Characteristics of a Healthy Workplace Community

At Inquisition we like to think of ideal teams and teams-of-teams as communities — a collective gathered in a construct (workplace) actively working towards a goal where all team members benefit both themselves individually and as a whole.

My first real understanding and experience of communities started years ago when I worked as a community manager of a very successful branded online community on an owned platform, the first of its kind in the country. It was in this time that I learnt how a group of people who only had one interest in common (bought the brand’s device) could form friendships, help each other (on and offline), contribute long-form content, policed themselves and genuinely cared about helping the brand improve. I’ve since seen similar situations in some of the companies with which we’ve collaborated in many forms.

Human beings figured out a very long time ago that social connections and common cause would give us a good chance at survival. But as with many other things that make complete sense in our daily lives, the notion of community doesn’t always exist in workplaces. Communication in silos, lack of deep understanding of company goals, disengaged workers, lacklustre work output are some of the most common undesirable situations in which hundreds of millions of people globally find themselves spending a third of their lives.

A group of people in the office doesn’t necessarily make a healthy community. Because of typically broken structures and their complex nature, workplace communities need to be designed, a topic I will cover in a future write-up.

What does a healthy workplace community look like? Their traits mirror some of those you may experience in your neighborhood.

These are some of the characteristics of a healthy workplace community:

Purpose-driven

Community members feel inspired by the organisation’s impact on society or its customers through purpose-driven, innovative work and they know how they contribute to its success. They concern themselves with being successful at individual level AND the organisation as a whole, resulting in an autonomous workforce that is often willing to give more of themselves than what is stated in the work contract.

Cooperative team collaboration

Collaborative effort feels natural and necessary in order to benefit from everyone’s skills to suit challenges. Each person’s contribution is understood and valued accordingly. These people are also prone to incessant sharing of information, resources and anything else that aids progress.

Efficient group decision-making

A key pillar of any community is inter-dependability, which is itself reliant on trust and understanding. Decision-making with these conditions established provides vital support for group decision-making (not to be mistaken with group think) where everyone’s voice can be heard and the best ideas can win.

Co-learning

Healthy communities are able to create and adopt group-learning strategies that increase collaboration and allow acquired knowledge to quickly scale across the organisation. In this way, these communities are able to adapt quickly to change: they can quickly re-organise in order to meet challenges beyond job titles.

Transparent and frequent communication

One of the biggest challenges we’ve encountered in client teams is how they communicate — a mean feat for any medium to large team. The teams that are able to communicate across hierarchies, departments and other traditional groupings tend to be able to give work feedback more often to each other and their customers, can spot opportunities and dangers quickly then act upon them speedily.

Accountability

Community members are able to own success and failures without fear of alienation or other repercussions. Team leaders have the task of helping to create an environment in which community members can take accountability of their actions to ensure everyone has the ability to learn and grow.

Leadership through influence

Team leaders take on the role of coach, leading their teams through influence rather than rigid mandates. This means that the collective can take part in team activities such as planning and role assignment as circumstances require and not simply driven by instructions from the “boss”.