2,000 per event, have also helped him recruit new talent.
“It is significantly cheaper for us to increase our productivity and do something about retention than recruit new people [due to turnover],” says Koohestani. “The type of work we do and the competitive market we’re in requires an extra level of connectedness you don’t get from coming to work every day and punching out at the end of a shift.”