Engaged employees have a high level of commitment to their work. They are more productive, perform better, remain in an organization longer, and help an organization thrive. That’s why employee engagement is vital for business success. (New to the term? We’ve written an article before explaining precisely what employee engagement is.)
One way to foster engagement in the workplace is by helping employees form strong connections with each other. The difference between a disengaged or highly engaged employee may lie in the number of great relationships they have at work.
As a part of employee advocacy or an employee engagement strategy, we recommend organizing frequent activities where people can shape meaningful connections. The goal is to build a community of engaged employees that will be better company brand ambassadors.
When we look at how communities are built, we distinguish two kinds of activities that form communities: rituals and shared experience.
Help team members bond with purposeful rituals
Rituals are activities that occur regularly, such as daily or weekly. They resemble habits. Whereas habits are individual, rituals belong to a group of people, like a team or a department. All organizations have team rituals — from Pizza Fridays to ways to make new employees feel welcome.
Team rituals help create a sense of belonging and bring people together. Meaningful rituals, where a group works towards a shared purpose, help strengthen bonds even more. That’s why team brainstorming sessions are so powerful. It can promote creative thinking and boost group morale because employees work toward a common goal in a supportive setting.
Brainstorming sessions as a powerful bonding ritual
We recommend you try regularly scheduling the following brainstorming sessions that have a common purpose:
- For sales teams: sit together monthly to discuss hot industry topics to attain insight into (and develop) good social selling content.
- For HR teams: meet regularly to discuss the different aspects of your company culture and discuss how you can shape it.
- For marketing teams: join forces every few weeks to review possible company stories together that could provide valuable content for social media.
Building strong relationships at work through shared experiences
A shared experience is when you see, hear or do the same thing as someone else. Unlike a ritual, it is not repetitive or done consistently, but it still creates a moment of belonging. Experiencing things together bonds you together. It creates opportunities to take relationships to greater levels of trust and intimacy. Shared experiences make people a team. Great shared experiences have one or more of the following traits:
- They are unexpected and help break from routine
- They revolve around new experiences
- They center around employees
- They intentionally create memories
- They engage people with each other in ways they are not used to
We recommend you organize shared experiences for your employees routinely, preferably once every 3 or 6 months.
Great shared experiences to create as an employer
Connect employees from different teams in a meeting. Formulate talking points beforehand that will start a conversation.
Provided that it can be organized in a socially-distanced way, why not invite teams to picnic with each other? You can provide conversation topics and a polaroid to create some memories.
Speed dating session
Organize a speed dating session to have employees meet people on other teams.
Set up an internal hackathon to bring out creative ideas that might turn into a new service or a product. As people from different departments work together to build new products, they bond and later successfully work together.
Lunch and learn
“Lunch and learns” are voluntary lunch sessions that bring together people from across your organization in an informal atmosphere to collaborate and learn. Read this article on indeed.com if you’re looking for ideas on how to host a successful lunch and learn.
Breakfast or lunch with the CEO
Offer employees some one-on-one time with the CEO. It’s an effective way to strengthen communication and helps the CEO to understand his employees and vice versa. It also shows the employee that there is no “corporate barrier” between them and the boss.
Creating a community of employee advocates
Attracting and activating employee advocates is exponentially easier when you have established a strong workplace community. So build your own rituals or take some reference from the practices mentioned above.
If you already have an employee advocacy program in place, know that community-building activities are also a great way to further strengthen the bond between employee advocates and employer. Consider using shared experience to create content. Why not invite employee advocates to a picnic and organize mini-interviews afterward about the things they discussed and convert these into quotes, stories to re-use in your content and branding? Or create an ambassador corner where employees can contribute with pictures, quotes, stories. When you value the content employees make, it creates a greater sense of community and automatically brings in a lot of goodwill.