10 ways to create community in the workplace

Effective employee recognition builds a social system for organisational “common good”.

Australians have a tendency towards hero worship for achievers, particularly those in the sporting arena locally and internationally. We admire the achievements of our prominent social and cultural icons. Awards are given in many industries for the top performer of the year. We put our “stars” in the spotlight.

However, it’s often lonely at the top.

We often long for a sense of community. We want to belong and to be a part of something bigger than ourselves! How else can you explain the fact that more than 800 million people have a Facebook page and some 175 million workers are on LinkedIn? Social media and networking are a means for people to make a connection: to share, showcase, commiserate, celebrate, be a part of a community and know that we matter. In short: to find that basic human need to be recognised.

Workplace is community

Most workers spend half or more of their waking hours, during the week, at work. Their co-workers become an important part of their lives and often are the foundation of their social interaction. The workplace is an important community that many workers take pride in and want to know they are a part of. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review: “Community means caring about our work, our colleagues and our place in the world, geographic and otherwise, and in turn being inspired by this caring.” The article points out that some of the most successful companies have created a sense of community where common ground takes precedence over individual accomplishments.

Recognition drives community building

Community requires interaction among all its members regardless of their “hierarchal place.” Most members want to be recognised for their contributions, large and small. They want to know they are valued and that they matter in the important community of their workplace. They want to be part of a successful entity, a winning team and a respected organisation. Making this happen is what formal and informal recognition is all about.

Here are 10 ways your company can build community within the organisation:

  • Ensure that managers know every employee who reports to them by name. This may seem like a foolish statement, but a person’s name is their identity. And, as the theme song from the TV show Cheers pointed out, “You want to go where everybody knows your name.” Being a community member means that you are recognised and known.
  • Encourage everyone to informally “friend” their co-workers. Make sure everyone in the group knows each other. Again, this may seem obvious, but in a larger an organisation, people are unlikely to have spoken to a person they’ve never been introduced to. Community is dependent upon relationships. Make sure they get established.
  • Recommend that managers know something about each employee that is important to them personally. This doesn’t mean invading someone’s privacy, but it does mean that managers know what else in an employee’s life is highly valued. It could be their family, volunteer work, or a hobby –the types of things they may post on their personal Facebook page. Communities thrive when its members are multifaceted.
  • Ask managers to greet every employee, by name, every day. This takes just a few minutes of time and it shows employees that you value them and recognise that they are at work and contributing. Communities are built upon ongoing interaction.
  • Teach managers to ask questions and then use active listening techniques. When you ask for someone’s opinion, you are clearly stating that you value what they have to say. Not everything needs a response. Let people talk. Communities that are vibrant have a diversity of thought.
  • Create common goals throughout teams and the entire organisation. Bring teams together to create goals. When people have input, they are more likely to work harder to meet the goal. Successful communities know what they want to accomplish and what else a person can do to succeed.
  • Share what you know. Don’t breach confidentiality, but be open and honest with employees so they feel that are a member of the larger community.
  • Encourage everyone to acknowledge good work. Go out of your way to find things to compliment and comment upon both publicly and privately. Gen Y workers especially value positive feedback. Often known as the “trophy” generation, they crave feedback and can be the early adopters of the community.
  • Ask employees to recognise each other. Encourage employees to compliment each other on their work. This can be done through a formal peer-to-peer recognition program or by simply inviting employees to share success stories during team meetings. Community members support each other.
  • Shout up. Make sure your leadership team is aware of all successes and challenges. By promoting the work of individuals and teams, you’re setting them up as role models for the organisation and for the common good of the community. A thriving, vibrant community is wholly dependent on the health, attitudes, spirit and willingness of its members to freely share and contribute. Community members want to share and contribute when they clearly connect with the community’s goals. Recognition is the overall drive

John O’Brien is vice-president of the Employee Performance Group at BI WORLDWIDE.

BI Worldwide

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