The why and how of community building

by Axel • Nov 14, 2018 in Featured

Community building: a buzzword if there ever was one. Everybody wants a community, but nobody really knows how to build one or what to do with it. But what is a community exactly? And how and why should you build a community in your company? You’ll find out in this blog.

Community and culture aren’t the same thing

...But they aren’t mutually exclusive either. Where there is community there’s culture, but not always the other way around. Here’s why: a culture, as beneficial as it might be, is often imposed. The leadership of a company determines what a company stands for, what the common and personal goals are and the employee is expected to follow suit.

Culture generally lacks authenticity, professing to serve the needs of employees, but without anyone ever asking them what they want. It’s a residue from the founders’ interests and the environment they want to work in.

Community is a manifestation of the people within it. It’s based on individual perspectives, principles and know-how. Community is ever-changing as employees come and go.

Since a community is built by and for the employees it is authentic and helps create a sense of purpose in which members hold themselves and one another accountable for the company’s success.

Community = engagement = happiness

...and in turn happiness leads to productivity and great success and everybody happy!

No seriously, everybody thrives in a community. Studies have shown that a community at the workplace leads to an increase in happiness. It creates a sense of engagement. Community gives extra meaning to one’s work. A common goal is defined and everybody feels that they can contribute.

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But there’s a more basic reason for it. Working together is what most people intuitively tend to do. People need a sense of community and belonging. We’re social creatures. Employees of companies where community is lacking, often feel isolated with their issues, challenges and successes. Community trumps all of that. Who wouldn’t thrive in a setting where everybody is collaborating and rowing in the same, self-imposed direction?

Community building: how?

So, that’s the “Why”. It’s time for the “how”.

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There are numerous ways to build a community, but there is one essential rule: it’s built by employees and for everyone.

1. Defining company values is a family affair

Every company establishes some values. Often top-down: the board, chairman or CEO decides what the company stands for and the employees follow suit. Instead, let the employees chime in. Or better yet, define the core values with them. Define values not only on what you want your company to be, but also on what impact the employees want to have on your customers and society as a whole. You’ll establish a sense of commitment and ownership, and boost accountability.

2. Put the values into practice

Plenty of companies establish values and then leave it at that, instead of making those values concrete. Establish guidelines of expected behavior with and for your employees. Define how these values should manifest in the way they interact with customers or each other. Determine how you and the employees are expected to act according those values in their daily work. The best way to do so is to establish up to five behaviors for each value, that definitively depicts what those values look like when applied.

3. Make employees the Master of their Kingdom

You might have noticed a trend here: it’s all about involvement, shared responsibility and ownership. Employees should have ownership of the values and behaviors, but they also should have ownership about enforcing them. Allow them to hold each other, and you and other leaders accountable. Community-building only works when everyone abides the self-imposed values. +

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4. Make onboarding employee-centric

The best way to onboard a new recruit is to tell everything they need to about the company and then throw them into the work, right? Wrong!

The top priority should be to get the most out of the employee’s potential. There’s no worse way to try to do so, then by submerging them with already established working conditions. Instead, find out what they need to be successful and what makes them tick. Let newly hired personnel share stories about the ideal situation in which they can deliver a peak-performance. Let them write down their areas for development, how they like to be recognized, their motivators etc..Having a full understanding of those aspect will set anyone up for success.

5. Transform managers into coaches

Become a Coach and a Coachee. Quit being a disciplinarian when your team makes mistakes. A true leader coaches and gives guidance when need be. But allow yourself to learn from your team too. Stop acting like you know the answer to every question, your employees see through that all-knowing front. Instead, be honest and admit that you don't know everything that's being told in a meeting. Your employees are masters of their kingdom, they're supposed to know more than you do in their respective field. Your employees will feel valued and appropriately recognized.

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On top of that, you should try and collaborate with individual team members and draw up career plans that offer the satisfaction and sense of purpose that drive longevity, loyalty and success. If you’re at the helm of a large company, you should coach your managers to go along this principle.

6. Make the 1:1 a powerful tool

Try to meet 1-on-1 with your employees on a weekly basis. It doesn’t need to last longer than 5 minutes. That should be enough to discuss the week’s accomplishments, next week’s priorities, the challenges, obstacles and areas for improvement. Keep the meetings concise, yet in-depth.



7. Create a workplace suited for community building

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Great community-building exceeds the boundaries of a company. You should try and allow outside influences and stimulate your employees to discover other companies or ways of working. That’s where shared offices come in to play. The best way to achieve those goals is by opening up your offices for freelancers, consultants and other remote workers, and to allow your employees to work at other shared offices. Studies have shown that shared offices enhance collaboration, innovation and a sense of community.

Click here and discover 6 more reasons to share your office space.



Conclusion

There you have it. 7 ways to build a community in your workplace. There are 2 big takeaways:

1) Involve your employees. It’s all about them. You won’t be able to establish a community-building, and create well-being without your employee’s input. Make them your partner in this endeavour.

2) Create a workspace suited for community-building. Shared offices seem to be the ideal spaces for community-building and co-creation. You can boost your community and your company by opening up your office, and share it with freelancers, consultants and startups. Click here to allow community building in your office space.



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If you don’t have any offices to share, you can always sign up to allow your employees to join our network of shared offices. They’ll be able to work in other innovative companies and inspiring workspaces. Click here to sign up your employees to be part of an inspiring community.



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