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.
Understanding the Elements of a Thriving Work Community
Decoding the DNA of what makes a work community flourish isn't mystifying—it hinges on core principles that resonate across all thriving groups.
Let us delve deep into what builds these foundations of fellowship.
Inclusivity and Diversity in the Workplace
An inclusive environment is fertile soil for growing a diverse company culture—where varied perspectives lead to richer discussions and more innovative outcomes.
When discussing inclusivity:
- Celebrate differences by recognizing various cultural backgrounds, genders, experiences, and skill sets.
- Actively seek out voices often marginalized or overlooked; this encourages fresh points of view to surface.
- Implement fair hiring practices and ongoing training programs centered on diversity awareness.
These strategies contribute immensely to nurturing acceptance and respect among peers—an essential ingredient in brewing camaraderie at work.
Open Communication and Collaboration
The vitality of open dialogue can never be overstated when building community at work. With transparent channels for sharing thoughts:
- Break down hierarchical barriers so team members feel comfortable voicing opinions regardless of their position.
- Encourage collaboration through brainstorming sessions or cross-departmental projects.
- Facilitate regular feedback cycles—from management to staff and peer-to-peer—to ensure continuous improvement.
This approach strengthens connections and fosters trust—a crucial element for any cooperative venture.
Shared Goals and Values
A flock flying in the formation reaches farther than one bird soaring alone; similarly, aligning individual goals with organizational values propels teams toward common objectives like a well-oiled machine:
- Identify unifying purposes that resonate with all employees—these become rallying points during challenging times.
- Reinforce company principles consistently so they are lived daily rather than mere words on paper.
- Celebrate milestones together—this cements the sense that everyone is pulling in the same direction.
When shared values pulsate through every business activity, you cultivate an atmosphere charged with unity.
Social Connections and Relationships
Last but not least is knitting together the very fabric that makes any society tick—the human element:
- Provide spaces (physical or digital) where conversations grow organically beyond work-related topics.
- Host events or initiatives aiming at personal interests, enabling colleagues to discover new facets.
- Recognize essential moments in your teammates' lives; small gestures breed significant solidarity.
These measures curate conditions conducive to authentic relationships—and genuine care among coworkers flowers effortlessly when nurtured right.
Remember: cultivating strong relationships provides emotional anchors throughout our ups and downs at work – they're as vital as strategic planning meetings or quarterly reports because they hold everything together!
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.
Implementing Strategies for Building Connection in Virtual Workspaces
The landscape of workplace connectivity has undergone a seismic shift in the wake of widespread remote work practices.
Building a solid community within remote teams can seem daunting, but it's fundamentally about nurturing relationships and collaboration, albeit through the digital realm.
Utilizing Technology for Virtual Team-Building Activities
- Online workshops and training sessions: Host interactive webinars where employees can collaboratively acquire new skills or enhance existing ones.
- Virtual escape rooms: Foster problem-solving and teamwork by having your staff collaborate to solve online puzzles within a set time.
- Digital fitness challenges: Encourage healthy competition with activity trackers and lead an office-wide challenge that promotes health while building peer support.
Essentially, these platforms do more than facilitate virtual meetings; they become arenas where shared experiences bond colleagues together beyond work-related tasks.
Creating Virtual Spaces for Casual Conversations and Socialization
While formal structures provide the necessary scaffolding for productivity, informal interactions are the glue that holds a community together.
Imagine the virtual equivalent of watercooler conversations; here's how you can establish those:
- Set up dedicated channels or chat rooms on communication platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams where employees can discuss non-work related topics.
- Arrange weekly "virtual coffee breaks" during which teammates are randomly paired to catch up over video calls.
- Initiate periodic 'show-and-tell' sessions, enabling staff members to share personal stories or hobbies they're passionate about.
These initiatives mirror hallway chats and lunchtime banter from traditional office settings, playing an indispensable role in creating bonds that transcend professional roles.
Encouraging Virtual Networking Opportunities
To further cultivate interpersonal connections that power a thriving workplace culture:
- Craft mentorship programs pair newer hires with seasoned pros who offer professional guidance and navigate company culture virtually.
- Organize industry-specific webinars hosting experts, which employees can attend to gain insights while indirectly promoting cross-departmental interaction.
