By Danielle McGivney
As we reflect on the past year, we can’t help but recognize the ways COVID-19 and the events of 2020 have impacted our lives – particularly our relationships and how we interact with one another. Human connection and communication are the lifeblood of a thriving community, and admittedly we’ve had to get creative to maintain those connections. We’ve learned a lot about how to nurture and even grow our community without being face-to-face.
Since we’re not quite out of the woods yet, we thought we’d share three of the tips that made the biggest impact on our remote teams in 2020 and that will guide strategy in 2021:
Be intentional when communicating – and do it often. Clear, consistent communication is critical to strong community. People crave information, so make sure your messages are purposeful and to the point. And don’t underestimate the power of feedback – people want to be heard, too.
In the last year, our leadership team has made a concentrated effort to tell us about what’s happening with the company, our clients and each other. Leaders communicate with us at least once a week – whether in an email from our CEO, a Slack update or a virtual meeting. Plus, through surveys and focus groups, leaders regularly seek and act on employee feedback. During an uncertain time, it’s reassuring to know that we’re being kept in the loop and that our opinions are valued.
Cultivate transparency and authenticity (even when it’s uncomfortable). Being transparent and authentic is essential to building trust with employees. This means being open and honest – even when (or especially when) regarding difficult subjects like layoffs or social unrest. Your employees will respect you for the honesty, and by setting an example of openness, you can empower your team to bring their authentic selves to work.
There has been plenty of uncertainty in the last year – most (if not all) businesses have experienced it. At KWI, though, our leaders brought us along on the journey. CEO Celia Willis set up weekly “State of the Business” meetings intended to keep us informed about what was going on, while also communicating the “why” behind the decisions being made.
Inevitably not everyone liked every decision, but by communicating and offering transparency, employees saw leaders acting with the team’s best interest in mind, which fostered an even stronger culture of trust and authenticity.
Create time to connect with your co-workers – even if you have to schedule it. To create a thriving community – whether in person or not – you must find ways to connect with your employees and for employees to connect with each other. It’s important to strike a balance between personal and professional because, put simply, employees are people, too. By getting to know one another on a deeper level, you can create a bond that will help your team work better together.
What’s more, the longer we work from home, the more we miss those “human” moments we used to have in the office – chatting at lunch or catching up after a meeting. Instead of casual conversations at the water cooler, we have had to learn how to build in time to connect with one another.
At KWI, we encourage team members to set up virtual coffee breaks or lunches with each other one-on-one to laugh, talk and simply catch up – a few minutes to talk about something OTHER than work. Because the truth is that what we do on a daily basis and how we work together makes us a business, but it’s how we connect with and treat one another that makes us a community.
Our mission here at KWI is to put people at the center of business. We want to help people feel that they’re a part of something much bigger than a job or even a company because we have seen it is the surest way to success. If you’d like to swap stories and compare notes about what we’ve all learned over the last year, we’d love to chat. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.