I am often asked: ‘How can we encourage our staff-members to talk to each other?’ Another question is: how do we break away from excessive reliance on electronic connection and encourage our management and staff to build personal relationships? A young guy was telling me that when staff in his organisation ‘go on breaks’ they go to the allocated room and interact with their phones, not with each other. There is no conversation.
Some ideas that I have seen used in trying to encourage building relationships:
- An organisation I was involved in KwaZulu-Natal set a mantra, ‘pick up the phone’. In other words, they want people to talk to each other face to face, and if that is not possible, to phone each other.
- The director of a law firm suggested asking staff to ‘walk down the passage’ rather than be isolated in their offices. The abruptness of some e-mails was destroying relationships.
- A famous hotel group thought that they’d create awareness of reliance on e-mails by not allowing staff to send e-mails to each other on a Friday. Of course, they could respond to guests e-mails and do necessary external business. That didn’t seem to work.
- Some firms in the USA are re-introducing the coffee-urn in the passage, hoping the people will congregate there.
So, how do we get people to ‘congregate’? I believe that we need to work on the culture of the organisation. Recently I saw an outstanding example. Imagine how wonderful it must be to work in a place where you can occasionally take your dog to work and where she’ll be appreciated. Here I met Harriet.
Imagine working for a firm where 800 people are on-site and where bowls of fruit are available for staff at strategic positions. You could practise in a gym with one of 8 instructors. An air of wellness abounds. There is an opportunity to make an appointment with the visiting naturopath, osteopath or other person who will help staff to live a better life.
Wherever I went at the Cotton On Group in Geelong, Victoria, Australia, I noticed areas that were conducive to getting people together – either to work, to share ideas or to reflect. Some of these areas were wooden tables. Others were brightly coloured. There was even an area with beanbags. Staff appreciate the benefits of a reading area with all the latest magazines and newspapers.
That would be my workplace of choice. And then add to that an atmosphere of busy-ness. Everyone is deeply engrossed in their work, yet they have time to laugh, smile and make playful comments. When I mentioned that my husband would have loved this visit and can no longer travel, my hosts immediately said: ‘Let’s make a video saying ‘hello, Edgar’ and they did exactly that – not only once, but twice!
So the ‘connections’ were not only internal but they extended sincerely outwards as well. This is sadly rare in the modern workplace. In addition to all the ideas mentioned above (and many, many more), they have a monthly barbecue with meaningful awards. One of their values is ‘family’ and their behaviours reflect that they are living the value.
My message is: working on the superficial elements of getting people to connect may work. But by having a culture where people are truly valued and they know they are appreciated will encourage people to reach potential and to connect with each other.
My question is: how can you make yours the ‘workplace of choice’?
For more information on Communication Skills training, Leadership Development or Executive Coaching please contact Brenda on firstname.lastname@example.org or +27 82 4993311.