By: Anita Flejter, Co-founder of Ultimate Tango School of Dance.
Employee turnover in the US has been mounting over the past few years and it’s no surprise that this year has accelerated this issue. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pandemic has caused a particularly dramatic increase – the rate is now at 57.3% compared to an already notable 45.1% in 2019.
Businesses of all sizes across all kinds of industries have been affected. Now, they are trying to tackle this staff retention issue by focussing on employee wellness activities that can increase employee productivity, satisfaction, morale, and team bonding – and, in turn, improve retention rates.
Dance classes and workshops have been one of these activities favored by many businesses for their relatively low cost and many physical, social, and mental health benefits. With so many types of dance to choose from, which one is right for your small business? Look no further.
Here are the three top reasons why Argentine Tango should be every small business’ activity of choice to help combat high employee turnover.
Let’s glide right in.
Small businesses need to find innovative ways of getting around the issue of high turnover if they are to compete with big enterprises scouting for top talent. But ironically, it is a lack of innovation in a company that is often cited as a key reason for why workers walk out the door.
While both linear and lateral thinking are important in the workplace, businesses often have too much of the former and not enough of the latter, and creative and out-of-the-box thinking is crucial for innovation.
Employees want to feel that their ideas can blossom and have an active role in shaping the future of the business. Without the tools and encouragement to innovate, employees quickly become restless and stifled and will likely start to look for more creative and dynamic companies.
For small businesses that lack sizable resources and budgets, Argentine Tango can come in handy to foster innovation. Unlike many other dances, Tango is improvised, meaning creative thinking and innovation are at its core.
Instead of being taught a sequence and repeating it parrot-fashion, employees could learn in a much more holistic and lateral way. Those who practice Tango dancing come to deeply understand the philosophy and relationship between different structures and movements, and each student can interpret it differently.
It’s like learning a language, you can memorize and recite large chunks of text, but the way to learn at a deeper level and improvise conversations is through the building blocks of grammar and constructions. The improvisational aspect of Tango can prevent employees from getting into mindless habits, which the workers of today know all too well. Monotony and enterprise inertia lead to employee dissatisfaction.
Tango teaches you to visualize an abstract idea or scene and then translate it into concrete action, creating something extraordinary through just two bodies. It also allows you to unlock novel ideas and work through them in a safe space where you are free to experiment, make mistakes, and break away from your conventional ways of thinking or behaving. This is critical in businesses, where fear of failure kills creativity faster than you can say the Tango term “carancanfunfa”.
As well as dancing Argentine Tango, a lot can be learned about the creative process itself from Tango dance experts who live and breathe innovation every day. So, infuse life into your small business by giving teams a masterclass in innovation.
There’s a common saying: people leave managers, not companies. Team building activities are often geared towards employees, but what can senior management learn about leadership from Argentine Tango?
Many businesses still adopt an outdated command-and-control style of leadership. In small companies and start-ups, where owners and CEOs are usually heavily involved in all aspects of their company, they can find it hard to give up control. This type of rigid power structure often stifles innovation, proactivity, and adaptability, leaving workers feeling disempowered and likely to look elsewhere. They want to feel that their ideas and contributions will be listened to and acted upon.
Great managers must have a clear direction and vision and be able to assert it decisively and with authority. But they also must be receptive to others and ready to embrace change. This is also true in Argentine Tango. While it has a strong leader and follower dichotomy, this relationship isn’t as linear as it appears on the surface.
Tango is an incredibly symbiotic dance form based on the mutual interchange of ideas shaped by responsiveness and openness on both sides. The leader may be the one to propose a movement, but it’s the follower who decides how they wish to interpret it. If you ask any tanguera, they will tell you that the best leaders are the ones who empower their partners and encourage them to shine. Likewise, the best managers listen to their employees’ feedback and ideas and adjust their leadership strategy accordingly.
By getting the most senior company members involved in Tango workshops with their teams, they learn to become more people-centered and collaborative leaders, uplifting and empowering their employees. It can be a great equalizer, bridging the gap and breaking down the barriers between management and employees that often cause worker dissatisfaction.
Poor workplace culture is perhaps one of the biggest reasons why people leave a company. This can mean either disconnection between teams or conflict and toxicity due to poor communication. Getting the culture right is crucial in a small business with few employees and a close-knit environment.
With the sudden rise in remote working over the pandemic, many employees have found it difficult making the mental switch between working solo and returning to the office to interact and cooperate with others. Luckily, Argentine Tango is a masterclass in communication and collaboration, and a great way to build deeper connections within teams, some of which may have gone a whole year without ever having met each other face-to-face.
Learning to Tango gives you the unique skill of being able to communicate with anyone in the world regardless of culture, age, and gender through body language. The beauty of Tango is that you can spark a conversation or establish a relationship without uttering a word.
Learning this skill is also very helpful for working with increasingly diverse colleagues across different departments. Dancers have to be highly adaptable, reading and responding to their partner’s pace, mood, and ability level; otherwise, the partnership simply won’t work. Tango necessitates deep interaction, which requires heightened understanding and continual awareness of your partner as well as the couples dancing around you.
If your business is remaining virtual for the foreseeable future, this doesn’t mean Tango has to be off the cards. Virtual classes can happen online, where employees discover the key movements and philosophy behind the dance by themselves or pair up with a willing partner or housemate.
Either way, Argentine Tango can help an entire team develop social and emotional skills such as empathy and adaptability, which are necessary to breed a more understanding workplace culture.
Now more than ever, employees are looking for more than just a pay rise if they are to stick around. They want to feel empowered, part of a community and vision, and nurtured. To make teams happier and creative, small businesses with minimal budgets need to think outside of the box.
The improvisational facet of Argentine Tango is the key to get employees invigorated and innovating. It also provides the building blocks to form teams with deeper connections, from senior leadership to a fresh intern.
So, what are you waiting for? Let’s get your teams tangoing!