Trust and camaraderie are important in any workplace, regardless of company size, industry or personnel structure. How people feel about their colleagues affects how they feel about the organization as a whole—and how they feel about this working environment in turn affects the quantity and quality of work they produce.
But one survey by PWC found that more than half (55 percent) of business leaders “believe a lack of trust in the workplace constitutes a foundational threat to their company.” Lack of trust—between new hires and existing employees; subordinates and managers; members of various departments; etc.—manifests in costly ways. Employee morale falls. Productivity stalls. Conflict arises. The turnover rate ticks up. Online workplace reviews tell prospective employees to stay away, and similar discouraging messaging.
So, what can leaders do to foster positive interactions and a sense of confidence for employees? Here are a few ideas for doing so.
Break the Ice More Than Once
Building work relationships starts with solid introductions and the chance for collaborators to get to know the others with whom they’ll be communicating regularly. Helping employees get to know the team can boost trust and fellowship, which in turn can buoy company culture.
Yet many organizations treat “breaking the ice” as something more fit for special occasions—like new hires’ first day—than for regular meetings and events. The mindset that people are ready to work together once they know each other’s names and jobs is limiting. There’s really so much more to discover about team members, not to mention some laughs to be shared.
Something as simple as using Poll Everywhere to ask fun icebreaker questions gets meeting attendees thinking outside the box while also helping them learn more about their coworkers. There are a few survey formats organizers can utilize here, including:
- Multiple-choice quiz: “Which activity do you do the most outside of work?”
- Open-ended question: “What’s a new year’s resolution you’d like to accomplish?”
- Clickable image: “Is the glass pictured half-empty or half-full?”
- Rankings: “Rank these pizza toppings from best to worst.”
- Word cloud or emoji cloud: “Describe your ideal vacation.”
Regular icebreakers help people learn about each other more than once. Plus, they prime people to collaborate and participate, making them an excellent way to kick off meetings.
Make Key Introductions
The last thing you want is for your employees to show up on their first day of work and find themselves wondering what to do next. Nor do you want them forced to shake a veritable conveyer belt of hands, cramming in introduction after introduction without retaining the information.
Come up with a plan to help employees feel welcome from day one—including a useful tour, meaningful introductions with key colleagues, a mentor and a “buddy” for questions they have in their first months. Make sure existing employees are aware when someone’s joining their team so they can go out of their way to connect.
Incorporate Team Bonding Experiences
Team bonding experiences are a great opportunity to shake up the normal work routine. Depending on your budget and company culture, there are myriad ways you can bring employees together: Off-site lunches, book club, sports league, team-building exercises, parties, volunteering, learning new skills, etc.
Pro tip: Make sure these activities occur within the confines of the workday, so employees don’t have to struggle to make them fit into their already busy lives. This will demonstrate your investment in their experience being part of your organization.
Building work relationships isn’t something that necessarily happens naturally. Anything you can do to help employees get to know the team will boost the trust and camaraderie they feel at work, which in turn affects performance.