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Turning your workplace into a community

Topics: Growth, Retention
Jessica Miller-Merrell blogging4jobs Your company’s culture is the foundation on which your employees operate. A draconian atmosphere will affect every faucet of your business, including your bottom line.

Your company’s culture is the foundation on which your employees operate. A draconian atmosphere will affect every faucet of your business, including your bottom line.

For example, it seems like not a day goes by without the media reporting how some company somewhere is being sued for doing something terrible to its employees. Walmart is a popular target; one claim that Walmart failed to pay employees for overtime work cost them about 180 million dollars and hurt their bottom line at .06 cents per share.

If you think .06 cents per share is nothing to a company like Walmart, you’d be mistaken. The money might not hurt Walmart, but their reputation and credibility have pretty much plummeted, and claims like this surface almost weekly. Financially Walmart may be able to handle it, but a smaller company couldn’t take these hits one after another like Walmart does.

Building a culture within your organization that fosters community will not only make your company an employer of choice but will also help to avoid lawsuits. A culture of community encourages shared development and learning amongst employees. Think of it like this: each employee has a special and unique ability and when those abilities are applied to the employee’s specific job role within the community (i.e.,  the company), that employee is using his or her skills to better the organization.

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To build the sense of community in your workplace:

Employees must be empowered.
Each employee must be enabled to better himself and the company, and employee insights and opinions must be valued, listened to, and acted on. Management should be approachable and work “in the trenches” with their employees in times of need. Employee empowerment is a cornerstone of a workplace where employees feel appreciated.

Managers should serve as mentors.
I’ve seen companies where managers serve as order givers and don’t really work at building employee skills or taking advantage of talent within their organizations. Managers should be mentors and help facilitate employee growth. Whether the mentoring is formal (i.e., via a structured company mentorship program) or informal (i.e., managers taking the initiative to approach and mentor workers) doesn’t matter. Community is about working together for the common good, and mentorship plays a big role in this idea.

Companies should invest to build their community.
Compensation, benefits, and simple office perks are essential when building and fostering a strong community. There are many ways to invest in your workplace community. Maybe it’s offering lunch once a week, which encourages everyone to come to the company cafeteria and mix while getting to know each other. Or, perhaps it’s a cross-training program that gives employees the chance to work in different departments and learn about their co-workers’ jobs.

Building a community takes time, but the amount of time is related to the success you’ll see in your workplace. You can do it for as much or as little money as you have, but knowing how to empower and mentor your employees will be the greatest perk you can give them.

How have you created a sense of community in your workplace?

Jessica Miller-Merrell
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