Watch These Movies to Understand the Game of Employee Engagement and Retention in the Modern Workplace 427


Most people watch movies for enjoyment and entertainment, and they indeed do a great job of transporting viewers to fantastical worlds or telling touching stories.

But movies can also be an effective educational tool because of their immersive format and allow for an easy understanding of concepts and ideas without the barriers that hinder comprehension. In addition, films allow people to see life and situations from different perspectives.

In the context of learning, there are many interesting films and documentaries that the HR fraternity can watch that can teach a few valuable lessons about contemporary employees in the workplace.

Some popular Hollywood blockbusters to start with can be The Internship and The Intern. These movies are fun, entertaining and have a few good messages about employee engagement and retention if we pay close attention.

To understand the messages in the movie better, let’s first take a brief look at the plots of these movies.

(Spoiler alert!)

The Internship


Two salesmen, Billy (Vince Vaughn) and Nick (Owen Wilson), suddenly find themselves redundant and without jobs. While desperately looking for jobs with no success, Billy gets to know that Google is offering an internship that could result in a permanent position. He becomes determined that they should apply for the internship, despite being entirely technologically unsavvy.

After a few capers, they somehow land the internship opportunity and excitedly go off to Silicon Valley to join a large bunch of well-educated, tech-savvy college kids doing an internship at the company.

However, their problems are just beginning. Since they are much older and have no relevant education, they are scorned by most of their fellow interns. But Billy and Nick are not deterred. They join forces with the rest of the misfit “nooglers” (newbie Googlers) to take on the different team challenges thrown at them in their bid to win the permanent position at Google.

The Intern


Ben Whittaker (Robert De Niro), a 70-year-old retired widower, decides to apply to a senior internship programme at an e-commerce based fashion company. But re-starting a career at that age can be quite challenging, as he soon finds out.

However, Ben quickly finds his way into the hearts of all his colleagues and is soon very popular with his younger co-workers, including his boss and the founder of the company, Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). His charm, wisdom, and sense of humour enable him to cultivate a special bond and friendship with Jules.

Yes, these movies sound like sheer entertainment, and they are! However, they deliver some powerful messages about employee engagement and retention in the workplace in a light-hearted and humorous way!

Employee Engagement and Retention Lessons We Can Learn From These Movies

1. Building meaningful relationships

Building meaningful relationships

This is always a crucial first step in any new environment and even more so in a professional one, and both movies demonstrate this.

In The Intern, Ben makes an effort to form good relationships with his peers and his boss, Jules. Although he is one of the oldest interns, he becomes an extremely popular person in the office, with everyone seeking his advice and wanting to hang out with him.

Similarly, in The Internship, the two down and out salesmen, Nick and Billy, initially struggle to connect with their much younger teammates – a varied bunch of misfits. However, they finally manage to bond after a lot of effort on their parts, after which they become solid as a team and work together to achieve their goals.

What can we learn from this?

Work too becomes more fun if co-workers can build good relationships with colleagues. This results not only in higher workplace morale but also contributes to a more positive environment and this is a significant factor in employee engagement and retention.

Given the amount of time spent at the office, it is crucial for organisations to encourage their employees to cultivate strong and healthy relationships with each other. The development of good relationships in the workplace keeps morale high. Also, as colleagues become friends, everyone looks forward to spending time with one another while working and absenteeism decreases which is a positive for the company.

Work too becomes more fun if co-workers can build good relationships with colleagues. This results not only in higher workplace morale but also contributes to a more positive environment and this is a significant factor in employee engagement and retention.

On the other hand, an unfriendly and highly rigid work environment can have the opposite effect and result in employees leaving the organisation.

2. Bonding with teammates 

As much as we would like to think that we keep things professional and formal at the workplace, the truth is that at the end of the day, we are human beings. And humans need to and will connect and bond with other humans.

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Forming meaningful relationships with co-workers is an essential aspect of employee engagement and retention. This is demonstrated beautifully in both The Intern and The Internship.

In both the movies we see that as the characters bond as they interact as well as socialise outside the work environment, biases are lost, barriers are broken as they truly get to know each other in a not-so-formal environment.

Forming meaningful relationships with co-workers is an essential aspect of employee engagement and retention. This is demonstrated beautifully in both The Intern and The Internship. Click To Tweet

What can we learn from this?

Studies show that 60% of employees consider co-workers to be the biggest contributors to job happiness.

Bonding in the office as well as outside the work environment helps to form closer relationships with colleagues. They help build trust, ease conflict, boost communication, and increase collaboration.

Hence, organisations need to create more opportunities for employees to get to know each other. Some effective ways to do wonders for team cohesion, build a positive work environment and improve engagement levels is through get-togethers, celebrations, group outings, or even company sports days.

On the whole, adequate bonding means more engaged employees, which is good for company culture, the bottom line, and retention.

3. Opportunities for learning and development 

As Heraclitus wisely pointed out, the world around us is changing rapidly and the only options are to sink or swim. In a professional environment, staying afloat and advancing one’s career entails constantly learning new skills.

The famous Greek philosopher Heraclitus said, “The only thing constant is change,” and he was so right! In a constantly changing environment, learning and growing become crucial to remain relevant and this is demonstrated very effectively in both movies.

