Places of work have come a long way from when employees would punch in and punch out to log a day at work. In the 21st century, workplaces can no longer afford to be unidimensional. The reason for this is the change in the outlook of employees towards their workplaces. Employees have realized that they spend a long part of their day at the workplace and expect more of a positive impact on their lives apart from completing the tasks assigned to them.
What can workplaces do to catch up with the elevated expectations of their employees? The answer is Employee Communities.
What are Employee Communities?
Employee Communities or Internal Communities are groups of employees that come together that have a common interest, purpose, passion or need. There are different types of communities such as employee resource groups, learning communities, common interest groups, communities of practice, local office communities and many more.
Each type of community serves a different purpose. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are a safe haven especially for underrepresented and minority groups. In this community, the common challenges faced by these groups are discussed and resources are shared. Learning communities consist of groups of employees who share a learning path or course. They could be part of certification programs, professional development programs or attend workshops together. Common interest groups are internal communities that have mutual interests such as gardening, skiing, reading etc. Such groups help employees bond with each other beyond work and build collaborative relationships. Communities of practice are self-motivated employees who want to learn about a topic and get better in that field. An example is employees belonging to different departments such as Marketing, Operations, Human Resources coming together to learn more about Finance to gain expertise in that subject. This can propel cross-functional projects and change in career paths. Local office communities are location-based cohorts that can enjoy events and activities at a particular location.
How can organizations build Internal Communities?
The onus of nurturing internal communities lies on the organization. Organizations can begin by identifying prospective communities their employees would like to be part of. This can be achieved through surveys. Based on the majority of the votes, passionate leaders would need to be appointed to lead each of these communities. The next step is for the leaders to lay the groundwork such as identifying the core purpose, membership attributes and helpful resources for the members. Promoting these communities among the employee population and spreading awareness about them is the key to their successful adoption.
To truly commit to internal communities, organizations need to align senior leaders with different initiatives. By encouraging events and activities within each community and giving them budgets to work with, community leaders will have the autonomy to help them flourish. Employees can discern an employer’s genuine intention of building internal communities and it influences their commitment to the workplace.
Why are Workplace Communities important in the long run?
Employees want to identify with the organization they work for. They consciously apply for jobs only at companies with a clear sense of purpose and inclusive employee policies. Nowadays, the workplace is an extension of employees. Organizations that truly understand this shift in employee behavior and work towards keeping up with changing times will continue to attract top talent.
Communities not only provide opportunities for employees to express themselves, they also serve as sounding boards for product, service and policy innovation. Internal communities such as ERGs are a reflection of the different segments of the consumer demographic and are sources of great insight. Communities centered around learning and development assist in the career progression needs of employees. They also help identify future leaders for succession planning. Building and nurturing employee communities at the workplace is inevitable from the perspective of employee engagement, employee retention and quality recruitment.
Engaged, happy employees are productive and loyal. Employee communities enable employees to be their whole authentic selves at the workplace and help them contribute meaningfully towards business objectives.