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Building Communities and Spirit

You may ask why building communities within organisations are important. I’m not talking about communities of practice – I’m talking about comradery and spirit – the stuff that brings people together, and allows people to laugh at shared experiences.

The benefits of building communities are huge. The difficulty of relocating when working abroad or starting a new job is made easier if there are networks and activities that allow people to build relationships. There can be more coordinated execution of tasks by virtue of knowing more people, lower turnover of staff, and more motivated people particularly if you’re workforce is young and multi-cultural. 

The purpose of building communities:

  • Is to connect people. 
  • Is to foster a sense of safety and support available for people, and
  • To demonstrate care for employee’s whole self – not just their work but their physical, emotional, and spiritual needs. We are all pretty dynamic and complex, and enjoy variety within our daily life.

Communities can be built around organised activities after work (this can be sports or quizzes), opportunities for discussions with guest speakers or senior leaders, networking events, having training available that discuss a real-life application, and spaces available for recreational use. You may want to institute employee-led Employee Resource Groups (ERG’s) to give people a central focus on which to bond, like diversity and inclusion, wellbeing, male and female support groups, or something fun like a cinema club. 

The variety of activities is great. This means that the organisation can engage everyone in different ways. There should be no exclusion from participation (unless there is a valid reason for doing so like a prior injury that restricts people from participating). The minute people feel excluded is when they are less likely to attempt to be involved again.

These activities can be employee-owned and allows people to express their interests and opportunity to organise and lead. There are always people who are inclined to volunteer time and effort into things they love to do. Have senior leaders attend events – the one’s they enjoy doing as if participating as an employee. This way any power differentials in hierarchy or status doesn’t have to play a key role in an after-work activity – the playing field is levelled.

What you’ll need to allow…

There is sometimes hesitancy to allow employees to express themselves about the project and its setup, other than in surveys and quiet conversations, particularly if the comment are negative or showcases apparent dissatisfaction. 

(… I digress here, but have you met a youngster recently? Upward feedback is normal. New generations influence, communicate a lot, need transparency, and can change the place they work more quickly if it doesn’t meet their needs)

To allow people to learn about the project and ensure they feel valued there needs to be allowance for a variety of conversations…

  • During meetings and trainings have discussions about the project allowing feedback and suggestions to be expressed to increase buy-in and real-life application of what needs to be done – particularly if you’re trying to build a safety culture for instance where practical application is essential. To feel like you have been heard is a great feeling AND you’re more likely to be able to respond to changes easily.
  • Allow the expression of emotions even when they are negative – it’s a part of life, and we can all build up frustration around things that need to be released. Emotions have a way of transmuting when they’re acknowledged so allow it, acknowledge it, breathe and get back to the activity.
  • Take feedback that has surfaced during training or activities and if they are viable senior leaders can be tasked to implement it. Feed back to individuals so that they can be recognised and feel intrinsically rewarded for helping to make a useful change.

These allowances are important when having groups that are focused on more serious activities, however if the activity is organised around something fun have employees and leaders showcase something different about their personalities that make each other more relatable.

And keep on doing it…over and over and over again with more gusto. Communities can take a long time to develop, and changes in people’s lives can mean they attend sometimes, or find a niche and only attend certain events, or need a break from a busy social life. Communicate so people still know what is going on. 

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