Category: diverse and inclusive workplace, diversity and inclusion, workplace community
At VERCIDA we discuss many communities with a passionate ethos of supporting every individual, from any community, in finding a role they can be happy in, in an inclusive company that will support them. But how can companies cultivate their own positive internal communities? How can they make their staff feel valued, connected and part of something they can feel safe in and proud to be part of?
The dictionary definition of community is “a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common,” and “the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common.” At work, we share the fact that we work in the same place as our colleagues and will typically spend much of our time together. Groups of friends develop their own communities and, definitively, any group we are part of acts as a type of community. But what are the benefits of cultivating a feeling of community in the workplace?
Ease of communication
As groups of friends often do, colleagues can foster their own way of communicating with each other at work, developing particular phrases to describe situations, each other, and engaging in workplace banter. This development of unique semantical communication can make people within companies feel connected, part of something and more comfortable with their colleagues. If language is stiff, monitored and kept ‘professional’ internally communicating how we feel is more difficult. Of course, externally, such as with clients, we need to keep a professional tone, but having a laugh in the office can lighten your experience and help develop your workplace community.
Promoting a sense of camaraderie
Camaraderie is defined as “feelings of trust and friendship among people who spend a lot of time together.” If we feel part of something we are more likely to be supportive, understanding and compassionate toward others within that group. That’s not to say we cannot be compassionate to those outside our groups, but if we feel connected we are more likely to feel comfortable enough to be open with others. Cultivating a sense of camaraderie within the workplace can lead to a happier staff, in turn leading to increased productivity.
A happy workforce is a productive one. “Research by Oxford University's Saïd Business School, in collaboration with British multinational telecoms firm BT, has found a conclusive link between happiness and productivity. An extensive study into happiness and productivity has found that workers a are 13% more productive.” If we feel part of a positive work community, one that we can be proud to be part of, safe within and supported by, we will doubtless be happier there and more likely to work hard to stay there.
Developing and promoting a positive community culture within a workplace must come from the top down and the forerunners must lead by example. If you were to start a business what would you want your company culture to look like? Would you want your staff to be proud of the fact that they work there? Do you want them to feel connected to their colleagues? My guess is yes, but how can this be achieved?
Encourage an open and honest dialogue between team members
It can be difficult to be open at work with fears of judgement, but leaders need to try and dissipate these feelings by being open themselves. We all have bad days and it’s ok to admit to having a bad day. Nobody should be expected to fire on all cylinders all the time but we can feel a pressure at work to perform our best at all times. If leaders start opening up, telling their staff if they are having problems and being honest about how they feel this will encourage those lower down to do the same, in turn promoting an open and honest dialogue.
Be mindful of the challenges others face
We are all different and we all face different challenges. Simple gestures can help others feel you support them. An invitation to lunch, a quick skype (perhaps more appropriate right now) or a simple ‘how’s life’ question might show someone you are there and listening should they want to open up to you. We are all human and we all face difficulties at home and at work so be mindful of this and if someone is ‘off’ with you, realise that it may well have nothing to do with you. They could be facing a personal crisis or a project may have gone wrong. Try not to be offended and lash out but instead be there for them, they may just need a little compassion.
Focus on employee wellness
Keeping your staff well by encouraging them to take breaks, stop if they are tired and use their holiday can help keep them well. During the current pandemic, this is more important than ever. Do not insist they get public transport to work if they are at all anxious about COVID-19. Remote working is increasingly proving itself an effective and productive practise for many people so, if it’s working, don’t fight your staff if they want to continue to work from home or remotely.
Staff groups such as LGBT+, BAME and disability networks can help support employees on a more personal level and help them feel included. By displaying these networks, as our clients do on vercida.com, employers are making a public inclusivity statement. It is the duty of leaders to push out the message to the public and potential employees that they take D&I seriously and support those from diverse communities on a practical level.
The role of the inclusive leader
During a crisis, such as what we are seeing today, the role of leaders is perhaps more important than ever. The economic and social implications of COVID-19 are severe, staff may be feeling isolated, concerned for their jobs and stress and anxiety are likely on the rise. Read our article: Why inclusive leadership matters in a crisis, for more information on the importance of inclusive leadership in the current climate.
At all times, crisis or not, good leadership is vital in helping develop a positive workplace community. As previously mentioned, company culture must be developed from the top down with leaders promoting the above points and leading by example.
By empowering staff at all levels of the business, celebrating achievement and showing that employees are valued and respected as individuals and as a team, leaders can pave the way for a positive workplace community. With this they are more likely to benefit from a happy, productive workforce.
From a recruitment perspective, the cultivation and promotion of a positive workplace community can aid in on-boarding suitable additions to your staff. If you have achieved a desirable workplace community shout about it and share stories from your team to display the company culture. Quality candidates are not only looking for the right skills match, they are looking for a culture they can enjoy being part of.
At VERCIDA we share employee stories from within our network to promote the cultures of our clients. This aids candidates in understanding the support offered to the employees of our clients. Support plays a significant part in the development of a positive company community. To support the whole person, not only in an employee’s role but also regarding their personal characteristics can help keep them well, happy, productive and loyal, creating higher staff retention rates.