As we enter the fourth month of managing the impact of the pandemic, some companies are transitioning back to working in the office, but many more are continuing to have their employees work from home. As this continues, it is imperative to nurture a sense of community among employees to build engagement, retention, and customer service. The trick is how to do it.
How to Promote Community Virtually
At this point, many are burned out on video conferencing, so increased video chats may not be helpful in promoting community. Instead, consider a few of these ideas:
- Remind employees about their larger purpose. At home, it’s easy to put a narrow focus on your tasks and forget why you’re doing them. Instead, take time to refocus your team on your organization’s mission and the team’s objectives. This helps everyone remember that they ARE part of a team that is working toward a common goal.
- Use snail mail to reach out to your employees. Send notes, birthday cards, thank yous, recognition, and even gift cards. In a time when electronic communication is almost everything, these more traditional touch-points are meaningful.
- Institute a weekly newsletter. Include employee recognition, anniversaries and birthdays, critical communication, and something fun or interesting that is outside the work box. Make it compelling so people will look forward to reading it each week. Consider using video clips for your recognition efforts or birthday greetings.
- Promote learning opportunities. A chance to spend time engaged in learning is a welcome respite from the usual priorities, an opportunity to upgrade skills and, most important, reinforces your belief in the employee. When a team builds skills together, this increases their sense of community while giving them tools that benefit customers.
- Offer some after-hours options. The Zoom happy hour is well-established at this point, but other options include book clubs, movie clubs (e.g. Netflix watch party), virtual game nights, and virtual workouts. Time spent together outside of work hours facilitates teamwork. Nowadays, relationships matter more than ever.
The Effect of Community on Employee Engagement and Retention
A solid company culture has a profound impact on employee retention. A study by Columbia University found that the likelihood of job turnover in a company with a weak culture was 48.4 percent, but in those with a strong culture it shrank to 13.9 percent.
As employees continue working from home, building community in your organization is well worth your time. The effects reach your customers and your bottom line.