The Great Resignation, the Great Attrition, the Great… Talent Exodus. And the list of “names” for what seems to be the greatest challenge for any organization these days — attracting and keeping talent — is a long one.
A McKinsey survey shows that around 40% of employees are planning to leave their jobs. The same number as in 2021.
But what if you could win this (great) battle for talent by building a Great… Workplace Community?
People spend a third of their lives at work, after all. Could a sense of connection and belonging be the “tie” that makes them stay put?
And what makes new talents wish to become members of your tribe employee community?
Let’s find out…
Workplace Community: What Is It?
”No man is an island” ~ John Donne
A work community is a group of people where there’s effective communication, a high level of trust, good cooperation, and, most importantly: a shared sense of purpose.
”At their core, organizations are collectives, comprising individuals who participate in coordinated action.” ~ Future of Work – Sense of Community in Coworking
A group of people that cooperate to reach a greater purpose. That goes beyond the chase after the monthly paycheck.
And here are some key characteristics of strong communities at work:
- Teams work well together to achieve common goals that go beyond the daily grind
- Employees have easy access to the resources and tools they need to get their jobs done
- Communication is transparent
- Team members respect their differences and support one another
- Every employee’s feedback is listened to (and encouraged)
- People feel valued
- Each employee has a well-defined role in the company
- Each employee knows what his/her individual and team goals are
Why Workplace Community Matters in Every Organization
You might find the following answer a bit too obvious:
Because humans (still) need to be part of a community.
With 50% of waking hours of their adult lives spent at work, employees need to develop emotional connections in the workplace.
By nature, humans/employees need to be part of a group. One where they feel heard, understood, and valued.
And the pandemic has only strengthened this primary, yet strong need for connection. That impacts people’s professional lives, too.
Underestimate this natural need of your employees and you end up with a disconnected workplace:
Only 6 in 10 office workers feel valued, supported at work, and included, according to a Research World survey. While 25% of them find it difficult to trust the people they work with.
Now, you might be doubting that there are, indeed, any real risks in a disconnected workplace.
Especially if everything seems great on the surface: you’re hitting your targets and your company culture’s warm and inclusive.
But here are the benefits of a strong workplace community that you’d miss if you neglected your employees’ need for connection:
- Teams exposed to multiple perspectives and approaches are better equipped for good decision-making and problem-solving
- People who feel comfortable being themselves at work are less likely to feel dissatisfied with their roles
- Employees who feel “like they belong” to their communities at work are also more likely to feel that they’re doing meaningful work
- Also, just the fact that their peers and leaders value them, understand, and… trust them makes them feel more motivated to take on more challenges.
And probably the most important answer to your “Why is community building important” question is:
(Work) community members care for each other’s work and wellbeing.
This translates into strong mental and emotional support. And a lower level of stress at work, as people don’t feel the need to mask their natural personalities from their colleagues.
Which leads to:
- Higher engagement
- Boosted productivity
- Increased creativity
- … Employee happiness
The Sense of Community and the Future of Work
Now you’re probably wondering what’s the connection between this sense of community and the future of work. Which is remote and hybrid anyways.
A study conducted by the Hanken School of Economics, in Helsinki, revealed that:
“... organizational belongingness is equally as important for self-employed entrepreneurs as it is for organizational employees.”
Meaning that the sense of community that employees feel while at work — whether they’re remote or hybrid or on-site — focuses on the experience of the work community rather than on its setting.
It’s workplace communities that will drive the future of work, not office spaces.
In short, it’s that sense of community that you’ll manage to build and strengthen across your organization that’ll help you (really) pull off remote and hybrid work.
Because the great majority of remote and hybrid workers don’t miss the daily commute. Or having to spend more money on lunches at the office or work clothes.
But they do miss collaborating and merely talking to their colleagues. And this sense of belonging to a workplace community is what will define the future of work.
People don’t miss the office per se, but they do crave that sense of community, connection, and belonging at work.
And this is what you, as an organization, will need to tap into to make sure… the future of work finds you prepared.
How to Build a Strong Workplace Community
You have the answer to your “What” and your “Why” questions. Now let’s tackle the “How”.
How exactly do you build that strong sense of workplace community in your organization?
