Think company culture is a corporate buzzword? Think again. According to iOpener Institute, happy employees are 100% more productive than their unsatisfied counterparts. A thriving community culture is key to a productive, engaged and satisfied workforce.
But how do you create a community around your company? Community engagement is the answer! In this article, we’ll explore what community engagement is, why it matters in the workplace and how to get started building a community around your company — so let’s dive in.
What is community engagement in a workplace setting?
You may have heard the term ‘community engagement’ before in any number of settings, because actively engaging with the people and places around you is undeniably important. In the workplace, however, it has a specific contextual meaning.
Community engagement in the workplace is all about creating a sense of connection and shared purpose among employees. It can manifest in a lot of different ways, but the goal is always to encourage people to feel like they’re part of something larger than themselves, that their work has meaning and value beyond a paycheck.
In the workplace, community engagement can look like:
- Encouraging employees to get to know one another outside of work, whether it be through social events or team-building exercises
- Creating opportunities for employees to give back to their community. This could be through volunteering or sponsoring local causes
- Offering employees access to resources and training that help them develop a sense of social and environmental responsibility
- Promoting open communication among employees, so they feel comfortable sharing ideas and feedback
Community engagement is about more than just getting people to feel good about their work. Done well, it can also lead to increased productivity and creativity, as people feel more invested in their work and more motivated to come up with new ideas.
How to assess your company community
If you’ve been immersed in your current business for a long time, it can be difficult to step back and assess the state of your culture and community. If you want to create engagement, however, it’s important to first understand what you have. You’ll need to answer questions such as:
- What is our company culture like?
- What are our values, and how do they manifest themselves in our day-to-day operations?
- Do we have a sense of community, or is everyone just going through the motions?
- Do our employees feel like they’re a part of something larger than themselves, or are they just working for a paycheck?
- How do we interact with (and engage) our customers and clients?
- What kind of relationship do we have with our competition?
- Are we open to feedback and new ideas, or is it a top-down, command-and-control environment?
If your company community is unhealthy, these questions will let you know. You won’t know how to describe the current workplace culture, your values will be vague (if there are any set values at all), and employees will feel like they are just cogs in a machine. The competition might be seen as the enemy, and feedback won’t be welcomed.
If this is the case, don’t worry — it’s not too late to change things around! Building a community can take some time, but it’s worth it in the end. Let’s take a look at how you can go about doing that.
Building an engaging and thriving community
So, you’ve been made aware of some major downfalls in your company’s community engagement. Maybe your culture is severely lacking in social activity, or your customers just don’t feel appreciated. Perhaps your employees feel completely dissatisfied and disengaged — or worse, they simply don’t know how to connect with one another.
In any case, it’s time to take some serious steps in order to turn things around.
The first order of business is to actually build a community around your company. This means establishing a common goal or purpose for everyone involved, and setting the tone for open communication and interaction. Let’s walk through the basics of how to do just that.
1. Define your company’s culture and values.
Your company’s culture is the foundation upon which your community will be built. It encompasses everything from the way you treat your customers and employees, to the atmosphere you foster and the goals you set. In order to create an engaging community, you need to make sure your culture is one that people want to be a part of.
Values are what define your culture and guide your actions. They should be something everyone in the company can get behind, and should be made clear to both customers and employees. When people know what your company stands for, they’re more likely to get involved and want to help contribute to its success.
To define your company’s culture and values:
- Start by writing down what you believe in as a company. For example, are you passionate about providing great customer service, or do you emphasize innovation and creativity?
- Think about what you want your company to represent. Do you want it to be seen as fun and vibrant, or professional and reliable?
- Create a list of values that reflect these beliefs. Some examples could be respect, integrity, teamwork, and customer service.
2. Establish a clear purpose for your community.
Once you have a good understanding of your culture and values, you need to establish a clear purpose for your community. This is what will bring everyone together and provide a sense of common ground. Without a clear purpose, people will simply be going through the motions without any real connection to one another.
There are many different ways to go about this. Maybe you want to create a community of customers who can share ideas and feedback with you. Or, you could build a network of employees who can collaborate and support each other. There are endless possibilities, so be creative and think about what would work best for your company.
To establish a purpose for your community:
- Decide what you want it to achieve. What do you hope people will get out of being involved?
- Define the target audience you’re hoping to reach. Who do you want to connect with and engage?
- Create a mission statement that sums up what the community is all about. For example, “The XYZ Community is a place where customers and employees can come together to share ideas and feedback, and help make our company better.”
3. Set the tone for communication and interaction.
After clear culture, values, and purpose, are set, you need to set the tone for communication and interaction. You can do this by establishing rules of behavior and guidelines for how people should interact with each other. It’s important to be clear about what’s acceptable and what’s not, as well as how people can get involved.
One of the best ways to do this is by creating a charter for your community. This is a document that outlines the purpose, values, and guidelines for how the community should function. It should be something everyone can refer to when they’re not sure how to act or what’s allowed.
To set the tone for communication and interaction:
- Create a code of conduct that outlines expected behavior from members of the community. For example, be respectful, be open to new ideas, and don’t spam others.
- Make it easy for people to get involved. Provide clear instructions on how to join and participate in discussions or activities.
- Encourage two-way communication. Let people know it’s okay to share their thoughts and feelings, and that they will be heard and respected.
- Be clear about what’s not allowed. Don’t tolerate hate speech, bullying, or other negative behavior.
4. Establish goals and objectives.
With a community in place, you can now move on and establish goals and objectives for how it should function. This will help keep everyone on track and working towards common objectives.
Some good goals to consider include:
- Increased engagement among employees
- Increased customer satisfaction
- Improved communication and collaboration between teams
- Developing new products or services based on customer feedback
- Generating new ideas for improving company culture or operations
5. Create content and activities that support the goals.
Creating content and activities to support your goals is one of the best ways you can encourage your community in its early stages. This means developing materials and programs that will engage members of the community and help them connect with each other.
Some ideas for content and activities include:
- Forums for discussing topics of interest
- Blogs and articles about the community or related topics
- Social media groups or pages
- Events or meetups for getting together in person
- Challenges or contests that encourage participation
- Discussion boards or chat rooms
6. Measure and track progress.
The final step in this process is to measure and track progress in order to ensure the community is achieving its goals. Set up systems to track engagement levels, customer satisfaction, and other key metrics. It’s also important to survey members of the community regularly to get their feedback and see how they’re enjoying the experience.
Measuring and tracking progress can help you determine:
- If the community is achieving its goals
- What content and activities are most popular
- If members are satisfied with the experience
- What could be improved
Your community is in place, and employees now have the chance to truly engage in their work and thrive alongside their colleagues. But it doesn’t stop there!
Remember that implementing shifts in your company can take some time, and the dust may not settle for a couple of days, weeks, or even months. Like a newly planted sapling, allow your new culture to dig down roots and begin changing your company from the inside out.
And remember: everyone is in this change together, so encourage your employees each step of the way, even when they make mistakes. By fostering an attitude of positivity and progress over perfection, you’ll be well on your way to creating an engaged and productive workplace.