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There are many reasons for nurturing a community in your company. Back in the day, work was seen as an exhausting burden, not something to be enjoyed. This status quo has been generally unpopular. In addition to that, people are naturally inclined more towards negativity, unconsciously focusing on worrisome information and possible unfortunate consequences. Happiness within the company is dependent on the ability to navigate various dimensions.
A study by Gartner reveals the following statistics: on average, 69% of employees do not believe in the corporate culture goals set by management, 87% do not understand them, and 90% do not stick to them. This suggests that standard approaches to corporate culture are outdated, and no one needs fake values that exist only on paper.
Many companies, from Lexus to Zappos, have a mantra that reads “put people first.” This well-known approach puts the well-being of employees at the center of the company’s mission, values, culture and decision-making logic. I have witnessed a direct relationship between happiness and creativity, innovative ideas, career advancement, authenticity, broad views and beyond.
Therefore, building community is the backbone of any business, no matter how you slice it. And it demands a lot of love for people that work in your company.
Acting in the best interest of employees
Often, we are so eager to create or improve corporate culture that we forget about the very people who form the core of the business and move it forward. Corporate culture brings much more meaning and value if it transforms the company into a community.
The best you can do for your people and ambassadors is to provide comfort and development, both professionally and personally — and this is much more than just a corporate culture. In this context, it is crucial to start from the needs and interests of people, integrating them with the ideology of the company.
Community ecosystem in a company
Today, we frequently see that a product or service is no longer always the primary means of attracting people. A candidate is only interested in a brand at the very beginning. What happens next is much more interesting, and every bit of relationship between a company and an employee matters a lot.
Furthermore, companies building a solid internal and external brand begin to form a community around themselves. At the same time, they build an ecosystem, create and “live” their values as they become magnets for both employees and customers.
Apple continues to nurture its community by strengthening #TodayAtApple and transforming retail from product-based to people-based. Building on its passion for teaching and inspiration, the company creates a community space where everyone can unleash their creativity, get inspired, induce a desire to learn, and share ideas.
I see the community of a modern company as a marketplace, where you can get professional growth, new knowledge, play sports, have hobbies and maintain health. And you do all this together with like-minded people with similar interests. For employees, this is a full-fledged system that forms and raises the level of happiness. Everything in it works to develop comprehensively — both in career direction and in personal and creative directions.
According to Gusto’s research, the sense of belonging to the community helps companies retain 54% of employees. And care of the intangible, in turn, leads to tangible business results. As per Deloitte, 83% of executives consider employee engagement to be a critical factor in the company’s success.
How to build community
A wide range of activities of interest, convenient infrastructure and intuitive management compels one to stay at a company and feel comfortable there. However, it is vital to understand that goodies and perks aren’t the only things that go into community building. Meaning and values must fill every element. These are not empty tools; they need coherent integration into the mission and essence of the company.
Proper integration relies on the following steps:
Explore the interests and needs of employees. Find out what employees are interested in outside of working hours, what soft skills they would like to develop and what hobbies to try. Also, find out what concerns your people have, what they dream about and what makes them happy. This information will give new ideas on how to grow the community and fill it, and from here, many valuable initiatives can be born.
Work with values. Values connect people, making their joint work or leisure pleasant and comfortable. When developing values, consider how balanced they are with the company’s business goals and people’s personal development. To ensure values are not imposed, pass the microphone to your employees and get feedback from them. Work on values that are embedded with corporate tasks and what matters for each of your employees.
Turn employees into community leaders. Find people in the company who are passionate and willing to lead a group of like-minded people. London Business School research shows that companies allowing employees to choose the name of their position boost the satisfaction level by 16% and engagement by 11%. The tasks of community leaders may include communication with the group, developing activities for it and promoting new directions in the internal and external communication of the company.
Develop a framework and motivation. Create simple conditions and methods of motivation for the engaged employees. There can be regular meetings within each community, periodic result-focused challenges, awarding prizes for the most active ones, a system of points or even offsite meetings for those who work remotely. Think of a grant system for community leaders where they can — at their discretion — distribute the budget for the development and community growth. Incorporate the community guide into your employee’s handbook and share your team’s success in communications.
Engage more people. Don’t limit yourself to just employees. It is also a good idea to allow alumni — former employees of the company — to participate in the community’s life.
Corporate culture and community are closely linked. While culture is created and maintained by the company, the community is how culture continues. People can come and go, and that’s okay. If everything is authentic and built with consideration, all employees have a sense of belonging and understand that they are part of something bigger than the business.
Related: Building Community Is Good Business