Here are 10 (budget-friendly) ways you can build a strong community at work:
Build a Positive Workplace Culture
It’ll help you:
- attract (qualified) talent: people want to come to work in a positive, strong, and well-communicated organizational culture
- reach your target financial performance: people working in an altruistic environment, where transparency and gratitude are encouraged, are more engaged and motivated to do their best work
- retain your employees and boost their engagement: people working in a company where the same healthy traits of any human relationship are being promoted — empathy, clear communication, boundaries — are more likely to feel connected to the company’s mission
And how do you build a positive workplace culture?
You lead by example.
This means that you:
- show gratitude to your employees and encourage them to show gratitude to one another, as well
- praise their results and, even more importantly, their efforts
- are transparent about your decisions and the company’s challenges
Encourage a Culture of Diversity and Foster an Accepting Workplace
One that won’t tolerate discrimination, bias, and hate speech. One that makes everyone feel welcome and valued, no matter their differences.
How do you foster that strong sense of community, irrespective of race, color, gender, ethnic group, or religion?
Here are just 4 straightforward ways:
- implementing robust systems around diversity
- carrying out inclusion trainings across the organization
- paying people across different genders, races, or ethnic groups the same wages
- setting in place safe ways for employees to report any cases of discrimination in your company
Make Sure Your Workspace Enables Them to Come Together Socially
Think ping pong tables, an informal setting in your physical workspace area, or simply… the kitchen.
But make sure you go for a purpose-designed space where employees can get together and connect. Whether this means chit-chatting about their weekend plans or getting together to brainstorm ideas for a new project.
Encourage this type of gatherings and see that your workplace does create a sense of work community.
Instead of just checking a cool breakout space off your “nice to have” list.
Engage in Regular Communication
This is probably one of the most straightforward ways to build a strong community.
Communicate regularly to your employees, remain transparent about all the new data and decisions you make or consider making, and you’ll build trust and loyalty for the organization.
Communicate openly and frequently what the company mission is and how employees’ work is connected to it.
How they, as an employee community, can help the company achieve its mission.
Foster an Environment of Transparency
… and openness.
Transparency builds trust. And it’s what helps you create that psychologically safe environment that people will want to work in.
How do you show transparency?
By staying honest and open to sharing every business information with every employee.
And how do you foster it in your workplace community?
Encourage honest feedback among employees. The more they’re aware of their own biases and mistakes and of their colleague’s own needs and expectations, the more they’ll trust their teammates.
And it’s trust that strengthens connection at work.
Encourage transparency during meetings. This will bring to the surface (before they escalate) any hidden problems and all the valuable information and insights from the work environment.
Encourage managers to be transparent in sharing all the data they have access to with their teams.
To show fairness in listening to and handling everyone’s suggestions and ideas. It’s what will keep any favoritism at bay.
Encourage and Support Peer-to-Peer Recognition
Employees that feel valued by the members of their workplace community feel more loyal to that community.
So you’ll want to consider building a system where your employees can show, voluntarily and publicly, appreciation for their colleagues' work and achievements.
And gratitude for the help their colleagues gave them on various common projects they worked on.
The most valuable 3 benefits of tapping into this psychological principle of reciprocity?
Higher motivation, better stress management, better collaboration.
Add Fun (And a Little Weirdness)
Encourage people to fight monotony and get creative in coming up with all kinds of funny and crazy situations in their everyday work.
It will get them more engaged.
It will also help your company get more innovative and bring down barriers among employees. Which will help you build a more connected workplace.
Build Mutual Respect in the Workplace
Make sure that every employee feels inherently valuable to the company.
And foster the belief among employees that each one of their colleagues wants to do his/her best work. Irrespective of their job titles, and positions in the company’s hierarchy.
It’s what will build respect for one another and… trust in one another.
Encourage Employees to Define Their Workplace Community Values
Why would you want to have your employees come up with yet another set of organizational values? On top of those you’ve already determined?
Because this way you get to identify what’s really important for them in terms of workplace community values.
They’ll feel heard and listened to.
While you’ll get to invest in this new set of principles that are critical for people in your company. That makes them feel as being part of a healthy and strong work community.
Encourage Employees to Engage With Each Other
How? By creating opportunities for them to connect and just… bond.
For instance, you can suggest particular platforms where they can share their personal successes, hobbies, and unique interests outside of work.
Or simply stories from their day-to-day lives.
Over to You Now
Here you have your 10 best practice ideas to start with. They’re all low cost and, except for one (the one related to your workspace), you can use them for in-office, hybrid, and/or fully remote teams.
Just curious: which one would you implement first?
Which one will serve as a foundation for that strong workplace community you’ll build?