In the movie The Intern, 70-year-old Ben finds himself facing a very different work environment than what he was used to when he was employed many years ago. His current work environment is fast-paced, and his co-workers are young – nothing like he has experienced before. However, because of his willingness to learn, his co-workers teach him how to use technology, and he, in turn, teaches them skills he knows – a situation that works positively for all involved

The situation is similar in The Internship, where the two older salesmen Billy and Nick, join Google, one of the most radical tech companies, and are surrounded by highly educated and intelligent kids half their age. Everyone in the team teaches each other the skills that they know. They all grow and learn from each other, creating a win-win situation for their team.

What can we learn from this? 

As Heraclitus wisely pointed out, the world around us is changing rapidly and the only options are to sink or swim. In a professional environment, staying afloat and advancing one’s career entails constantly learning new skills.

For example, many of the older workers feel overwhelmed with new technology because they are used to working in a particular way. The only solution to combat this fear and discomfort with technology is learning how to use it to work more efficiently. However, this can be said not just for technology or older age groups but for any type of skill or level of employee in the workplace.

Millennials, in fact, place a lot of importance on learning and development. They rank the opportunity to learn and grow in a job above all other considerations. However, studies show that 69% of non-millennials too say it is essential to them.

It is the responsibility of the organisation to help them to learn new skills, expand job options and help develop new techniques to keep up with the fast-changing world.

A simple way for organisations to do this is to provide learning and development opportunities. They can provide employees with the opportunity for continuing education through courses, seminars/coaching in different areas, work and non-work related.

Hence, irrespective of what sector the company belongs to, they must enable their employees to continuously learn and remain current. This will also keep employees highly motivated, engaged, and loyal to the company.

4. Excelling through Challenges 

According to a survey by Korn Ferry, 33 per cent of those changing jobs cite boredom and the need for new challenges as the main reason for leaving.

In both the movies The Intern and The Internship, the protagonists’ situations are far from boring. The new challenges and obstacles they face are what keeps them motivated. Also, their determination to overcome these challenges makes the payoff even sweeter.

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They tackle new technology, work with younger people, handle unfamiliar situations, and find ways to keep up with the fast-paced competitive environment. However, they also find great support in their teams which finally helps them overcome all of these challenges.

What can we learn from this?

Challenging work can function as a great motivator and keep employees engaged and interested in their roles. For many people, it is more interesting to overcome some level of difficulty in their work rather than be bored doing an easy, unchallenging job.

The rewards of overcoming challenges are sweet and a welcome payoff to many people.

However, on the other hand, if work is too challenging and if there is no support to meet these challenges, employees can feel that they do not have the skills to manage and soon give up. Hence, a strong support system is also essential.

The idea is for companies to keep their employees challenged enough to keep them engaged.

One way of doing this is to give employees a chance to hold related positions in the company in a structured manner so as to avoid disruptions. This helps eliminate monotony, imparts new skills, and increases mutual respect for the work and the challenges faced by co-workers.

5. Rewards and recognition 

There have been many studies that prove money alone doesn’t keep employees happy. The non-monetary rewards that motivate employees to give their best, feel proud of their work, and keep them engaged in the long run are just as crucial.

In the movie The Internship, we see how Nick and Billy are working their way towards a reward, a permanent job at Google. They are motivated to work hard, give their best, and contribute to their team because they can only win as a whole and everyone has their eye on the prize.

What can we learn from this?

Recognising and rewarding the efforts of employees—especially publicly—is a great tool that companies can use. By setting up properly structured rewards and recognition programmes, organisations can boost employee engagement.

Recognition and rewards also help retain employees. In fact, 53% of employees said that they would stay at their jobs longer if their employers showed them more recognition.

The benefits of rewards and recognition are numerous. Employees are happier, more satisfied, more productive, have higher morale, and absenteeism goes down. The work environment, on the whole, becomes more positive.

Companies also do not have to break the bank to create a good recognition programme. Awards can include Employee of the Month or Employee of the Year recognition, gift cards, or even just acknowledgement in front of colleagues. However, the idea is to keep the programme transparent and fair so that everyone gets a fair chance and is acknowledged for their contributions.


Monetary reimbursement is not the sole factor that keeps employees loyal. Employee engagement is an equally important factor in retaining employees. Apart from the ones we have discussed above, there are many ways to keep employees engaged and satisfied.

Employees are said to be engaged when they have psychologically invested themselves in their roles and in the company. When they receive support within the company to achieve their goals and are convinced about their role and the role of the company, they align their goals and objectives with those of the organisation. In these circumstances, employee engagement is likely to be high and significantly benefits both the individual and the organisation.

Also, in such a fertile environment, employees will reciprocate positively, increase their output, and better their interaction with colleagues and managers. As a result, they are more likely to have good relationships, more positive attitudes, intentions and behaviours and higher levels of job satisfaction.

Hence, it falls on the organisation to create the required environment conducive to employee engagement and motivation and only then can it retain its talent.

So, finally, we would like to say, if you have not already watched the movies The Internship and The Intern, you should do so right away!

And now it is your turn! Have you watched a movie that has sparked thoughts about employee engagement and how it can be improved? If yes, get in touch with us or leave us a comment. We would love to hear from you.  


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