With 26 percent of American workers actively disengaged and another 45 percent feeling unengaged, it’s more important than ever to embrace an open and sharing workplace culture.
Over the last 35 years, scientific research has demonstrated that human decision-making is influenced more by emotions than conscious thoughts. Emotions are so important that in 1994, poor bedside manner was demonstrated to be a leading cause of medical malpractice lawsuits. The situation hasn’t changed.
Therefore, creating an emotionally supportive environment should be a top priority for HR departments.
Fostering a Sharing Environment
It isn’t difficult to introduce an inclusive, sharing culture that engages employees. Here are five simple shortcuts:
- Share photos. Everyone shares photos with family and friends on social media, and encouraging that sharing in the workplace is a great way to build a common culture and help employees connect. It can even be a good source of content for recruitment and marketing; photos convey significant emotional content.
- Create communities of interest beyond the job. Eighteen percent of employees say they would feel more engaged at work if they liked their colleagues. The problem isn’t personal friction; it’s a lack of opportunities to bond. Facilitate relationships beyond project teams, and encourage employees to build relationships based on personal interests.
- Organize team-building events. Our company runs a broad range of monthly events. In the last six months, teams have participated in philanthropic events, LEGO builds, escape rooms, and human foosball games. These social outlets can have a dramatic impact on the chemistry of the human body, improve cognitive functions and productivity, and increase openness to new ideas.
- Eat together. Most major holidays are centered around meals. Eating together is one of the most natural forms of connection. Recent research suggests it boosts workplace productivity, too.
- Celebrate professional and personal accomplishments. Sharing accomplishments is an important part of building an emotional culture. It creates opportunities to humanize leadership, champion inclusiveness, and celebrate the breadth of skills within a company. Set up a bulletin board in the break room, use social media, and take a few minutes at the end of weekly meetings to recognize achievements.
Dealing With Oversharing
There are risks, however, in sharing experiences. Nobody wants inappropriate behavior or content to circle the office, and compliance violations for financial and healthcare services can be a serious concern. Some might even worry about control of the company’s public persona, but these concerns can be eased with the right ground rules and technology.
- Define acceptable behavior. Some companies adopt a rigid approach; others ask employees to exercise “good judgment.” The policy should be appropriate to the company’s culture, but bear in mind that the greater the restrictions, the less comfortable people will feel about sharing.
- Empower employees to self-manage. Programs to build emotional cultures shouldn’t be handed down by HR. Creating internal champions cuts down on the workload, and it gives people a sense of shared responsibility and ownership.
- Set up notifications. Filters are best avoided because censorship can lead to negative emotional impacts. Alerts flagging inappropriate content for intranets and social media tools are a better solution.
- Use technology that complies with company policy. Every company will develop its own balance, and many companies are realizing that bans on social media are ineffective and harmful. It’s better to adopt private social engagement tools that reflect company culture instead.
Employee engagement comes from an open and inclusive workplace that allows people to express themselves and forge closer relationships. Don’t leave it to chance — build sharing into the company culture.
About Chris Dornfeld
Chris Dornfeld is president and co-founder of Bonfyre, a private social communication platform that is helping organizations align culture and engage employees. For 20 years, Chris has applied his talents in strategy, technology, and performance management to build high-performing organizations spanning startup companies, corporations, and higher education; he has also served as the CIO for the City of St. Louis.