Community in the workplace is the authentic, organic expression of an organization’s values and internal relationships. A positive community communicates and cooperates effectively and where there is a high level of trust and respect. This does not mean there are no conflicts. Rather, the community sees these moments as opportunities to discuss and brainstorm to overcome their differences and grow towards a healthy outcome.
Community is the heart and soul of a successful organization. If employees feel like they are part of a positive, respectful community they are more likely to bring their most authentic selves to work. This allows people to feel more comfortable fulfilling their potential. As community creates a sense of belonging it also means they will want to work to further the mission of the community, elevating their performance and the organization as a whole.
With the amount of time that we spend at work, it is only natural that people will be drawn to a workplace that provides a supportive and inspiring environment. With focus shifting to a healthy work/life balance and promoting positive mental health modern organizations need to lose the cold, corporate feel. Happy, dedicated employees who believe in the work they are doing will build a stronger community and develop stronger bonds with their teammates.
It can be difficult to create a community where employees feel happy and included without it feeling forced or fake. However, there are some guidelines you can follow to build a community in the workplace naturally. A community that instinctively changes and evolves over time, leads to a happy, healthy workplace.
Four Tips to Build Community in the Workplace
1. Make Employees Part of the Conversation
Employees are happier at work when they feel included in a community of their peers, this makes them more committed and less likely to quit. Employees who don’t feel like they fit in or feel as if they are being excluded are 12 percent more likely to seek work elsewhere.
To encourage inclusion, it is important for an organization to learn about and listen to its employees respectfully and authentically. Creating an environment where each employee feels heard and understood for the individuals they are. This means every team member starts to feel involved and like their opinion matters.
If you promote free-flowing communication between team members and allow all employees to share updates a community can begin to form naturally. These connections can strengthen a team and mean that employees feel more committed to the overall organization and its culture.
It is important to welcome diverse perspectives. Not everyone sees the world in the same way and that is a great thing that should be utilized. Create a strong community spirit by asking questions, listening, learning about others, and encouraging respectful and thoughtful behavior.
Facilitate connections between employees. An EY Belonging Barometer study revealed that 39 percent of respondents felt a sense of belonging when their colleagues checked in on how they were doing. There are a wide variety of technologies available that allow employees to communicate easily and quickly to share daily updates and personal messages.
2. Encourage Team Members to Share Their Skills
All aspects of building a positive community in the workplace involve making it easier to share information. Every employee has an individual skillset and something to teach that can be valuable to other team members. If an organization allows its employees to share these skills and impart knowledge it is a way of validating their importance and is more rewarding for everyone involved.
Collaborative learning has many benefits. People often prefer to learn from other team members rather than more official channels. Promoting a collaborative learning approach reduces the chance of limiting learning opportunities. Combining effective communication channels with skill sharing gives every employee the chance to say what they have to offer, what they need to learn, and how to learn it.
Promote skill sharing in the workplace by conducting:
- Peer-led seminars, courses, and skills workshops
- Peer-to-peer training
- Peer feedback opportunities
3. Maximize Engagement to Strengthen Relationships
To build a strong workplace community, organizations should actively encourage their employees to talk to each other about topics other than work. A strong team doesn’t just share the minimum amount of work-related information, they chat, and they don’t feel guilty about it.
As their relationships deepen, bonds are created, and this increases a desire to perform well for one another. Enthusiastic employees are excited to be a part of the organization and this increases productivity levels and builds an engaged community.
To maximize engagement certain activities can connect employees. These can be done remotely or in-person and should develop conversations that avoid anything to do with work. These can be separated into specific topics such as hobbies or sports depending on the size of the organization and the interests of the team members.
4. Facilitate Team Activities Outside of the Workplace
A good way for organizations to build community in the workplace is to facilitate opportunities for employees to spend time together outside of work hours. Many companies organize official team-building exercises, and while these events can be positive, these types of activities don’t appeal to everyone. For some, they can even be stressful experiences, involving exercises that cause feelings of failure and exclusion. This can be counterproductive and ineffective in building community.
The size of a team and its location will determine the most practical way to encourage employees to socialize. If employees are already communicating about their shared interests it is good to ask questions so you can plan more appropriate group activities that are inclusive to all. When people see that the organization and their fellow team members care about their happiness, especially outside of work hours, they respond positively.