A lot has been written about how the best workplaces create great company cultures. And most of it is pretty good stuff. But, one element has been overlooked.
In the fall of 2013, I joined the Best Places to Work team at Quantum Workplace. One of my responsibilities involved traveling to cities across the U.S. to attend Best Places to Work events to speak about the process we use to evaluate organizations and determine which are worthy of recognition.
At most of the events, the organization is asked to share some insights about how they create such a great workplace. Sometimes, they show videos of employees talking about the company. Other times, it’s the CEO or owner.
Most is what you’d expect to hear. But, one thing stuck out to me in how often it was mentioned — particularly by smaller, growing companies. They had a secret ingredient they were adding to their company culture.
People talked of company happy hours — some in the office (Thirsty Thursdays, anyone?) and some out. They talked of rolling coolers and margarita carts. And then there is my personal favorite: the office kegerator.
As someone who loves beer, this was an exciting discovery. What if beer was the secret ingredient to creating an engaging work culture?
But, of course, it wasn’t really about the beer. These leaders understood the power of fostering connection between employees. Employees in these companies spend time together — voluntarily — not working. They are building relationships, creating memories, and becoming friends. And, when working with friends, work can be pretty awesome. It’s that simple.
To create a workplace where potential employees are beating down the door to join the team, start by fostering employee connectedness. Here are a few ways to do that:
- Help foster unlikely meetings.
Create opportunities for co-workers to discuss work, or get to know each other on a more personal level. Nesta, a charity whose goal is to help organizations bring ideas to life, found a way to use people’s love of coffee to bring them closer.
Each week, their employees are matched up with a fellow staff member, and the two are invited to get coffee together. This randomized matching will give your employees an excuse to network and connect throughout the entire company.
- Discover where change is necessary.
Acknowledging that it’s time to begin focusing on employee engagement is the first step, but realizing where your organization needs help is a difficult one. Use employee feedback, or an online analysis tool to determine where employees need assistance in bridging the gap between co-workers and leaders.
For example, Connected Common is increasing purpose, positivity, and precision by enhancing employee connections through organizational network analysis. Their targeted analysis helps companies understand where their focus needs placed in order to build motivating employee engagement.
- Create unconventional office spaces.
Say goodbye to traditional offices, and knock down those restraining cubicle walls — it’s time for a refreshing change. Use physical space to help employees form unbreakable bonds and enhance creativity.
Pixar’s 22 acre campus is leading the way in state the art, out-of-office, office spaces — from ball fields and gyms to non-traditional workspaces and places to eat, there’s plenty of areas where team members can join together in both fun and work. Maybe your company can’t afford 22 acres in California, but there are other ways to get your employees moving and building relationships.
Set aside time for employees to take walks together for fresh air, create a quiet place for those who prefer meditation, and schedule once-a-week lunch meetings to stimulate strong communication over a casual bite to eat.
The Best Places to Work understand the power that connection and relationships have in creating a great work experience for their employees. And they don’t leave it to chance. They invest time and resources to ensure that it happens.
Follow their lead; the beer is optional.
Jason Lauritsen is the director of client success at Quantum Workplace and the author of “Social Gravity: Harnessing the Natural Laws of Relationship.” Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.