Why 2023 must be focused on building workplace communities

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It’s been three years of strenuous uncertainty and anxiety and employees are now yearning for so much more from their employers.

They crave that basic human need which has been lacking for so many – a safe and protective sanctuary. A place where they can feel a strong sense of belonging with meaningful connections. And if this isn’t present, then the organisational foundations will be fragile leading to weak business outcomes, including poor employee engagement, a lack of innovation and under-performance.

2023 must be the year for leaders to get their houses in order – a year for building that all-important sense of belonging so that employees feel a part of something so much bigger than themselves - a caring, unified community.

The power of community

In the workplace, a potent sense of community exists when employees feel they belong and have a strong sense of purpose with shared, meaningful goals. When employees feel a strong sense of community, they support one another, care for each other, and work and grow together. The impacts of this are considerable.

Strong workplace communities have 100 per cent higher odds of aspirational levels of great work and a 58 per cent lower probability of employees actively looking for a new job. The sense of belonging that comes from creating a workplace community also increases retention by 43 per cent, estimated tenure by 84 per cent and job satisfaction by 40 per cent. Burnout is also reduced by 38 per cent! (O.C. Tanner’s 2023 Global Culture Report).

And so the importance of nurturing and sustaining a strong workplace community must become a priority for leaders, especially if organisations are to help hybrid and remote workers to stay connected. To attract new talent, retain their existing employees, and encourage their people to do great work without burning out, creating that all-important sense of belonging is key.

How to build community

Creating a supportive workplace community requires a number of elements coming together. There needs to be an inspiring purpose, strong values and an inclusive culture. Plus, leaders must implement the following if they’re to enhance workplace community.

Integrated Recognition

Leaders must integrate recognition into everyday culture. This requires it to be given and witnessed regularly across the organisation so that appreciating others becomes second nature. Recognition must come from leaders and managers, but also peers, with efforts and achievements acknowledged and celebrated in personalised ways. Public displays of recognition should take place where possible as this helps to strengthen those all-important workplace bonds.

The recognition could take place face-to-face, but also via video conference, and some leaders may even combine the both – a virtual recognition celebration with a physical reward that’s delivered to the recipient’s door. When recognition is integrated into the organisational culture, the odds of having a strong community increase 387 per cent. And when it happens regularly in teams, the odds increase by 508 per cent!

Modern leadership

Organisations also have a better chance of building a strong community when they practice modern leadership. This approach focuses on collaboration, understanding and treating employees as individuals, rather than a ‘them and us’ approach in which managers enforce a separation between themselves and their teams, and give out orders and mandates. Modern leaders naturally improve the culture of organisations, increasing the odds of having a strong workplace community by 269 per cent.

Employee feedback

In addition, employees must be given a voice in which feedback is requested, leaders listen to the responses and where possible, the suggestions are actioned. This approach, which should use a range of feedback channels (such as focus groups, surveys and social media), leads to employees feeling heard and that their opinions count.

This cycle of regular feedback, listening, and action strengthens employee trust and community, with employees 290 per cent more likely to feel they belong when leaders actively seek and respond to feedback. The odds of having a strong workplace community is also improved by a phenomenal 6,313 per cent.

Those who feel belonging will stay and strive

A workplace community has a power to it – a power of togetherness, solidarity and positivity. Through people sharing things in common, caring about each other, and working together towards a common purpose, organisations can enjoy a unity and ‘homeliness’ which employees want to be a part of - and don’t want to leave.

By Kerry Drury, European Culture and Engagement Strategist from O.C. Tanner

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