- Launch 'interest groups' catering to various hobbies or shared themes, encouraging employees from different functions to mingle based on shared interests.
Endeavors like this propel individual career growth while fortifying the collective ethos - two sides of the same coin when building a strong community within your organization.
Challenges and Solutions in Building Community at Work
Creating an authentic sense of community within a workplace can be incredibly rewarding yet fraught with challenges.
Navigating these hurdles requires thoughtful strategies that will ultimately strengthen the communal bonds among colleagues, leading to a more productive and happy workforce.
Managing Remote Team Dynamics
The rise of remote and hybrid work models has introduced unique complexities into team dynamics and building community at work.
Team members might feel isolated or disconnected due to physical distance, differing time zones, and the lack of face-to-face interaction. To manage these dynamics effectively:
- Establish Regular Check-Ins: Host video calls for project updates and one-on-one conversations to maintain connections.
- Create Virtual Water Coolers: Use platforms like Slack or Microsoft Teams to create channels for members to share personal news and non-work-related chats.
- Emphasize Flexible Communication Styles: Not everyone communicates best via text; some may prefer video or voice calls.
- Promote Online Team-Building Activities: Arrange virtual games, quizzes, or coffee breaks that help mimic casual office interactions.
Fostering a sense of unity within remote teams paves the way for a collaborative culture despite geographical barriers.
Overcoming Communication Barriers and Language Differences
Communication barriers and language differences are significant obstacles when building community at work, especially in diverse workplaces or those with international reach.
Here's how to bridge these gaps:
- Offer language learning support or tools that assist with translation to minimize misunderstandings.
- Encourage clarity in all forms of communication; using simple language ensures all understand messages.
- Introduce visual aids in presentations for those who may struggle with language nuances.
- Practice active listening techniques during meetings to ensure every voice is heard and valued.
Every step towards improved comprehension fortifies the workforce's fabric—transforming diversity from a barrier into an asset.
Resolving Conflicting Interests and Maintaining a Harmonious Work Environment
Conflicting interests can strain interpersonal relationships, impede teamwork, and threaten the community atmosphere at work. The following approaches can alleviate tensions:
- Address Issues Openly: When conflicts arise, facilitate open discussions in a neutral setting where each party can express their concerns without judgment.
- Seek Common Ground: Encourage conflicting parties to identify shared goals that supersede their disputes.
- Implement Conflict Resolution Training: Equip your team with the skills to navigate disagreements constructively.
- Maintain Ongoing Dialogue: Keep communication lines open even after resolution so issues don't fester unnoticed.
Cultivating harmony within such complexity isn't easy, but navigating through conflict thoughtfully reinforces trust—a cornerstone for any flourishing community at work.
Measuring the Success of a Strong Work Community
Creating a strong work community is a nuanced process, and gauging its success is crucial.
It's not just about counting how many team lunches have been organized or tallying up hours spent on team-building exercises.
The fundamental metrics that reflect the vitality of your workplace community are employee satisfaction and engagement levels, as well as productivity and performance statistics.
Evaluating Employee Satisfaction and Engagement Levels
Understanding whether employees feel connected, heard, and valued typically starts with gathering their perspectives through surveys.
These tools can uncover nuanced details about the workplace environment:
- Written polls or electronic surveys for direct feedback.
- Anonymous options to encourage honesty without fear of repercussions.
- Regular intervals for survey distribution to track changes over time.
When reading between the lines of survey data, look at participation rates; they are engagement indicators.
Then, dive into the responses – higher job satisfaction usually correlates with a more substantial work community feeling.
Besides surveys, hosting open forums or one-on-one feedback sessions can reveal much about employee sentiment.
These discussions often bring qualitative insights that go beyond what ticking boxes in a survey can achieve.
Analyzing Productivity and Performance Metrics
Performance metrics provide an objective lens through which we can view the effectiveness of our community-building efforts. Consider if there are:
- An uptick in project completion rates.
- Higher quality in the deliverables.
- A declining trend in absenteeism and lateness.
These signals hint at a workforce achieving targets and thriving within a supportive company culture.
Assess how collaboration's collaborations influences outcomes by examining joint projects' successes.
Is there an increase in projects? Are solutions delivered faster due to better collaboration? The answers give weight to your work community's significance on performance results.
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?